Dear James: My parents had major renovations done and the finished job was not the best quality. What can I do to make sure an upcoming remodeling project is done properly? — Sylvia D.
Dear Sylvia: Your question is a very common one. Although there are some steps you can take, unfortunately, there is not a clear-cut method to ensure high-quality work by a remodeling contractor.
A key problem with insuring quality workmanship is simply the perception of quality. Who has not experienced going to restaurant, which a good friend raves about, and not be satisfied with the quality of the food or the service?
The same is true of remodeling contractors. The contractor who did the work at your friend's home may honestly feel he did an excellent job. There may also have been budget constraints that required the use of lower-quality products or labor-saving techniques, resulting in the flaws you noticed.
To further muddy the waters, many flaws in materials and workmanship may not show up for several years after the job is completed. An example of this is the taping of drywall joints. It generally takes several years of seasonal temperature and humidity level changes for the tape to begin to pop off and wrinkle in spots.
The first step to ensure a good remodeling job is a very detailed written contract. The more detailed it is, the less chance there is for misunderstandings and interpretation. Take some time initially to read up on what is involved in the tasks of the projects so you are reasonable in your quality expectations.
Some contractors may balk at this for fear it will tie their hands. Often, a contractor does not know exactly what unique problems he will run into until the job is begun. Other contractors may not like to have the homeowner telling them how to do the job, but you should be able to find many amenable to a detailed contract.
Inspect some of the previous jobs which the contractor has completed. Make sure some of them are several years old. He will obviously give you only the names of satisfied customers, so it will probably not be extremely useful to get their opinions. Rely on your own inspection.
Pay particular attention to several details. The quality of the drywall work is a good indicator of general quality. Look for wavy drywall, evenly taped drywall joints and nail dimples or pops. It is often easier to detect these flaws at night when you can shine a flashlight along the wall surface.
Other details to check are the heights of handrails along stairs, electrical switches, etc. Although it is not critical for them to all be the same, it is a good indication of the contractor's attention to the fine details. For bathroom remodeling, check the height and level of towel bars.
Finally, don't try to do too much with a limited budget. Using top-quality materials generally results in a better job. Often, you will save in the long run by using better materials that install quicker and require less labor to finish. This is particularly true of lumber and other materials which are hidden when the project is completed.
Send your questions to Here's How, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244 or visit www.dulley.com. To find out more about James Dulley and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.