Archive for the ‘Construction discussions’ Category

Want to find the right contractor? 6 questions to ask!!

This is a reprint from an article from Yahoo News. Edited for content.

No matter how big or small the home remodeling project, you can find the perfect contractor by posing the right questions.
Getting antsy to remodel your home? You might think your kitchen or bathroom needs a remodel right this minute, but remember: Haste makes waste.
Rather than rushing to hire the first – or even cheapest – contractor you come across, asking the right questions upfront will help you filter out the bad apples and find a reputable contractor to meet your needs.
“I want my clients to feel 100 percent comfortable with me,” says Shawn Kruse, president of the Remodeling Contractors Association of Connecticut and owner of Kruse Home Improvement, LLC. “And honestly, the more investigation they do about me and questions they ask me, the better it is for me. It helps me get the job.”
As Kruse points out, a thorough investigation can benefit both parties in the end.
“Potential clients learn about your credentials, background and experience. They start to get to know you and see if your personalities can get along,” Kruse acknowledges.
You may know exactly what you want out of your remodel – from the fixtures to the flooring – but you should know what you want from your contractor, too. Don’t settle for the first or cheapest bid. Your contractor will control the project – and probably your stress level – from start to finish, so it’s important the two of you are a good match.
If you want to find a contractor who suits your needs, try asking these six questions during the interview.
Question #1: What’s Your Business History (and Much More)?
You wouldn’t hire a surgeon without knowing how many surgeries he or she has performed, would you? Well, your home is about to go under the knife, so you’ll want to evaluate contractors with the same level of scrutiny.
Kruse suggests first asking questions about a company’s business practices and experiences with the remodeling project you need. Find out what kind of procedures and rules this contractor would follow to meet your demands.
Here are a few other things Kruse thinks you should ask contractors:
• How long have you been in business?
• Are you licensed by the state?
• What percentage of your clientele is repeat or referral business?
• Are you a member of a national trade association?
• Do you have a list of references from past projects similar to mine?
• Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling or had any special training or education?
Question #2: Do You Provide a Detailed Written Contract?
Misunderstandings happen. People forget. Things change. But a contract helps both you and the contractor know what is expected from both parties.
Every job, no matter how small, should have a signed contract by the contractor and customer, Kruse says. Seems like a no-brainer, right? Not so fast – the devil is in the details.
“A contract should be very specific and point out step by step what will be going on throughout the project and before it even begins,” he adds.
Some things that should be on a contract – all written in great detail – include:
• Names, addresses, and phone numbers of all parties involved in the project, including vendors
• Detailed list of the work to be completed
• List of each product along with its price and model number
• Who is responsible for pulling permits
• Where deliveries will go and where the dumpster will be placed
• What time the workers begin and end their day
• Project’s start and completion dates plus payment schedule
• All work carried out by subcontractors

Anything that changes along the way must be written and signed in a change order, which makes sure everyone is in agreement on the change, price, time, or anything else that is adjusted from the original contract.
Question #3: How Much Do I Need to Put Down?
If the contractor asks you to pay for all of the project’s cost upfront, it’s time to find another contractor. An unreasonable deposit is the first sign something is fishy, Kruse says.
The Better Business Bureau’s website suggests going by the rule of thirds: Pay one third at the beginning of the project, one third when work is 50 percent complete, and one third after it is final and you are satisfied with the outcome.
But chances are your contractor will have a formula to determine how much money is needed to get the job started. “Most contractors go with a 15 percent down payment on larger projects,” Kruse says. “My clients usually give me the 15 percent deposit at the same time they hand me the signed contract.”
Keep in mind that if the job is a small one, it’s okay to provide money for the cost of materials – which might be 50 percent of the job or a little more, he says.
Question #4: Can I Get Itemized Price Estimates?
Some contractors like to hand you a bid with one price estimate for the entire project because it’s less work on their end. Don’t let them. You will need details on all the costs associated with the project and each item purchased.
Here’s why an itemized estimate is essential: If midway through the project you decide to put in a less expensive countertop than the one originally discussed, you need to know the exact cost of the first countertop. Without it, you have no way of knowing how much of a credit you should receive.
An itemized price list should detail the cost of labor, demolition, materials, electrical, plumbing, permits, and more.
Kruse explains how an itemized estimate is better for client and contractor: “It just makes it easier to track work, and it’s transparent to both the client and I of what is expected on the job. I also offer my preferred vendor list to our clients so they know who we are buying their products from.”
Some contractors use their estimates as proposals, but these might be very inaccurate and could mislead the homeowner, Kruse says. Don’t assume anything. Be certain that once you sign a contract, what you see on paper is what you will be paying.
Question #5: Who Will Be at the Site?
Just hiring your contractor doesn’t ensure he or she will be the one hammering and sawing. They might only show up to sign the contract and present the finished product. It’s important to know that certain contractors manage their companies by getting bids or supervising many job sites at once and are not hands-on people.
How do you find out which one you have? “Ask potential contractors who is going to be in charge of your project at all times,” Kruse says. “You need to meet with that person, get a feel for what he/she is like and get acquainted a bit.
In their “Home Sweet Home Improvement” guide, the Federal Trade Commission urges homeowners to ask if subcontractors will be used on the project. If so, homeowners should ask to meet them to make sure they have insurance coverage and proper licenses.
Question #6: Do You Think We Can Get Along?
Just like any good relationship, the one between you and your contractor should have harmony, communication, and collaboration. Some personalities and styles just don’t mesh, so don’t pick someone just because their bid is the lowest, says Kruse.
Your contractor will be part of your daily existence for quite some time. They will see how your children behave, how you don’t water your plants, and how your breakfast dishes sit in the sink all day.
Hiring a contractor without much thought can be a big mistake, says Kruse. “Sometimes [homeowners] end up with work that is less than adequate, or they give these shady contractors a large chunk of money upfront and then they never show up again.”
Protecting yourself from these nightmares means knowing exactly who your contractors are before you hire them. After all, it doesn’t hurt to ask – but it sure could hurt if you don’t.

