REMODELING CONTRACTORS - REMODELING IDEAS, DESIGN, AND CONSTRUCTION CONSUMER GUIDES

REMODELING CONTRACTORS









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Your Budget
Write down everything that you dream about doing for your home renovation. Then, make another list of all the things that must be renovated or updated. Consider how much more a month you could put toward a home improvement loan or how much money you have saved for the project. Pick up the phone and call architects and contractors to get an estimate of how much your renovation will cost. Compare the cost estimate with your preliminary budget, and decide what you can reasonably afford to do. Plan to pad your budget 20% or so to account for unexpected cost overruns.

Your Time Frame
Does your home renovation need to be completed by a certain time or event? Are you planning to move out of town or are you having a baby and need the extra room? Renovations can take longer than expected, so only plan to tackle what can be accomplished within your timeframe.

Your Skills
Can any projects on your list become do-it-yourself projects? Do you have the skills - much less the time - to tackle such a project? Most people think they can easily re-tile a bathroom, install new hardwood flooring or build a new room addition only to find these projects still remain half-finished years later. Be realistic about what you can and cannot accomplish.






Your Goals


Why do you want to remodel? Has your family outgrown your current floor plan? Have you always wanted a gourmet kitchen? Do you plan to sell soon and want to get the most resale value possible? Establish what your overall goal is with the remodel.

Your Needs
Determine what you need to do to your home to meet your goal. Now is the time to prioritize projects - a new plumbing and heating and electrical system may be more important than replacing your home's flooring.


Whether you are planning on doing a bathroom remodel, remodeling your kitchen, or even some other room in your home, developing remodeling plans can be a huge help. There are so many things to be done, from finding a contractor to working with building codes. So, you have a whole lot to do when it comes to coming up with plans for the project that you want to accomplish. If you are trying to come up with the remodeling plans for your home remodeling project in the Twin Cities, here are some important things that you'll want to keep in mind. These plans can help you make sure that the project goes very smoothly from start to finish.

Start Sketching Your Dreams

Even if you are going to be working with an architect later one, you can get started by sketching your dreams. Use your imagination to think about how you'd like the remodeled room to look. Think about how you want to make use of the room in the room. Also, consider how the new remodeling is going to affect the rest of your home. If you need some help with the sketching and visualization, consider using some home designs software at home that will help with this aspect of the remodeling planning process.

Learn From Other People First

One great way that you can make sure that you get some great inspiration for your remodeling project and avoid some of the most common mistakes is to learn from other people first. You can take the time to get online to read important articles and stories about the remodeling experiences of other people who were working on their houses. Often you can find message boards, chat rooms, and even forums where you can talk to others who have already gone through a home remodel. You can learn so much that you can use from others.

Take Time to Think Ahead

When you are working to develop your remodeling plans, you need to take the time to think ahead. Sure, you may want to add on to your home, but if you are going to sell your home and move in a year or too, it's probably not really worth it to you. In some cases a remodel that is too luxurious may price your home far above the other homes around it, making it difficult to sell. Some remodeling projects can even take away from the value of your home. So, before you make all of your plans, make sure that you consider the future. Your needs may be changing soon too, so keep all of this in mind when making your plans for the remodel in Minnesota.

Take a Closer Look at Your Budget

Taking a closer look at your budget is a great idea as well when you want to come up with the best plans for your remodel. You want to make sure that you can do the entire project with the budget that you have. In many cases you will find that the costs of your remodel is going to be a lot more expensive than you think. Decide on the amount of money that you have to use for the remodel and then you'll be able to figure out how to spend it. Work on planning your spending well too so that you don't go over the amount of money that you have budgeted out. You'll find that it is also helpful to plan on spending a bit more than you think, since many times there are last minute expenses that crop up along the way.

Choosing a Top Remodeling Team

As you develop your remodeling plans, you'll need to choose a top remodeling team to help you out as well. While you may want to do some of the work, you may not be able to do everything for the remodel on your own. It's important that you make sure that the team you decide to use is insured, licensed, and experienced as well.

Negotiating a Good Contract

Get bids from contractors and work on negotiating a good contract. Whether the job you need done is a simple one or one that is going to cost thousands, the last thing you want to deal with is misunderstandings along the way that will cost you. You should never allow a contractor to get started without having a good written contract in place. Everyone should agree on the work that will be done, the cost of the work, and the length of time the remodeling will take. Make sure that you make clear the materials that you don't want used and the ones that you do want used.

Get the Permits that You'll Need

Working with building codes is going to be part of making your remodeling plans. You'll need to make sure that you get the permits that you need. Find out if the remodeling you will be doing is going to need some kind of building permit before you get started. It's best to do your homework first so you avoid getting a fine.

For construction loans or rehabilitation funding such as the 203K, if you are in Minnesota, visit http://www.VentureLoanApp.com.

John Mazzara is involved with financial services in the Twin Cities, MN. Officing out of Edina, Minnesota-John is centrally located within the 7 county MN metropolitan area. John owns three separate businesses-a licensed real estate broker associate selling Minnesota real estate since 1986-affiliated with RE/MAX Associates Plus http://www.MinneapolisStPaulHomes.com, an independent CFP-certified financial planner since 1989 with an independent Minnesota financial planning firm-Financial Planning Associates and the owner of a Minnesota mortgage broker firm-Venture Development Inc-specializing in residential, commercial and investment mortgages. We offer FHA, VA, and conventional loans for purchases, refinancing, and debt consolidation. If you are looking for someone to help you in the areas of real estate sales/purchase, mortgages, or and/or financial planning and insurance you should call John for a free 1 hour consultation to see if he can meet your needs. 952-929-2577. RE/MAX Associates Plus and Venture Development are located at 7300 France Ave S, Suite 410, Edina, MN 55435.

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With the decline in the economy, there have reports recently stating that remodeling one's home is a consumer extravagance. This is not only inaccurate but irresponsible. Remodeling is often necessary for overall upkeep and maintenance of one's home; putting off home improvements could result in more costly repairs and improvements in the future. An older roof cannot and should not be ignored. It will not offer the needed protection, will not be energy-efficient and detracts from the aesthetics of one's home. If it is left to deteriorate, it could leak, resulting in further damage to a home's interior. Leaky windows can let water seep into walls and cause black mold to grow; deteriorating chimneys can not only fall apart and cause damage but could result in leaking into the home.

The studies and reports in the actual remodeling industry are factual and encouraging. The Research Institute for Cooking & Kitchen Intelligence (RICKI), a Charlotte-based organization of industry professionals in the kitchen remodeling industry, conducts a "Remodelers 360" survey that examines consumers' kitchen design preferences, kitchen remodeling experiences, and how they use their kitchens. The results reveal what common sense would tell us: more Americans are eating at home as a result of the downturn in the economy, thus the desire to remodel a kitchen is still motivating consumers to remodel. The value homeowners get for a kitchen remodel and the aesthetic and practical benefits to the home still make it a highly worthwhile investment.

According to Remodeling Magazine Cost vs. Value Report 2008-2009, remodeling is still an excellent investment that not only improves your quality of life and the cost of which can be recouped if or when you sell your home. The Cost vs. Value Report gives approximate costs of particular remodeling projects and provides potential resale amounts and percentage of return on investment. The costs of remodeling obviously can vary from place to place across the U.S., based on regional fluctuations in material costs and contractors' labor costs and overhead.

Bathroom Remodel: Update an existing 5x7-foot bathroom that would include replacing all fixtures, installing a ceramic tile surround; installing a new plumbing in the tub, shower and sink; installing a standard white toilet; solid-surface vanity counter with integral sink; installing a medicine cabinet, light fixture and ceramic tile floor.

Approximate Project Cost:$15,899

Resale value: $11,857

Cost Recouped: 74.6%

Deck Addition (wood): Add a 16x20-foot deck using pressure-treated joists supported by 4x4 posts anchored to concrete piers. Install pressure-treated deck boards in a simple linear pattern; include a built-in bench and planter of the same decking material and stairs

(assuming three steps to grade). Provide a complete railing system using pressure-treated wood posts, railings, and balusters.

