Renovating Your Home
Alan J. Heavens
Chapter 13 – The Perfect Match
Here’s a renovation story with a happy beginning, middle, and end, which is as rare as snow in San Diego. What you are about to read is probably the gold standard. If you can come up with a renovation experience that even approaches this one, you’re doing very well. And if you’re a contractor, this, my friend, is the way you should do business.
Alex and Beth Cerrato survived a six-month renovation process that virtually doubled the size of their house, and they have no complaints. The project, a two-story addition to their 1,500 -square-foot house, cost just about what they’d paid for the place six years earlier. In return for their expenditure, they got the house they wanted that easily accommodates two adults and now two children, with the recent addition of another son. Alex and Beth are planning to remain in the house for 30 years. That was not their intention when they bought the house. They assumed that they would move to something larger sooner. But when they began looking, they could find nothing under $500,000, and all those houses also had three bedrooms and would need work, including central air conditioning.
What they wanted was more usable space. The kitchen was small and needed to be expanded. It had to be open to a family room, so Beth could keep an eye on the boys when she was cooking. They decided to get rid of the dining room in favor of an eat-in kitchen large enough to accommodate their families on holidays. They also made the family room open to their deck.
When the project was over, they had a master bedroom with a cathedral ceiling; a larger basement with an office for Alex; the kitchen, which opened into a family room that opened to a rebuilt deck; new siding; a new roof; larger storage areas; and a better looking front porch.
The project was massive, but what was notable about this job is how well Alex and Beth and their contractor “meshed”. Alex and Beth called five contractors. The one they hired was recommended by their next-door neighbor. The contractor they chose wowed the couple from that first meeting. He was detail oriented, assured them without hesitation they could have what they wanted and even suggested trade-offs.
Instead of hiring an architect for $5,000 – $7,000, they were provided with one by the contractor who did the job for $3,000. But even before the plans were on the drawing board, Alex and Beth had to receive a formal education from the contractor. “There was an enormous amount of preliminary work before we even paid a penny,” Alex said. Alex and Beth went to the contractor’s office. The first session focused on architectural plans, another meeting was about windows, and another on lighting. There was a meeting with a molding specialist to talk about how to match existing molding and new. As their education progressed, plans and materials began to be firmed up, and a price began to be developed.
Other contractors they’d talk to had given them a price per square foot, without even coming into the house. “as we went on, the final price started getting locked in,” Alex said. “When we were finished, the contractor said, ‘This is the price, and you will not be paying any more.'”
He was a man of his word.
When, during the course of renovation, asbestos was discovered in the ductwork, the contractor assumed the cost of removal, because, he said, he should have been aware of it from the outset of the job.
The contractor provided the couple with a list of 100 references and urged them to call. He also drove them to see a couple houses he had recently completed where they could talk to the owners, and he provided them with a 12-page manual outlining procedures and even the basics of remodeling.
Alex and Beth didn’t begin paying until the work began, and then wrote a check each Friday for the work that had been completed that week as specified in the contract. The contract also specified a 100 percent, three-year warranty, but from what the couple heard from other customers, the contractor usually will come out after three years.
Then, there’s the list of things that must be fixed before the job is completed according to the terms of the contract, also known as the punch list.
“Where most builders try to keep the punch list small, the contractor came out and made a list of 20 to 25 minuscule things that his crew spent two or three more days to fix.” Ales said.
Alex and Beth remain enamored of the contractor and his crew, whom they would recommend to others and would use again.