Ever wonder whether a home renovation is up your alley? Or does start fresh with a new home and leaving that old one behind sound like a better fit? At 8030 REALTY, we realize that our clients, current and potential homeowners, are faced with a balancing act between these questions:

Do I buy a new home?
Do I remodel?
Do I buy a fixer-upper and remodel?

Here are 10 tips from local favorite Boulder remodel/renovation specialist, John Joseph of Phoenix Remodeling.

A good GC ensures a smooth running project. You are a specialist in your field: medicine, software, accounting, teaching or some entrepreneurial venture. If you attempt to be your own GC you will find yourself on a steep learning curve. Even a small remodel, like a kitchen or bathroom, has hundreds of moving parts that need to fit together in the end. A large remodel requires thousands of decisions and months of coordinating other people’s schedules. A well connected local GC has long term relationships with reliable and reputable subcontractors who have bonds of loyalty that ensure a project will not incur long delays.

Word of mouth is the best way to find someone good. Referrals are 95% of my business. Other than having a Google page and a business website I do not advertise. This relies on a circle of trust in which neighbors or members of the same community can vouch for the credibility of your contractor.  I’ve seen several remodels go wrong when a brother in law or cousin from out of town promises to help out their relatives. That handy cousin has no contacts with subcontractors and suppliers in your local area and the process will be delayed significantly because of this.

The larger the project the more over budget you will be. It’s easier to control costs on a small project – a week-long project that costs $2000 has few variables whereas a $200,000 dollar remodel has a myriad of variables that can add 20 percent or more to the cost of a project. When I built my own house I went 50% over budget in an act of hubris believing that because I was my own contractor I’d save a lot of money. It cost the same as if I had hired a contractor to do the project.

The old axiom “you get what you pay for” is generally true. Finding a contractor on Craigslist who has a lot of free time when others are booked for 6 months is an indicator that something is amiss. Savvy homeowners generally get 3 bids and do not accept the lowest one. The rare exception to this is the eager tradesman who has been an employee for several years and is on the cusp of starting his own business.

A lot of us are dropouts who found this profession by accident, rather than design. Anyone can print a business card with a company name and phone number and call himself a contractor. Although local jurisdictions require licensed contractors to obtain permits, a homeowner can either skip the permitting process at their own risk or obtain permits on their own and hire non-licensed people. In most northern European countries a carpenter is held to a much hire standard, requiring years of apprenticeship before becoming a journeyman and then a master. I spent the first 5 years of my career making substantial mistakes because I was learning on the job.

We’ve all seen highway projects where 7 men stand around one piece of machinery or a shovel and think how the project could be run more efficiently. Homeowners are really excited when a project begins, and have the highest hopes for a timely, on budget finish. But when the project is a month or two past deadline and the entire HELOC or family loan is exhausted, stress increases exponentially.

Life on earth requires trust: We trust that the sun will rise, that our internet will work, that the complex chain of our food supply will feed us and that the air we breathe will sustain us. When trust is eroded in a marriage, divorce follows. When the trust between contractor and client falls apart, a remodel can become a disaster. I was once a subcontractor on a project where the contractor bid $100,000 for a remodel. One day he suddenly disappeared, leaving the clients with a completely gutted house. They found another contractor who did the project for $250,000. Not only did they go 250% over their budget, but they were delayed by 8 months moving back into their home.

When you have several men you’ve never met before walk through your house, upstairs past all of your family photos, into your master bedroom to look at your master bath remodel, it’s personal. This is someone you want to be 100% comfortable with as a guest in your home for a week or several months. In most instances a reputable and personable contractor will have a crew that reflects the culture he’s created in his company. A major remodel could involve two dozen different men in your house over a period of months. You may never have them over to your Sunday barbecue, but you want to feel safe with them.

A successful remodel leaves you feeling awed at the end. You might be exhausted both mentally and financially , tired of seeing the fine particles of drywall dust on your dresser, cooking out of the temporary kitchen in your second bathroom, or eating your 100th take out meal, but you’ll be proud to show off your beautiful project to friends and family and refer your contractor to them.

You may be texting, emailing and speaking to your contractor more often than your spouse during the course of a remodel. Like a romantic relationship, the contractor/client relationship begins with many exclamation points and smiley emojis and a palpable level of excitement. A few weeks into the relationship the honeymoon period ends and like any long term commitment, clear communication and mutual respect create long term trust. At the end of a successful project you will part ways amicably but you might miss your contractor and call him back to adjust cabinet doors and fill nail holes just so you can hang out.

John Joseph started Phoenix Remodeling in 1983. In the past 31 years he has worked with homeowners, interior designers and architects in creating beautiful home environments. JJ specializes in kitchen and bathroom remodels, and takes pride in producing high quality of work, and the transformational process of remodeling.

JOHN JOSEPH | 720-404-0490 | Boulderphoenix@gmail.com