Approximate Project Cost: $10,601

Resale Value: $8,676

Cost Recouped: 81.8%

Major Kitchen Remodel: Update an outmoded 200-square-foot kitchen with a layout of approximately 30 linear feet of new semi-custom wood cabinets, installing laminate countertops and a standard double-tub stainless-steel sink with standard single-lever faucet. Install an energy-efficient wall oven, cooktop, ventilation system, built-in microwave, dishwasher, garbage disposal, and custom lighting. Add new resilient flooring and finish with painted walls, trim, and ceiling.

Approximate Project Cost: $56,611

Resale value: $43,030

Cost Recouped: 76.0%

Minor Kitchen Remodel: In a functional but dated 200-square-foot kitchen with approximately 30 linear feet of cabinetry and countertops, leave cabinet boxes in place but replace fronts with new raised-panel wood doors and drawers, including new hardware; replace wall oven and cooktop with new energy-efficient models. Replace laminate countertops and install mid-priced sink and faucet. Repaint trim, add wall covering, and remove and replace resilient flooring.

Approximate Project Cost: $21,246

Resale Value: $16,881

Cost Recouped: 79.5%

There are also many remodeling projects that increase your home's energy-efficiency. Updating older bathroom plumbing fixtures with newer, more water-conserving fixtures is an affordable way to improve a home's efficiency, lower water costs, and improve the appearance of the bathroom as well. Other minor things that can be done include installing new doors, installing Energy Star- rated windows, sealing cracks and crevices with spray foam, and if possible laying thicker insulation in the attic.

Consumer energy tax incentives and credits are being offered through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and are providing consumers tax incentives to have energy-efficiency improvements done to their existing homes and new construction. The plan includes federal tax credits and includes:

Tax credits are available at 30% of the cost, up to $1,500, in 2009 & 2010 (for existing homes only) for:

Windows and Doors

Insulation

Roofs (Metal and Asphalt)

HVAC

Water Heaters (non-solar)

Biomass Stoves

Tax credits are available at 30% of the cost, with no upper limit through 2016 (for existing homes & new construction) for:

Geothermal Heat Pumps

Solar Panels

Solar Water Heaters

Small Wind Energy Systems

Fuel Cells

The Joint Center for Housing Studies is Harvard University's center for information and research on housing in the United States. The Joint Center for Housing Studies examines emerging housing and community development policies and concerns. Industry leaders and public officials also use the center's research to learn about trends and issues in the housing field.

According to The Joint Center for Housing Studies 2009 Growth Markets for Remodeling report, remodeling has helped to increase the energy efficiency of existing homes over the past two decades, especially older homes built during or before the 1930s. Most homeowners are currently interested in projects that will improve their homes' energy efficiency and address other environmental concerns (utilizing "green" materials for reducing carbon footprint and health concerns for example). In 2007, homeowners spent over $52 billion of their improvement to energy-related projects, up from less than $33 billion (in inflation-adjusted terms) a decade earlier. Homeowners are motivated by environmental concerns, and have a growing interest in products and projects that meet the green goals of quality and durability, environmental performance, and safety (such as lessening the chances or consequences of certain disasters on the home).

As credit conditions start to ease up, owners will find it easier to finance their home improvement projects. As home prices edge back up, owners will again realize the wealth-building benefits of investing in their homes. And as sales pick up, recent buyers will want to make improvements as the economy continues to improve. When the uncertainty of the economy and job-security lessens, people will feel less fear about spending money on remodeling projects.

Remodeling can be done at any time of year- it is not necessary to wait until springtime to tackle home improvements when most contractors and home improvement specialists are backlogged with work. Certain projects are definitely best-suited to fair weather: roofs, exterior painting, decks, and siding. But there are many projects that can be completed at any time: interior painting, kitchen or bathroom remodel, basement reclaiming or remodeling, removing wall(s) to open up interior spaces, flooring, and installing doors and windows, refinishing wood floors or putting in new trim work. A great project is redefining a room by changing a bedroom or poorly-utilized room into a bathroom, office, media room or workout room/ relaxation retreat, or a space that fits your lifestyle.

As more and more homeowners are remaining in their homes, they look to remodeling to help create their dream home from the home they already own. Your home is a major investment- maintain or improve its value, efficiency and appearance to improve your quality of life!

For additional comparisons on remodeling cost/value, check the Remodeling website:

http://www.remodeling.hw.net

For more information on the federal tax breaks, go to:

http://www.energy.gov/

Leigh Roche, owner Skye General Contracting, inc. Pittsburgh, PA

Skye General Contracting, inc,

[http://www.skyegeneralcontracting.com/]

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Remodeling projects are a financial and emotional investment for plenty of property owners. Remodelers minimize your anxiety by offering first-class work in the shortest time frame. The wrong remodeler will increase not only your stress levels but also your payments. The remodeling contractor that you engage to handle your remodeling projects needs to be knowledgeable for the job at hand. Employ the following suggestions to pick the ideal remodeling contractor for your remodeling projects:

Fast, experienced and reliable are the three main features to seek for in a remodeling company.

Don't automatically opt for a remodeling contractor with the least expensive bid. You must check out more than a few remodelers before you can establish which pro to engage. Don't reconcile to second best, always make every effort to hire the most pro service professionals at affordable costs.

Make time to convey your remodeling wants and needs to each and every service professional - don't presume that remodelers will automatically visualize your dream design.

Get at minimum three estimates from different remodelers. Provide precise information and ask plenty of questions to get itemized estimates. Unanticipated payments are escapable by attaining detailed estimates to shape a realistic remodeling budget.

Make sure that correspondence is problem free between contractors and yourself. Feel comfortable approaching service professionals with any inconvenience concerning your remodeling. You want to reject overwhelming conflicts almost entirely.

Make certain first-class materials are employed and not inferior alternates.

To make sure that your remodeling projects winds up to your complete liking while catering to the needs of your style of living, decide on a remodeling contractor with enough references and years of experience. Entrust your kitchen dream in the expert hands of reliable remodelers that share your vision and work hard to make it. Successful remodeling projects are made possible with knowledgeable and reliable remodelers offering first-class work in the shortest time frame.

Remodeling Companies finds for you remodelers and contractors for any home improvement project, whether its bathroom or kitchen remodeling, roofing, home decor, or any other renovation

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Over The Past 30+ Years -I have accumulated a variety of terms to describe the construction industry. Some of them are intended to be funny, some are serious and the rest are entertaining. Please feel free to share them with your friends, relatives and most importantly contractors as they will appreciate the humor and perhaps find value in the words of wisdom we are sharing.

If You Have Any Others You Would Like To Be Added Please Leave A Comment On The Right

80/20 Rule - of a contractor's wealth and wellbeing comes from 20% of their activities

24 Hour Bookkeeper - Bookkeeper that sits in your office quietly, no watering, no feeding, available to work around the clock, never wastes company time surfing the web or chatting on cell phone

Aggravation Box - Computer with construction accounting software operated by a trainee

Auction - End result of working in the business, focusing on the wrong stuff and bad financial reports

Auditor - Person who goes in after the war is lost and bayonets the wounded

Assets of Company - Cash / Receivables - Payables / Trucks / Tools / Equipment / Material

Assets of Firm - Cash / Business Process / Sales Process / Client List / Predictable Cash Flow

Bad Bookkeeper - Wealth prevention tool keeping contractors from earning more than bookkeepers

Bad Bookkeeper Thinking Patterns - Some of the reasons they do what they do to drive contractors crazy

Bad Bookkeeping - Saving money in the wrong place and making decisions on garbage reports

Bad Numbers - Lead to bad decisions / cash shrinks / business unstable / bankruptcy or failure

Bankruptcy - Result of saving money on bookkeeping and making decisions on garbage reports

BCA Business Coach - Someone who helps you raise your level of thinking and income

BCA Staff Member - Cheerful, well paid, thinking, responsible adult, Mastermind Team member

BCG Matrix - Graphical representation of Cash Cows / Rising Stars / Question Marks / Dogs

Belly Button Accountability - The one person who is responsible for a deliverable on a construction project

Bid - A wild guess carried out to two decimal places

Bid Collector - Customer looking for cheap contractor

Bid Opening - A poker game in which the losing hand wins

Black Box - Computer with construction accounting software operated by a trainee

Bookkeeper Training Contractor - Bookkeepers, who train the boss to let them come in late, leave early, call friends and relatives, take long breaks, get paid more and do less and less.

