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How To: Conducting a Home Remodel with Father & Son Construction

By Kristen Bosse

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

Father & Son Construction is a family owned company since 1979. The Company is licensed, insured and primarily services the Metro Detroit area (Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties). We have our own planning department as well as a production department that will oversee the construction projects. Both of those departments are separate from our sale department in which our estimators are all licensed through the state of Michigan. Our philosophy is pure and simple, "Treat your customers like family and give them quality work at reasonable prices." It is our desire to sure that our customers are completely satisfied with our home improvement services.

What are some important questions to ask a contractor before beginning the remodeling process?

- Are you licensed through the state of Michigan? Then verify the license yourself on the State of Michigan DLEG website.
- How long has your company existed? Has it been owned by the same person or group for that time? - Do you carry general liability and workers compensation insurance? Ask for copies of the policies and contact the carrier directly to verify that they are still in force.
- Ask to see some recently completed projects.
- Find out about a payment schedule as the job progresses- How much deposit, when is the next payment due, etc. Do not make final payment until the job is completed.
- Will the company issue waivers of lien or a sworn statement ensuring everyone associated with the project has been paid?
- Are the tradespeople specialized in their capacity and licensed (such as plumbers, HVAC installers, electricians) or does the company use "handymen"? Find out how long (on average) the tradespeople have been working for the company.
- Will the company be pulling necessary permits to do the work and schedule all inspections?
- If the home work built before 1978? Will the tradespeople involved have the necessary RRP licensing for lead based paint?

If you could, please walk our readers through the general home remodeling process:

Have a meeting with a representative, negotiate a price, sign a contract spelling out all the project specifications and payment terms, have a blueprint drawn (if needed), do a preconstruction meeting with project supervisor prior to construction to finalize colors / materials / special orders, etc., obtain necessary building inspections throughout the progression of the job, make final payment at the end and request a waiver of lien or sworn statement.

How do you suggest clients prepare for a home remodel?

The best way for a homeowner to properly prepare for a remodeling project is to plan and communicate their expectations and desires prior to beginning the process. Decide how large to make the addition with furniture placement is just one thought as far as planning goes. The types of material to be used such as cabinets and countertops is another thought process. Also, think about removing any nearby breakables prior to construction. Ask the contractor about any possible inconvenience such as not using a part of the home when construction is progressing. Consider the impact on pets and children. Also, budget for "extras" in case there are unforeseen items or wanted upgrades, like rotten plywood on a re-roof or upgrading tile in a bathroom.

What are some common issues you face when it comes to remodeling homes?

Common issues that we face when remodeling home vary greatly, based on the job. First, the production schedule should be as tight as possible to keep the job progression running as efficiently as possible. Weather, availability of tradespeople, delays from inspections, access to the residence and holidays all play critical roles in the construction progress. Clear communication with the homeowner also is imperative- has the homeowner expressed all their needs and wants and do they have a clear understanding of the construction process? City involvement as far as zoning and building codes can become issues a far as what a homeowner desires versus what the community will allow. Finding the right tradesperson for the project is also important as some people are more "task oriented" while others are more "people oriented", so you try to make the best match accordingly.

As a contractor, please describe your ideal relationship with the homeowner for whom you are working.

The ideal relationship with a homeowner and contractor is mutual trust. Once trust is established, "fears" can be set aside- the contractor knows what to expect from the homeowner and vice versa. The most important thing about trust is that is must be earned, both ways, and that it shall never be broken. If all goes well with the project, repeat business and referrals are sure to follow. Trust works hand in hand with great communication with the homeowner. Office hours, cell phones and emails should be utilized based on the needs of both parties' preferences. Great communication as well as trust should lead to excellent results.

What advice do you have for the homeowner during this strenuous process?

Assuming the homeowner has hired the right professional to work on their home, the best advice is to relax and look forward to the results. Most remodeling projects have a bump or two in the process not due to the homeowner or the contractor. Depending on the type of project, there may be some temporary displacement (such as a bath or kitchen remodel) but the end result should be worth the journey (and the money). Again, trust and communication should relieve the anxiety of the construction process.

With so many counter options out there, how do I choose the right one for my kitchen? Are there benefits associated with different materials?

Probably the biggest concern in the selection of the countertop is the cost factor. The second concern when selecting a countertop should be durability. Usually, the more expensive the top, the more durable it will be. Laminate (also known as Formica tops) are the most affordable. Something to consider when choosing laminates is that they can be damaged by heat, water (if not properly caulked at the backsplash) and by cutting- using a knife and cutting directly on the surface. All of these things will damage the surface and diminish its life. Solid surface countertops such as Corian, are more heat resistant than that of laminates. Solid surface tops can also be scratched but are more easily repaired by a qualified professional than laminates would be. Another positive attribute to solid surfaces tops is that homeowners have the option of having the sink molded directly into the countertop.

Granite and marble tops are much more heat and damage resistant than any other type listed above. The down side to marble and granite is that they both can suffer from stains. Again, these can be repaired by a qualified professional. The price of granite and marble tops vary greatly depending on their rarity. In other words, the more rare the material, the greater the price. Also, when selecting either granite or marble, a homeowner should select the particular slab that will be utilized on their project. Because they are natural materials each slab will have slight to great variations in color and pattern.

Will I have a bigger return on investment if I purchase custom-made cabinets?

There is no guarantee on a larger return on investment base upon purchasing custom cabinets. The location of the home will have a lot more to do with the selection of cabinets used.

A home located in a more affluent subdivision may warrant cherry or hickory cabinets whereas a "starter" home may be better suited with an oak or laminate cabinet. If return on investment is the largest determining factor of the cabinet selection, plan accordingly. It is wise to go with at least a mid-grade cabinet no matter the location of the home as usually the "cheapest" cabinets will fall apart at a rapid rate. Bottom line- it's your house, if you are planning on owning the home for a significant amount of time, your return on investment is your enjoyment of what you purchase.

Is it cost-effective for home builders and renovators to select wood flooring instead of less-costly materials?

The selection of a floor for a particular room should be based more on function than on price. Hardwood floors are beautiful choices but do lend themselves to a much greater chance of damage such as dents, scratches and scuffs. High traffic and wet areas such as kitchens, baths, entryways and laundry rooms will require more maintenance and preventative measures. Also, hardwood floors that are pre-finished can fade. Homes with a lot of windows and pre-finished wood floors will fade more quickly than traditional hardwood floors. Another thing to consider with hardwood floors is that they reflect rather than absorb sound. The need for area rugs with hardwood may be greater in rooms such as a television viewing room to reduce echo. Lifestyle is yet another factor to consider. Carpet offers more cushion and traction which would benefit families with small children and animals. However, homeowners that suffer from allergies would benefit from hardwood or tile to reduce dust and airborne allergens.

What is the best way for people to get in contact with you or your company?

The best way for a homeowner to contact us is through our website: www.father-son-const.com. By visiting our site, a homeowner can learn more about our company at their leisure. Our website also has the ability to request an appointment for a free in home estimate. We also have a page on Facebook that showcases many of our "before and after" photos of work we have performed including comments directly from our customers. Lastly, we have a toll free number, 800-380-8888, which homeowners can call to have their questions answered by estimators and set up appointments directly.

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Kristen has written impressive content including press releases and feature stories...

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