In our home building and remodeling travels, my husband Adam and I have visited with hundreds of families throughout Shreveport and Bossier City. Approximately half of the clients we meet have never gone through a home remodeling project and because it is something new to them, we feel it is important to educate these customers throughout the entire process starting at the first meeting to the final construction punch list.

Another key ingredient we focus on when meeting with new clients is building trust. While it is extremely important we understand our clients’ needs, it is equally important our clients understand who we are and how we operate professionally. At the other end of this scenario are the families who have experienced a remodeling project. Most say they were very satisfied with the job performed by a past contractor, while the others report horrible experiences that have left them with a home that is in worse condition than before the remodeling project occurred.

We have personally seen these gut wrenching home horror stories and it aches our hearts for the families involved. Their money, time and personal safety have all been compromised by a sharp tongued individual flying under the legal radar. We have seen extension cords in walls, remodeled bathrooms leaking into adjacent rooms, additions that are pulling away from the existing home, incorrect framing, and unprotected circuits hidden behind drywall, just to name a few.

I can go on and on with the list of code violations and severe structural issues we have seen, but what I would rather do is educate you, the reader, so you or anyone you know who is in the market for a home renovation will be armed with the knowledge needed for a safe and successful project.  It is your right to ask questions before investing in an addition or a home renovation. Never be afraid that you may offend the contractor or salesperson. If you see them squirming in their seat during your Q&As, that may be a red flag.

1.  SHOW ME THE LICENSE

Before hiring anyone to handle your home renovation project, ask to see their contractor’s license. A great contractor will show you his license without blinking an eye and may already have it available or list their license number on their website or business card.

An individual calling himself a contractor but shows no regard in playing by the legal rules by obtaining his license is a HUGE red flag. If he is purposely flying under the radar, imagine the care he will have with your home. Hmm.

Seeing the license is the first step, the second step is to call and verify the license is valid. Home owners are welcomed to call the Louisiana Licensing Board at 1-800-256-1392 to put their mind at ease.

2. SHOW ME THE INSURANCE

What will happen if your contractor or his employees get injured on your property? What will happen if your home is damaged by your contractor or one of his employees? These are thoughts that should be in the forefront of your mind when considering a home remodel.

Asking to see your contractor’s certificate of insurance is just as important as seeing their license. A great contractor will be covered by both General Liability and Workers Compensation insurance. General Liability covers damage to your property during the course of the work and Workers Compensation protects workers if they are injured while working at your home.

An extra step: Even if they show you their certificate calling their insurance company to verify is a great move.

3. SHOW ME THE CONTRACTS

There was a time when a good ol handshake carried as much weight as a written contract. Unfortunately, those days are over due to individuals whose morals and values turned out to be as shallow as their word.

A great contractor will provide you with a detailed written estimate or proposal. This proposal should describe what will be done in your home and list the labor, materials, structural work, electrical, plumbing, contingencies etc. necessary for your project. They will do all their preliminary work upfront so that you will not have surprise costs added to your job after the handshake.

Construction Contracts should also have a payment schedule, start date and projected completion date. Having everything in writing not only protects the contractor but protects you as well.

LisaMWillard4. SHOW ME THE PERMITS

A waving bright red flag would be a contractor who does not pull permits or wants YOU to pull the permits.

When a contractor pulls a permit on a job, it means they are adhering to local and state code which translates to your home renovation having to pass inspection before the work is completed and the final payment is made to your contractor.

This also means, that your remodeling project is now on the books, public knowledge, and if you plan to sell your home in the future, prospective buyers will be relieved by the fact that the work was done legally and by a licensed and insured contractor.

5. SHOW ME THE REFERENCES

Another important piece of your contractor homework is asking for references.

We offer all our new clients the names and phone numbers of past Ashley’s Building customers so they can hear about their remodeling experience firsthand.

6. SHOW ME THE PICTURES

Great Contractors do great work and will be eager to show you pictures or direct you to their website for photos. They may have a designer on staff (that is my role in our company) that uses 3D rendering software that can show you what your new project will look like before construction starts.

Asking to see pictures or addresses of past work that you can drive by and admire is a good way to get an idea of the quality of work you should expect from your contractor.

7. SHOW ME THE COMMUNICATION

We know that home remodeling projects can be very stressful for some homeowners and one way to minimize the stress is through communication and personal presence. How many times have you known a contractor to start a job and never be seen or heard from again?

Just like a marriage, communication is extremely important between the homeowner and contractor or project manager.

We personally text, email or call our customers with daily updates on what to expect during every phase of their project and visit our job sites regularly to make sure every little details is perfected.

Asking your contractor how they communicate will help calm your reno nerves.

And last but not least….

8. SHOW ME THE MONEY

You get what you paid for rings true in the building and remodeling industry.

The contractor with the dangerously low bid is cutting corners somewhere. It may be in the quality of materials or they may lack knowledge of code requirements or lack the building skills and knowledge to perform your project correctly. Heck, it could be all the above.

We have seen many unlicensed contractors oblivious to the fact that a home’s electrical panel or air conditioning needed to be updated when adding square footage to an existing home. Missing this step or adding it after your “handshake” can cost the homeowner thousands of extra dollars they were not budgeting for. Not cool.

Let’s face it, transparency in the home building and remodeling industry is key.Your home is your biggest investment and you have every right to know who will be altering it and working around your family. Remembering these few steps can put you on the right path to a safe, peaceful, gorgeous home remodel.

Lisa M. Willard is Ashley’s Building and Constructions chief Designer and co-owner. Visit them at www.ashleysbuilding.com. Lisa can be reached at lisamwillard@yahoo.com