BPM - Business Process Management for construction company owners to grow passive income streams

Budget Bookkeeping - Listing all deposits from the bank statement as sales income and leads to contractor paying too much in taxes.

Business Failure - No meaningful financial and project management records in the calendar quarter preceding the failure

Business Life Cycle - Start small / grow big / lose shirt / shrink back to small business

Business Plan - A plan to have accurate financial reports to base long and short term decisions on

Business Process Management - Develop a construction business that generates passive income

Business Roundtable - Little round table in tavern with pitcher of beer and four contractors strategizing

C.P.A. - Someone who is qualified to do tax returns and we refer a lot of business to the ones that only do tax returns.

C.P.A. Construction Consultant - Someone who has seen a bunch of tax returns and thinks they know how to run a construction business. They are generally more dangerous to the contractor's financial health than a drunken car salesman on a backhoe at a gas station, in the dark, digging up live fuel lines.

C.P.A. Involved In Construction Bookkeeping - QuickBooks setup to make doing tax returns easy while greasing the rails for the contractor to go down the tube and go broke by focusing only on making the C.P.A's job easier and not on increasing cash flow and profitable jobs.

Change - The only people who want change are wet babies! Everyone else hates change!

Cheap - Not enough time or money to do it right first time; but plenty of time and money to do it over

Chaos - Always on the dollars coming in; never on the money going out

Client - Someone who buys construction services and is more concerned about quality than price

Comfort Zone - Success you have now since that is what you feel you deserve no more / no less

Company Bookkeeper - Expensive luxury for construction companies that do not know about outsourced contractor bookkeeping

Completion Date - The point at which liquidated damages begin

Contractor Not A Banker - Student of Business Consulting And Accounting who has mastered the art of managing cash flow properly

Contractors - The people who makes civilization possible by building and maintaining structures

Contractor Gambling - One project away from making it big or going broke

Contractor Chaos - Contractor netting <$100K doing everything his way; especially the bookkeeping

Contractor Cheap - Amateur with customers from Hell and host of the game show "Low Price Leader"

Contractor Income - The average income of the six people they spend the most time with

Contractor Rich - BCA client earning $100K-$200K by building a client base to sell and service

Contractor Student - BCA client net <$100K learning how to get Rich then Wealthy

Contractor Successful - Contractor using timely accurate financial reports to base their decisions upon

Contractor Volume - Loses money on every sale and tries to make it up with a volume of new work

Contractor Wealthy - BCA Client earning $200K + Investing 50K with 100 clients to service

Construction Accountant - Someone who turns piles of numbers into meaningful trends

Construction Accounting - System that combines construction bookkeeping with Quarterly Tax preparation and payroll processing and presents the annual tax preparer with the information for them to prepare the annual income tax return. Construction accounting does not prepare annual tax returns as that is a profession and specialty of its own

Construction Bookkeeping - System for setup and maintaining construction bookkeeping

Construction Bookkeeping And Accounting - System for setup and maintaining construction bookkeeping and accounting together in order to develop and maintain the Key Performance Indicators that when viewed daily and understood leads contractors to accumulate wealth

Construction Worker Thinking Patterns - Insights into the mind of a typical construction worker

Construction Worker Fully Burdened Labor Cost - Cost of having construction workers on your payroll

Critical Path Method - A management technique for losing your shirt under perfect control

Customer - Someone who buys construction services and is more concerned about price than quality

Delayed Payment - A tourniquet applied at the bank balance of any contractor who will allow it

Delusional - Contractor going to learn to use QuickBooks effectively in a few months

Developer - Company looking for a few, good, low priced, high volume contractors they can school

Displaced Aggression - Being angry at someone because of past events or circumstances which are resulting in ongoing issues. In some cases contractors have hired cheap or bad bookkeepers without realizing the consequences of not having useful financial and job cost reports

Dog And Pickup Truck - Contractor with a dog and a pickup truck one of the four types of contractors

Emergency Accounting - When taxes, payroll or paperwork piling up causes contractor to seek help from someone to get the "books" caught up, tax reports prepared, payroll processed or other issues

Emergency Bookkeeping - When taxes, payroll or paperwork piling up causes contractor to seek help from someone to get the "books" caught up, tax reports prepared, payroll processed or other issues

Emerging Contractor - Someone who is moving to a little less hands-on role in their contracting company you could be an Emerging Contractor.

Engineer's Estimate - The cost of construction in heaven

Expensive - Goods or services that no matter how cheap they are; do not work

Experience - What you get, when you get, what you don't want

Failure - A few errors in judgment repeated everyday

Fear - What initiates change or stops progress

Five For Five At Five - The five reports at five o'clock for five minutes that tells you how your business is doing

Fifteen Minutes Too Late - If you think you should fire somebody, you're already 15 minutes too late

Fully Burdened Rate -Includes all the costs of keeping an employee on the payroll, not just wages

Hard Work - Expressway to Retired

Hustle - The expectation of getting 40 hour of work done in 20 hours

Income - Working for daily money

Insanity - Hiring and firing cheap in-house bookkeepers over and over and over expecting useful reports

Inexpensive - Goods or services that do work beyond the warranty period

Key Performance Indicators (KPI) - Reports if viewed daily and understood leads to wealth

Lawyer - Person who goes in after the auditors to strip the bodies

Leveling - When two or more people spend time together the group will level to the strongest personality

Listening - Contractor who asks their client what materials and results they want and give it to them

Little Leaks - Sink the construction business because they are easy to ignore

Liquidated Damages - A penalty for failing to achieve the impossible

Low Bidder - A contractor who is wondering what he left out

Mastermind Team - BCA Staff and Clients who mentor BCA contractor clients

MAP - Marketing / Accounting / Production / formula for success

Maximize - The process of building and running your construction business to generate highest possible profits for short run so you can spend it all quickly and go broke. Similar to running your pickup truck on the race track as fast as it will go without proper maintenance so it lasts for about ten hours and 1,000 miles before it is destroyed

MR>MC - Wherever marginal revenue exceeds marginal cost do the job

No Financial Reports - Driving on the highway, at night, windows blacked out and being surprised by the crash

Non-Construction Accountant - Dim-bulb want-to-be bookkeeper without any construction bookkeeping skills trying to jam retail accounting methods into construction accounting

Not Listening - Contractor who gives their clients what the contractor likes not what the client wants

Optimize - The process of building and running your construction business to generate normal and economic profits for the long haul and provide you with a substantial income for current living expenses and a comfortable retirement. Similar to running your pickup truck on the roads and highways at normal safe speeds with proper maintenance so it lasts for ten years and 200,000 miles or more

OSHA - A protective coating made by half-baking a mixture of fine print, red tape, split hairs and baloney

PAM - Production / Accounting after checks bounce and letters for back taxes / Marketing word of mouth

Personal Assistant - Someone who works part time with big red "S" on back of their cape (Superman / Superwoman) able to run personal and business errands, answer phones, make deliveries, clean restrooms, take messages, memorize a verbal list of to-do items from contractor without writing any of them down, schedule jobs, listen to customer and staff complaints, babysit children and pets, wipe runny noses, clean up spills, make and serve coffee, pay bills, open the mail, go make bank deposits, work on tiny desk, no air conditioning in summer, limited heat in winter, bad lighting, fix broken computers and printers and do the bookkeeping for multiple companies

Pioneer - Contractor with flaming arrows in the back from asking the construction bookkeeper for accurate reports

Poor Contractors - Have hundred dollar conversations with their mentors and attend the business round table

Process - Part of a system to produce predicable quality results and reap dividends for the owners

Process Development - Do it, Document it, and Delegate it

Professional Contractor - Serious construction business owner with construction strategy and definitely in construction business to earn a worthwhile profit. One of the Four Types of Contractors

Purpose Of Your Construction Company - Acquire clients, satisfy their needs and repeat as often as possible to increase cash flow and profits.

