How to Finish Strong

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The other night, I did something very unusual for me: I went into my formal living room, turned my cell phone off and just sat to relax and think about the day.  Like most homeowners these days, I usually ignore my formal living room; there’s no TV, no stereo; just some books and pictures on the wall.

When I looked around, I noticed beautiful crown molding – not a gap to be seen in the joints.  Plantation shutters were impeccably aligned and the hardwood floors were in beautiful condition – not a scratch to be found.  As someone who has built so many homes, it became very clear to me at this moment how important the finishing details are in your home.

Many homeowners this time of year are turning the home improvement projects indoors.  At Hire it Done, we find more and more people turning their eyes from landscaping and deck projects to kitchen, bathroom or basement remodeling and/or painting projects.   When you go through these projects, the most difficult bit is the finishing.

Most all contractors can do the larger aspects of the projects: framing, hanging drywall, installing new sinks and more.  However, once you’ve paid a great deal to have your house remodeled, it is those nail pops, squeaky floors, loose handles and crooked trim pieces that will drive you crazy and prevent you from fully enjoying your new space.

So how do you make sure you get these minor, yet crucial aspects of your remodeling project handled?  Here are some key tips to keep in mind BEFORE you start with a contractor.

Hold a Little Back. When you sign your contract for a remodeling project, make sure the final payment (usually between 5-10%) is contingent upon completion of a punch list.  If you’re new to building or remodeling, a punch list is created by the homeowner once the contractor tells you they are done.  You will go through the project and create an actual list of the things to be finished – both large and small.  The contractor will go through the list with you and determine if all items are actually valid.  Be realistic – if your wall is not straight to begin with, fresh paint will not fix the issue.  Also, keep in mind that the contractor is ONLY OBLIGATED to fix the items specified in your original contract.

Once you and the contractor agree on the list, set an agreed upon timeframe to complete the list.  When the list is complete, please make your final payment.

Set a Follow-Up Plan.  No matter how diligent you are with your punch list, there are some things that will come up after you begin to use your new kitchen, bathroom or whatever you’ve just had remodeled.  If you’ve had drywall and painting done, you will most likely notice “nail pops” (nail heads pushing out through the paint) as things settle.  A water faucet may leak only after extensive use. You notice a huge drip mark right in the middle of your crown molding.

In your contract, set a follow-up date (30 days), when the contractor will contact you and see if everything is to your satisfaction.  If not, the contractor should be happy to come out and fix things.  Most issues will surface within 30 days, and just having a quick walk through of touch ups a month after your project is complete will keep you happy for years.

Know Your Warranty.  In the contract you sign with a contractor, there should be a warranty for the work performed.  Depending on the scale of your project, this can range from 90 days to a year.  Make sure you have a contact at the company that you can call to reference your project throughout the term of your warranty.  Also make sure you and your contractor understand what will happen when you call them 10 months after the project has been finished.

Remember, most contractors get business from referrals.  The final finishing items, your experience to get them completed and the professionalism in how issues are addressed are what leave the lasting impression.  A good contractor will understand this and do what is necessary to make sure the only thing you do is brag about their quality.

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