Project Manager - The conductor of an orchestra in which every musician is in a different union

Project Management - Combination of skills and construction project software

QuickBooks For Contractors - Accounting software for construction companies

Rain Maker - The person in the contractors firm that acquires new clients

Remodel House Process - Forming (Honeymoon), Storming (demolition), Norming (Rough-In), Performing (Paint)

Retail Bookkeeper - Worked at store somewhere, thinks all accounting is the same, expensive lesson for contractors

Retired - Means you got tired of them, or they got tired of you

Rich - Income exceeds outgo

ROI - Risk of Incarceration; in most cases the business owner is responsible for unfiled taxes and missed payments, not the bad bookkeeper

Salt Of The Earth Contractor - Has up to three employees and is one of the Four Types of Contractors

Salesperson - Amateur sorter

Sales Process - Documented system for acquiring new clients for the Firm

Solution - Properly setup and maintained QuickBooks For Contractors file

Sorter - Professional Rain Maker

Strategic Bookkeeping Services - Bookkeeping services for construction that understands and applies principles of profit and growth strategies

Strike - An effort to increase egg production by strangling the chicken

Success - A few simple disciplines practiced everyday

SWOT - Knowing the company's Strengths / Weaknesses / Opportunities / Threats and what to do about it

Tax Preparer Doing Construction Bookkeeping - QuickBooks setup to make doing tax returns easy while greasing the rails for the contractor to go broke focusing only on reducing taxes not cash flow and profitable jobs.

Tenant Improvement - Bid, award contract, work day and night, pressure, pressure, pressure, done

The Contractors Cash Management Mentor - Shares keys to peace of mind by showing you how to optimize your cash flow by properly managing receivables, payables, payroll, payroll tax reports, 941 quarterly returns, 940 annual returns, W-2 and W-3 returns in your construction business regardless of the economy, Sharie DeHart

The Contractors Profit And Growth Accountant - Shares the keys peace of mind by showing you how to optimize your bottom line profits by spending five minutes a day reviewing the Five Key Performance Indicators (KPI) of your construction business performance. And by regular phone and/or in person strategic consulting sessions where we focus on what your company needs to do to help you achieve your definition of success, Randal DeHart

Unlicensed Contractor - Someone who thinks they can save their customer money by scamming the system with supposedly lower overhead than likened contractors. All too often they provide FREE labor and material because they cannot sue customers for payment.

Warranty Work - The project that never ends

Wealthy Contractors - Work on building relationships and innovating (faster/better/cheaper)

Wealthy Contractors - Have million dollar conversations with their mentors

Wealth - Not working because you have enough cash to live the rest of your life

Working On Wrong Stuff - You can't get rich with your head in the ditch

We offer outsourced construction bookkeeping services for residential and commercial contractors, home builders, remodelers, specialty contractors, subcontractors and architects. http://www.fasteasyaccounting.com/contractors-that-we-help/

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In the last 10-15 years, the industry of Residential General Contractors has taken a beating by the media. Television, maganizes and articles have waged war on the image, credibility and trust of General Contractors. This is something that as a Home Owner, you must first be aware of.

15 Years ago, there were 3 shows that dealt with residential construction:

-This Old House 
-The New Yankee Work Shop 
-Bob Villa's Home again

These 3 shows gave Home Owners an "inside" look into construction techniques and methods, offering plenty of advice, knowledge and wisdom. I suppose they had a loyal following amongst hobbyists, contractors and weekend warriors. But it didn't appeal much to the general masses. After all, not everyone is interested in learning how to cut Crown Moulding or how to select the best router bits.

Along came a show on HGTV called Holmes on Homes. The entire premise of the show was to unearth the misdeeds of shabby, unethical and unprofessional contractors while at the same time portraying the Home Owners as the innocent victims in a "deal gone bad". Along comes our saviour, Mr. Holmes, to save the day and right the wrongs.

THE PROBLEM - Are there unqualified, unprofessional and unethical contractors out yet? YOU BET! At the same time, one could ask...are there unqualified, unprofessional and unethical Lawyers? Doctors? Police Officers? Real Estate Agents? Mortgage Brokers? Accountants? And so on? YOU BET there are! Every industry has the good, the bad, the mediocre, the excellent and the horrendous. That's life, that's people.

This show sent a subliminal message to Home Owners - Other contractors BAD...Mike Holmes GOOD. Mr. Holmes is a smart man. He knows how to make money and promote himself. Good for him! However, his show has unjustly tarnished the image of an entire industry, done a great deed in misleading home owners, and started a trend of "contractor bashing" that has prevailed since. For all of Mike's talks about "License, Insurance and permits", I find it ironic that Mike Holmes himself is not licensed to carry out the work that he performed on the show. The Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs has a clear mandate for licensing and Mr. Holmes himself is NOT a licensed Carpenter. Technically, every time he modified any structural wood element of the house or sold carpentry services he was doing so without the appropriate licensing, breaking the law and casting himself into the dim shadow with which he so readily labels so many other contractors. Hypocrite.

Furthermore, though it is true that many of the home owners on that show were essentially ripped off, misled or cheated, most of the time and most of those Home Owners brought it upon themselves. How do I know? I can guarantee that most of those Home Owners chose their contractor based on price. The ever so tempting taste of a "good deal". Of course, they don't tell you that on the show. It kills the "victimized" position.

Speaking of things they don't mention on the show, ever notice how Mike Holmes usually ends up gutting almost all of the work and then not only building it back up the right way, but going way over and beyond to make it look that much better? Talk about misleading...all of that translates to dollar signs in real life. "GIVING" the home owners glass shower doors, custom cabinets, granite countertops, heated flooring, marble flooring and so on is all great, but what they fail to mention is that in real life somebody had to pay for that. In this case, it was most likely the production company and they received free material from sponsorships. But it's misleading to take an original renovation where the Home Owners had a $20,000 budget, dump what would equal $150,000 in real life into the home and stand back and say "There...that's how it should have been done" without telling the viewers about that nagging issue of $130,000.

An entire generation of TV shows continued on with this trend. What you have to know is that ALL of these shows receive sponsorships. A basic premise of most of these shows are "Look, we did all these renovations and it only cost us $X". They conveniently forget to tell you "Oh yeah, we received 50-100% off on all the materials through our sponsors and we're not calculating the labour realistically". Never mind the fact that they probably never got permits for the work, nobody was insured by WSIB, nobody carried Liability Insurance and many other factors.

It's television folks...it's entertainment, and production companies and networks do not care about the accuracy of the information on a show that was intended to entertain and keep viewers.

So now that we have reiterated the bias of the media and the years of misleading information that Home Owners have been bombarded with, let's get on with the meat of the topic at hand. How do you navigate your way towards finding a professional.

The good news is, there are plenty of highly professional contractors to choose from. They just don't make the news. Unlike what the media would have you believe, the majority of contractors fall in the range of good to great. Your first step in finding one that fits your needs, begins with a broad search. The internet sounds like a decent start.

Start looking through the websites of the contractors out there. Remember, it's YOUR JOB to find the right contractor and you have to be prepared to do some of the leg work. The right contractor will not just fall on your lap, and since most renovations represent a great investment on top of your greatest investment (your home), you are wise to take your time at every turn, beginning with the "broad search". In looking through the various web sites, you will begin to get a feel for the level of work that each company represents by browsing through past projects. Not all contractors are the same, some deal with exclusively "High end" renovations, some upper middle, the middle and some have carved out a niche in the lower end, quick and fast types of renovations (bathrooms, floor installations) and other broad appeal types of renos.

You will inevitably narrow down your selection to maybe 5-10 contractors that appeal to the style/look you're shooting for. In other words, they seem to offer the type of workmanship/quality you would like to see incorporated into your project.

BE REALISTIC- No point in walking into a Ferrari dealership with a Hyundai budget. Conversely, no point walking into a Hyundai dealership if you're looking for a Ferrari. There is nothing wrong with either of those, but know what YOU want and be realistic about what you can AFFORD. If your gut says you have a small budget, don't contact a renovator who looks like he/she works exclusively in the "High end" market of homes in Forrest Hill, Rosedale, Bridle Path, Lakeshore west and other affluent neighborhoods. Those homes are almost always in the $1 Million dollar + category (going as high as in the tens of Millions). A simple kitchen reno is almost always a $100,000 + type of project (with some exceptions). Most renovations are in line with the price/value of the home. For example, you're not going to find IKEA cabinets in the main kitchen of a $20 Million dollar home. Nor will you find $150,000 custom cabinetry in the main kitchen of a $400,000 home.

Now that you think you've found the handful of contractors that "fit the bill", start researching the contractors. Their website and a simple GOOGLE search of their company will offer up a great deal of information on it's own. With this information, try to narrow your search down to around 3 contractors that look like they would be a good fit.

THE NEXT STEP...DESIGN- Every renovation needs a "plan". A plan begins with a design and therein you have a few choices. You can design the space yourself if you feel you have enough knowledge or you can retain the services of a designer. A designer can be an interior designer, an Architect, an Engineer, a BCIN licensed designer or you can work with a Design/Build contractor. All of this will depend on the project itself. At some point, in most cases, you will need a building permit. Drawing for building permits are called Construction Drawings (CD's) and they are different from general designs/drawings. The process usually begins with "concept drawings", or a representation of the "concept" that is sought. Once the concept has been chosen, the drawings are refined, information is filled in, materials are sourced, the details are refined and you are well on your way towards having a completed set of CD's. Each designer offers a different take on the project and each have their pros and cons. For example, if budget is a main concern for you then the best option is to work with a Design/Build company. A D/B company designs around your budget and since they are the builders, then can begin pricing the job and building a budget from the concept stage. As the builders, they have the "finger on the pulse" of the costs associated with the project. Working with an Architect on the other hand, is a far better bet if the over all design is the main criteria. An Architect is the master is design theory, knowledge and building methods. An interior designer, as the name suggests, is most concerned with the "look" of the interior finishings. Furniture, wall dressings, floor coverings, fixtures and other materials that blend together to make a startlingly beautiful visual impact custom tailored for each client. An engineer is the master of of durable, sustainable and rigid design and building materials. BCIN licensed designer are most likely the most efficient, cut to the chase A-B option offering competitive rates for budget minded clients who most likely are looking for just a building permit.

So as you can see, each offers a different take on the matter and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. It is up to you to decide which factor is most critical with you in choosing your design professional.

If you are working with a 3rd party designer (Interior designer, Architect, BCIN registered designer or Engineer), it is always a good idea to have your contractor involved as the design is progressing. Even if you have narrowed down your selection of contractors down to 3, keep them abreast of how the design is progressing. Most likely, they can begin pricing out the job for you and their feedback is always important.

Working with a Design/Build contractor on the other hand offers the flexibility in having a working budget concurrent with the design. Value engineering is a virtue of this option.

THE MYTH- That contractors can give you an "estimate" before you have working drawings. I hear this over and over again. "Make sure you have X number of estimates from contractors". What estimates when there are no working drawings? Working drawings define the scope of work and the materials involved for the project. Asking someone for an estimate before having drawings is akin to calling a dealership and asking "How much for a car?". Well, if you call Ford for example the answer may be anywhere from $15,000 - $100,000. You're not doing yourself any service.

If a contractor that you call gives you a "price" before you have drawings, one of two things is happening A) He's mis-leading you in an attempt to sell you B) He doesn't know what he's talking about and is not qualified.

Prices vary wildly in renovations. A bathroom reno could fall anywhere in the range of $5,000 to $100,000 +.

Now, if you don't need working drawings and you don't think that your project requires a building permit, what should your next approach be? Well...be honest. Tell the contractor how much of a budget you have set aside for the project and let him tell you what you can get for that. Most likely, and in most instances, the contractor can make a guest-timate of whether you have a realistic budget or not. But remember, this is still only a guest-timate. Every budget is comprised of details, and the more details and preparation you have going into it the far more likely you are to stay on budget at the end.

WHAT'S NEXT?- So you think you found 3 or so contractors, you have a realistic budget and regardless of whether you have drawings at this point or not...you would like to meet with them. If you already have drawings, you're obviously more prepared, but if you don't then don't worry...it's still OK to meet with contractors at this point. Some contractors will not even meet with you unless you do have drawings, but most will. This takes us to our next step.

FREE ESTIMATES vs PAID SITE VISITS/ESTIMATES- Some contractors charge a fee to visit you at your house for the first meeting but most will come out for free. Which is better? Well, that's up in the air and for you to decide. Normally when you pay for a site visit, the contractor will come out and take measurements and pictures of your home. He will also take notes based on information you provided and provide you with a preliminary assessment of the project. This means that he went back to his office, designed one or two concepts for the renovation, built one or two budgets, assigning "allowances" for the unknown portions of the work that cannot be figured out yet at this point (for example, the finishes, fixtures, and other accessory materials), and then he will meet with you again at your home to review the preliminary appraisal. This is a far more realistic and accurate appraisal for the project than any FREE estimate could possibly be. Until the contractor sits down, designs the space and crunches all the numbers...any "Estimate" provided is hog wash and nothing more than a number pulled out of thin air, representing absolutely no details of the scope of work or allowances for materials and finishes. That is why so many "estimates" vary WILDLY. You're wasting your time with these.

Your best best, is to always retain someone to perform "Pre-Construction" services on the project. This package includes preliminary design, scope of work, a schedule, budget, material selection, unlimited modifications, value engineering, refining the project to your budget, refining details, sourcing materials, selecting sub-contractors and tendering portions of the job, obtaining working drawings and obtaining all building permits, variances, committee of adjustment or zoning approvals required. This package (Pre-Construction), is the blue-print for the project and will serve for the duration of the project's life cycle. A PLAN...your #1 key resource towards a successful renovation and the one thing NONE of the so called "experts" and "advice givers" that write article upon article, and preach on radio and TV EVER talk about. Yet, it is the ONE thing that Professionals that actually do the work LIVE BY. The more details, the better. This is also your #1 money saver right here, for though you may pay a fee "initially"...a solid plan that has been "tweeked" will save you tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars down the line. Sometimes, a job that takes 6 months took 2 years of planning. But it is the only way to deliver a job on time, on budget, and to spec.

REFERENCES- No doubt you've heard it over and over again. "Ask for references". The notion of references gives a false sense of security to the public. No contractor will disclose unpleasant references, or the references on jobs that "went bad". Let's say a contractor had 100 projects under his belt, and he offers you 20 references...which ones do you think will make the list?

Past clients, as a general rule, don't like to be contacted and they certainly don't like people showing up at their homes to "inspect the work" previously done by the contractor. Most Home Owners, once the job is complete, want to move on with their lives and enjoy their home. As much of a pleasant experience as they may have had with their contractor, nobody likes to be hounded by phone calls, week after week, month after month, year after year by the contractor's new prospective clients. Visiting their home is always awkward as well, nobody really likes to have strangers over in there home to "inspect" the work. People have lives and better things to do...there is a limit on satisfied customer's good will and this should also be taken into consideration by both the contractor and the prospective clients.

Other things to think about is that we live in the day and age of technology. There is little you can't find out about a company by using the internet. For example, there are a number of 3rd party websites where one can report and give reviews on contractors. These 3rd party websites are supposed to be un-biased and anyone with a grievance with the company can publicly state such on these sites. This is a far better barometer of a contractor's reputation and reviews. Good contractors strive to maintain a spotless reputation, as reputation is the key to trust.

And lastly, don't discount someone who cannot provide too many references of past clients. The contractors that can provide the greatest number of references are obviously the contractors that have been in business the longest. But what about the guys that are new to entrepeneurialship? There are plenty of contractors out there that have spent the last 10, 20, 30 years working for someone else at some other construction company. Everything from carpenters, to site supervisors, foremen and project managers who hold all kinds of certifications, accreditations, licenses along with a rich diversity of knowledge and experience who decided to finally take the plunge with their own company and sometimes the motivating factor was that they thought/knew they could offer the public a better service then what their past employer was providing. Discounting someone's ACTUAL experience, knowledge, qualifications for a lack of personal past clients is thoughtless and allows the old dinosaurs of the industry to monopolize on all the jobs out there. Whereas, the new guys might be more eager and willing to offer you the greatest deals in the name of building up their portfolio. Just make sure that they really ARE qualified and just may not have too many personal past clients. Accreditation, licensess, past history and whatnot...ultimately, it's up to the contractor to convey his qualifications. All I'm saying is, the dinosaurs in the industry kind of have a monopoly on the reference thing and it's a far less accurate measure of someone's qualifications and ability than most make it out to be.

ON THE ISSUE OF LICENSES/INSURANCE/WSIB - Contractors need a License to sell their work to the public. You can check with the Ministry if your contractor is licensed or not. DOES IT MATTER? Well, on the one hand...it's the Law and if the contractor doesn't have it...he's technically breaking the Law and can be subject to fines or possibly criminal charges. On the other hand, it's hardly a measure of qualification. The Exam/Qualifications for passing the requirements to obtain a license are no guarantee. Nor is having a Driver's License a guarantee that you won't find incompetent drivers on the road...it's a minimal "check". Some call it extortion from the Gov't, because it's never enforced. I've called the Ministry a number of times to report contractors that are operating without a license and nothing ever happens. So some Pro's see it as an impotent force, that only taxes the REAL, honest, hardworking and Law abiding contractors while letting the guys that break the rules go for scot free and in essence...even help them out by making their prices even cheaper (Less carrying costs). Nonetheless, take it with a grain of salt. Contractors are supposed to have it, and if a contractors doesn't care about the Law...well, that should tell you something right there about their principles/ethics. Kind of a red flag...but don't assume that just because a guy DOES have a license that nothing could ever go wrong either. But, they also do a Police Background check prior to issuing licenses, and if a guy doesn't have a license, even more questions as to who you are hiring. There is also some measure of accountability in that if the contractor is licensed...you could always file a complaint with the ministry in the event that something does go sideways and that individual may have his license revoked.

The contractors needs to have Liability Insurance to protect the workers and anyone coming and going out of your home. Without it, anyone injured on your premises could sue you.

WSIB protects the workers in the event that there is an injuy, once again protecting the health and safety of the workers on the house and freeing you and the contractor from liability. It is our duty as citizens to ensure that we promote a safe working environment for all workers.

THE PROS ARE ALMOST ALWAYS LESS EXPENSIVE...IN THE LONG RUN- No doubt, there are still what we call "hacks" in this line of work. Anyone can call themselves a "contractor" and many do. A guy could pick up a hammer today, print a business card tomorrow and run around calling himself a contractor but these guys don't get very far. They damage themselves and everyone around them in a very short amount of time, and peter out quickly. Their main demographic are "cheap" Home Owners. They don't pay taxes, they have no licenses, they have no training, no insurance, no WSIB liability coverage, don't know what's involved in a job, how much materials costs, how to calculate labour, they don't hire professional subs...and so most of the time they drastically underbid a job. This appeals to the "cheap" home owners, who think they are getting a deal. But the fan will be hit sooner or later, and the cost to take down and re-do will ALWAYS cost more than to have hired a professional in the first place. Furthermore, not pulling permits, carrying proper insurance and other issues in addition to the actual work could leave the Home Owner facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines from the city and in some rare cases...homes have even been ordered to be demolished and the Home Owners had to pay to have their home demolished after being "condemnded" by the city. What a nightmare.

THE CONTRACT- Very...very important. Different contractors offer different contracts. Some are "Fixed Price", "Cost-Plub", "Time and Material", "Project Management", and a number of other variations. Some contractors deal exclusively in one method while some offer a number of options. Pick the one that best works for you. Research into them, and ask around, not all contracts are the same. Whatever you choose...the more details the better. A GOOD contract is one that leaves very little to interpretation should something not go right and an argument occurs. GET IT WRITTEN DOWN! is the rule. Good contractors are very detailed in their contracts, and maintain thorough documentation throughout the project that is transparent to both parties. Warranties are also essential.

IT'S A SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP- The atomosphere of the false media has created an adversarial/hostile attitude toward contractors. People believe that contractors are something to guard oneself against, question, look down upon...because they're ALL out to get you. This advesarial attitude does nobody any good. The contractor and client should be on EVEN KEEL with one another, both respecting the others time, needs, wants, and desires. A symbiotic relationship, where both parties emerge satisfied on having worked together on a successful project. The truth is, good contractors are VERY SELECTIVE in who they work with/for. The bad ones usually work with just about anybody that has the money. But the good ones realize that a project is a commitment on both sides, and 100% of everything actually required to deliver a successful project and get it from A to B occurs AFTER signing contracts, complimenting each other and making promises. Good contractors don't SELL much, but they DELIVER all the time. Renovations can get very complicated, and most of the Pro's have a rich background in the training required for the work. Some are Architects, Engineers, Project Managers, Licensed Plumbers, Electricians and many other related professions and their training varies. But all of the good ones understand the complexity of some projects. Gorgeous renovations don't happen by accident, structures that last hundreds of years are not a fluke, and fine workmanship takes years and years of dedication. Great contractors have spent the greater parts of their lives in perfecting their trade, amassing priceless knowledge and wisdom that they bear upon every project.

So, find a good contractor...and work WITH him (or her). The #1 secret amongst contractors is that the clients that they appreciate the most, are the ones that understand what quality means, appreciate professionalism, appreciate quality workmanship, choose honesty and integrity in who they deal with and understand that working with a true professional is their #1 best bet in seeing a successful project through to completion. I also know, that contractors that have clients with the aforementioned qualities...bend over backwards for them.

This has been the greaest wisdom I could part with on the topic. The choice to follow my advice, or follow the advice of the plethora of so called "experts" who have probably never hired a contractor or taken on any REAL project themselves (painting your living room doesn't count), people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing...the choice is yours. I know if I ever have to go to court, I want the best lawyer on my side. If I need a doctor, I want the best doctor to diagnose/heal me. If I need a mechanic, I'll take it to a Pro. In this life, all you are is the choices you make. Godspeed.

http://www.nostco.com
Nostco Construction

Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/?expert=Peter_Khatami



Article Source: http://EzineArticles.com/5661055



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In the last 10-15 years, the industry of Residential General Contractors has taken a beating by the media. Television, maganizes and articles have waged war on the image, credibility and trust of General Contractors. This is something that as a Home Owner, you must first be aware of.

15 Years ago, there were 3 shows that dealt with residential construction:

-This Old House 
-The New Yankee Work Shop 
-Bob Villa's Home again

These 3 shows gave Home Owners an "inside" look into construction techniques and methods, offering plenty of advice, knowledge and wisdom. I suppose they had a loyal following amongst hobbyists, contractors and weekend warriors. But it didn't appeal much to the general masses. After all, not everyone is interested in learning how to cut Crown Moulding or how to select the best router bits.

Along came a show on HGTV called Holmes on Homes. The entire premise of the show was to unearth the misdeeds of shabby, unethical and unprofessional contractors while at the same time portraying the Home Owners as the innocent victims in a "deal gone bad". Along comes our saviour, Mr. Holmes, to save the day and right the wrongs.

THE PROBLEM - Are there unqualified, unprofessional and unethical contractors out yet? YOU BET! At the same time, one could ask...are there unqualified, unprofessional and unethical Lawyers? Doctors? Police Officers? Real Estate Agents? Mortgage Brokers? Accountants? And so on? YOU BET there are! Every industry has the good, the bad, the mediocre, the excellent and the horrendous. That's life, that's people.

This show sent a subliminal message to Home Owners - Other contractors BAD...Mike Holmes GOOD. Mr. Holmes is a smart man. He knows how to make money and promote himself. Good for him! However, his show has unjustly tarnished the image of an entire industry, done a great deed in misleading home owners, and started a trend of "contractor bashing" that has prevailed since. For all of Mike's talks about "License, Insurance and permits", I find it ironic that Mike Holmes himself is not licensed to carry out the work that he performed on the show. The Ministry of Housing and Municipal Affairs has a clear mandate for licensing and Mr. Holmes himself is NOT a licensed Carpenter. Technically, every time he modified any structural wood element of the house or sold carpentry services he was doing so without the appropriate licensing, breaking the law and casting himself into the dim shadow with which he so readily labels so many other contractors. Hypocrite.

Furthermore, though it is true that many of the home owners on that show were essentially ripped off, misled or cheated, most of the time and most of those Home Owners brought it upon themselves. How do I know? I can guarantee that most of those Home Owners chose their contractor based on price. The ever so tempting taste of a "good deal". Of course, they don't tell you that on the show. It kills the "victimized" position.

Speaking of things they don't mention on the show, ever notice how Mike Holmes usually ends up gutting almost all of the work and then not only building it back up the right way, but going way over and beyond to make it look that much better? Talk about misleading...all of that translates to dollar signs in real life. "GIVING" the home owners glass shower doors, custom cabinets, granite countertops, heated flooring, marble flooring and so on is all great, but what they fail to mention is that in real life somebody had to pay for that. In this case, it was most likely the production company and they received free material from sponsorships. But it's misleading to take an original renovation where the Home Owners had a $20,000 budget, dump what would equal $150,000 in real life into the home and stand back and say "There...that's how it should have been done" without telling the viewers about that nagging issue of $130,000.

An entire generation of TV shows continued on with this trend. What you have to know is that ALL of these shows receive sponsorships. A basic premise of most of these shows are "Look, we did all these renovations and it only cost us $X". They conveniently forget to tell you "Oh yeah, we received 50-100% off on all the materials through our sponsors and we're not calculating the labour realistically". Never mind the fact that they probably never got permits for the work, nobody was insured by WSIB, nobody carried Liability Insurance and many other factors.

It's television folks...it's entertainment, and production companies and networks do not care about the accuracy of the information on a show that was intended to entertain and keep viewers.

So now that we have reiterated the bias of the media and the years of misleading information that Home Owners have been bombarded with, let's get on with the meat of the topic at hand. How do you navigate your way towards finding a professional.

The good news is, there are plenty of highly professional contractors to choose from. They just don't make the news. Unlike what the media would have you believe, the majority of contractors fall in the range of good to great. Your first step in finding one that fits your needs, begins with a broad search. The internet sounds like a decent start.

Start looking through the websites of the contractors out there. Remember, it's YOUR JOB to find the right contractor and you have to be prepared to do some of the leg work. The right contractor will not just fall on your lap, and since most renovations represent a great investment on top of your greatest investment (your home), you are wise to take your time at every turn, beginning with the "broad search". In looking through the various web sites, you will begin to get a feel for the level of work that each company represents by browsing through past projects. Not all contractors are the same, some deal with exclusively "High end" renovations, some upper middle, the middle and some have carved out a niche in the lower end, quick and fast types of renovations (bathrooms, floor installations) and other broad appeal types of renos.

You will inevitably narrow down your selection to maybe 5-10 contractors that appeal to the style/look you're shooting for. In other words, they seem to offer the type of workmanship/quality you would like to see incorporated into your project.

BE REALISTIC- No point in walking into a Ferrari dealership with a Hyundai budget. Conversely, no point walking into a Hyundai dealership if you're looking for a Ferrari. There is nothing wrong with either of those, but know what YOU want and be realistic about what you can AFFORD. If your gut says you have a small budget, don't contact a renovator who looks like he/she works exclusively in the "High end" market of homes in Forrest Hill, Rosedale, Bridle Path, Lakeshore west and other affluent neighborhoods. Those homes are almost always in the $1 Million dollar + category (going as high as in the tens of Millions). A simple kitchen reno is almost always a $100,000 + type of project (with some exceptions). Most renovations are in line with the price/value of the home. For example, you're not going to find IKEA cabinets in the main kitchen of a $20 Million dollar home. Nor will you find $150,000 custom cabinetry in the main kitchen of a $400,000 home.

Now that you think you've found the handful of contractors that "fit the bill", start researching the contractors. Their website and a simple GOOGLE search of their company will offer up a great deal of information on it's own. With this information, try to narrow your search down to around 3 contractors that look like they would be a good fit.

THE NEXT STEP...DESIGN- Every renovation needs a "plan". A plan begins with a design and therein you have a few choices. You can design the space yourself if you feel you have enough knowledge or you can retain the services of a designer. A designer can be an interior designer, an Architect, an Engineer, a BCIN licensed designer or you can work with a Design/Build contractor. All of this will depend on the project itself. At some point, in most cases, you will need a building permit. Drawing for building permits are called Construction Drawings (CD's) and they are different from general designs/drawings. The process usually begins with "concept drawings", or a representation of the "concept" that is sought. Once the concept has been chosen, the drawings are refined, information is filled in, materials are sourced, the details are refined and you are well on your way towards having a completed set of CD's. Each designer offers a different take on the project and each have their pros and cons. For example, if budget is a main concern for you then the best option is to work with a Design/Build company. A D/B company designs around your budget and since they are the builders, then can begin pricing the job and building a budget from the concept stage. As the builders, they have the "finger on the pulse" of the costs associated with the project. Working with an Architect on the other hand, is a far better bet if the over all design is the main criteria. An Architect is the master is design theory, knowledge and building methods. An interior designer, as the name suggests, is most concerned with the "look" of the interior finishings. Furniture, wall dressings, floor coverings, fixtures and other materials that blend together to make a startlingly beautiful visual impact custom tailored for each client. An engineer is the master of of durable, sustainable and rigid design and building materials. BCIN licensed designer are most likely the most efficient, cut to the chase A-B option offering competitive rates for budget minded clients who most likely are looking for just a building permit.

So as you can see, each offers a different take on the matter and each have their own strengths and weaknesses. It is up to you to decide which factor is most critical with you in choosing your design professional.

If you are working with a 3rd party designer (Interior designer, Architect, BCIN registered designer or Engineer), it is always a good idea to have your contractor involved as the design is progressing. Even if you have narrowed down your selection of contractors down to 3, keep them abreast of how the design is progressing. Most likely, they can begin pricing out the job for you and their feedback is always important.

Working with a Design/Build contractor on the other hand offers the flexibility in having a working budget concurrent with the design. Value engineering is a virtue of this option.

THE MYTH- That contractors can give you an "estimate" before you have working drawings. I hear this over and over again. "Make sure you have X number of estimates from contractors". What estimates when there are no working drawings? Working drawings define the scope of work and the materials involved for the project. Asking someone for an estimate before having drawings is akin to calling a dealership and asking "How much for a car?". Well, if you call Ford for example the answer may be anywhere from $15,000 - $100,000. You're not doing yourself any service.

If a contractor that you call gives you a "price" before you have drawings, one of two things is happening A) He's mis-leading you in an attempt to sell you B) He doesn't know what he's talking about and is not qualified.

Prices vary wildly in renovations. A bathroom reno could fall anywhere in the range of $5,000 to $100,000 +.

Now, if you don't need working drawings and you don't think that your project requires a building permit, what should your next approach be? Well...be honest. Tell the contractor how much of a budget you have set aside for the project and let him tell you what you can get for that. Most likely, and in most instances, the contractor can make a guest-timate of whether you have a realistic budget or not. But remember, this is still only a guest-timate. Every budget is comprised of details, and the more details and preparation you have going into it the far more likely you are to stay on budget at the end.

WHAT'S NEXT?- So you think you found 3 or so contractors, you have a realistic budget and regardless of whether you have drawings at this point or not...you would like to meet with them. If you already have drawings, you're obviously more prepared, but if you don't then don't worry...it's still OK to meet with contractors at this point. Some contractors will not even meet with you unless you do have drawings, but most will. This takes us to our next step.

FREE ESTIMATES vs PAID SITE VISITS/ESTIMATES- Some contractors charge a fee to visit you at your house for the first meeting but most will come out for free. Which is better? Well, that's up in the air and for you to decide. Normally when you pay for a site visit, the contractor will come out and take measurements and pictures of your home. He will also take notes based on information you provided and provide you with a preliminary assessment of the project. This means that he went back to his office, designed one or two concepts for the renovation, built one or two budgets, assigning "allowances" for the unknown portions of the work that cannot be figured out yet at this point (for example, the finishes, fixtures, and other accessory materials), and then he will meet with you again at your home to review the preliminary appraisal. This is a far more realistic and accurate appraisal for the project than any FREE estimate could possibly be. Until the contractor sits down, designs the space and crunches all the numbers...any "Estimate" provided is hog wash and nothing more than a number pulled out of thin air, representing absolutely no details of the scope of work or allowances for materials and finishes. That is why so many "estimates" vary WILDLY. You're wasting your time with these.

Your best best, is to always retain someone to perform "Pre-Construction" services on the project. This package includes preliminary design, scope of work, a schedule, budget, material selection, unlimited modifications, value engineering, refining the project to your budget, refining details, sourcing materials, selecting sub-contractors and tendering portions of the job, obtaining working drawings and obtaining all building permits, variances, committee of adjustment or zoning approvals required. This package (Pre-Construction), is the blue-print for the project and will serve for the duration of the project's life cycle. A PLAN...your #1 key resource towards a successful renovation and the one thing NONE of the so called "experts" and "advice givers" that write article upon article, and preach on radio and TV EVER talk about. Yet, it is the ONE thing that Professionals that actually do the work LIVE BY. The more details, the better. This is also your #1 money saver right here, for though you may pay a fee "initially"...a solid plan that has been "tweeked" will save you tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars down the line. Sometimes, a job that takes 6 months took 2 years of planning. But it is the only way to deliver a job on time, on budget, and to spec.

REFERENCES- No doubt you've heard it over and over again. "Ask for references". The notion of references gives a false sense of security to the public. No contractor will disclose unpleasant references, or the references on jobs that "went bad". Let's say a contractor had 100 projects under his belt, and he offers you 20 references...which ones do you think will make the list?

Past clients, as a general rule, don't like to be contacted and they certainly don't like people showing up at their homes to "inspect the work" previously done by the contractor. Most Home Owners, once the job is complete, want to move on with their lives and enjoy their home. As much of a pleasant experience as they may have had with their contractor, nobody likes to be hounded by phone calls, week after week, month after month, year after year by the contractor's new prospective clients. Visiting their home is always awkward as well, nobody really likes to have strangers over in there home to "inspect" the work. People have lives and better things to do...there is a limit on satisfied customer's good will and this should also be taken into consideration by both the contractor and the prospective clients.

Other things to think about is that we live in the day and age of technology. There is little you can't find out about a company by using the internet. For example, there are a number of 3rd party websites where one can report and give reviews on contractors. These 3rd party websites are supposed to be un-biased and anyone with a grievance with the company can publicly state such on these sites. This is a far better barometer of a contractor's reputation and reviews. Good contractors strive to maintain a spotless reputation, as reputation is the key to trust.

And lastly, don't discount someone who cannot provide too many references of past clients. The contractors that can provide the greatest number of references are obviously the contractors that have been in business the longest. But what about the guys that are new to entrepeneurialship? There are plenty of contractors out there that have spent the last 10, 20, 30 years working for someone else at some other construction company. Everything from carpenters, to site supervisors, foremen and project managers who hold all kinds of certifications, accreditations, licenses along with a rich diversity of knowledge and experience who decided to finally take the plunge with their own company and sometimes the motivating factor was that they thought/knew they could offer the public a better service then what their past employer was providing. Discounting someone's ACTUAL experience, knowledge, qualifications for a lack of personal past clients is thoughtless and allows the old dinosaurs of the industry to monopolize on all the jobs out there. Whereas, the new guys might be more eager and willing to offer you the greatest deals in the name of building up their portfolio. Just make sure that they really ARE qualified and just may not have too many personal past clients. Accreditation, licensess, past history and whatnot...ultimately, it's up to the contractor to convey his qualifications. All I'm saying is, the dinosaurs in the industry kind of have a monopoly on the reference thing and it's a far less accurate measure of someone's qualifications and ability than most make it out to be.

ON THE ISSUE OF LICENSES/INSURANCE/WSIB - Contractors need a License to sell their work to the public. You can check with the Ministry if your contractor is licensed or not. DOES IT MATTER? Well, on the one hand...it's the Law and if the contractor doesn't have it...he's technically breaking the Law and can be subject to fines or possibly criminal charges. On the other hand, it's hardly a measure of qualification. The Exam/Qualifications for passing the requirements to obtain a license are no guarantee. Nor is having a Driver's License a guarantee that you won't find incompetent drivers on the road...it's a minimal "check". Some call it extortion from the Gov't, because it's never enforced. I've called the Ministry a number of times to report contractors that are operating without a license and nothing ever happens. So some Pro's see it as an impotent force, that only taxes the REAL, honest, hardworking and Law abiding contractors while letting the guys that break the rules go for scot free and in essence...even help them out by making their prices even cheaper (Less carrying costs). Nonetheless, take it with a grain of salt. Contractors are supposed to have it, and if a contractors doesn't care about the Law...well, that should tell you something right there about their principles/ethics. Kind of a red flag...but don't assume that just because a guy DOES have a license that nothing could ever go wrong either. But, they also do a Police Background check prior to issuing licenses, and if a guy doesn't have a license, even more questions as to who you are hiring. There is also some measure of accountability in that if the contractor is licensed...you could always file a complaint with the ministry in the event that something does go sideways and that individual may have his license revoked.

The contractors needs to have Liability Insurance to protect the workers and anyone coming and going out of your home. Without it, anyone injured on your premises could sue you.

WSIB protects the workers in the event that there is an injuy, once again protecting the health and safety of the workers on the house and freeing you and the contractor from liability. It is our duty as citizens to ensure that we promote a safe working environment for all workers.

THE PROS ARE ALMOST ALWAYS LESS EXPENSIVE...IN THE LONG RUN- No doubt, there are still what we call "hacks" in this line of work. Anyone can call themselves a "contractor" and many do. A guy could pick up a hammer today, print a business card tomorrow and run around calling himself a contractor but these guys don't get very far. They damage themselves and everyone around them in a very short amount of time, and peter out quickly. Their main demographic are "cheap" Home Owners. They don't pay taxes, they have no licenses, they have no training, no insurance, no WSIB liability coverage, don't know what's involved in a job, how much materials costs, how to calculate labour, they don't hire professional subs...and so most of the time they drastically underbid a job. This appeals to the "cheap" home owners, who think they are getting a deal. But the fan will be hit sooner or later, and the cost to take down and re-do will ALWAYS cost more than to have hired a professional in the first place. Furthermore, not pulling permits, carrying proper insurance and other issues in addition to the actual work could leave the Home Owner facing tens of thousands of dollars in fines from the city and in some rare cases...homes have even been ordered to be demolished and the Home Owners had to pay to have their home demolished after being "condemnded" by the city. What a nightmare.

THE CONTRACT- Very...very important. Different contractors offer different contracts. Some are "Fixed Price", "Cost-Plub", "Time and Material", "Project Management", and a number of other variations. Some contractors deal exclusively in one method while some offer a number of options. Pick the one that best works for you. Research into them, and ask around, not all contracts are the same. Whatever you choose...the more details the better. A GOOD contract is one that leaves very little to interpretation should something not go right and an argument occurs. GET IT WRITTEN DOWN! is the rule. Good contractors are very detailed in their contracts, and maintain thorough documentation throughout the project that is transparent to both parties. Warranties are also essential.

IT'S A SYMBIOTIC RELATIONSHIP- The atomosphere of the false media has created an adversarial/hostile attitude toward contractors. People believe that contractors are something to guard oneself against, question, look down upon...because they're ALL out to get you. This advesarial attitude does nobody any good. The contractor and client should be on EVEN KEEL with one another, both respecting the others time, needs, wants, and desires. A symbiotic relationship, where both parties emerge satisfied on having worked together on a successful project. The truth is, good contractors are VERY SELECTIVE in who they work with/for. The bad ones usually work with just about anybody that has the money. But the good ones realize that a project is a commitment on both sides, and 100% of everything actually required to deliver a successful project and get it from A to B occurs AFTER signing contracts, complimenting each other and making promises. Good contractors don't SELL much, but they DELIVER all the time. Renovations can get very complicated, and most of the Pro's have a rich background in the training required for the work. Some are Architects, Engineers, Project Managers, Licensed Plumbers, Electricians and many other related professions and their training varies. But all of the good ones understand the complexity of some projects. Gorgeous renovations don't happen by accident, structures that last hundreds of years are not a fluke, and fine workmanship takes years and years of dedication. Great contractors have spent the greater parts of their lives in perfecting their trade, amassing priceless knowledge and wisdom that they bear upon every project.

So, find a good contractor...and work WITH him (or her). The #1 secret amongst contractors is that the clients that they appreciate the most, are the ones that understand what quality means, appreciate professionalism, appreciate quality workmanship, choose honesty and integrity in who they deal with and understand that working with a true professional is their #1 best bet in seeing a successful project through to completion. I also know, that contractors that have clients with the aforementioned qualities...bend over backwards for them.

This has been the greaest wisdom I could part with on the topic. The choice to follow my advice, or follow the advice of the plethora of so called "experts" who have probably never hired a contractor or taken on any REAL project themselves (painting your living room doesn't count), people who know the price of everything and the value of nothing...the choice is yours. I know if I ever have to go to court, I want the best lawyer on my side. If I need a doctor, I want the best doctor to diagnose/heal me. If I need a mechanic, I'll take it to a Pro. In this life, all you are is the choices you make. Godspeed.

http://www.nostco.com
Nostco Construction

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