Adopt a Contractor and Protect Your Assets

If you are sitting on a million dollars or half a million dollars or even $200,000, you might consider getting advice from a financial adviser. With that kind of money, you’d want the best advice on how to grow your investment. During your first session with him you are going to go over your goals and ambitions, what assets you have, and when and how you plan to retire. With this information, your adviser will put together a plan to help you achieve your goals. You may put some of the money in stocks, some in bonds and some in annuities. At certain milestones you’ll change the funds from one place to another to maximize your return. Most of you will stick with your adviser for life, if he does a good job for you. Having a good financial adviser turns out to be a good move for you and your family.

We’ve all heard that most people’s homes are their largest assets. This is repeated in many ways, and in many circumstances. We’ve heard it so many times that it is rather a cliché of sorts, and we don’t give it that much thought. All we know is that when the time comes to sell our homes, we hope to get a good return on our investment.

So, how many of you have hired a financial adviser to protect your home, your largest asset in most cases? I’m guessing that very few have. Most live by the “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” rule. When you think about this philosophy, as far as your house goes, it’s plain dumb. Take a look at car maintenance for instance. Do you perform routine preventative maintenance on it? Sure you do. You don’t want to be stranded on the side of the road somewhere. What if the airlines adopted that philosophy? Now that’s scary. Nobody would want to fly anymore. So why let your house rot, and then fix it. Why have your furnace fail on a cold night, and then fix it. Why let your home decrease in value when it could be increasing in value with routine maintenance.

I think you get my point by now. Routine maintenance on your home is very important, not only financially, but also in terms of your comfort and convenience. You need a trusted adviser to look over your entire home and see when certain parts of the home need to be replaced or serviced. You need to know when the repairs or maintenance will be needed and how much it will cost. It’s time to —– Adopt a contractor!

Just as you hired your financial adviser, you need to interview a few contractors and get references. She or he need to be experienced with all facets of your home. I would suggest a full service remodeler, possibly with design-then-build experience. They need to know what products are best, and how they should be installed and who should install them. A good contractor should be surrounded by experts in all fields. She or he should have built relations with the best in the business, so you get the best advice and service when it is needed.

Your home is a system. Everything in your home has to work together. Your home’s function is to keep you warm and dry, safe and comfortable at all times. It is an envelope that protects you from the outside world. Find a contractor that understands this; one that can see the big picture, and will guide you toward the best possible return on your investment. This should be a long term relation, so that your contractor becomes familiar with your home and your lifestyle and you know what to expect from your contractor. When you find such a person, life will be so much better. Now you can set up an annual budget for the future maintenance needs of your home and schedule them at your convenience.

Your contractor may not wear a suit and tie, but he may well be the most important financial adviser you’ve ever hired.

Republished by permission from Chattanooga Remodeler

Equipment expansion!!!

Hello. We are excited to announce that we are expanding our Granite division!! We purchased a new/used Granite Beam Saw for the stone shop. This purchase will increase our capabilities to improve lead times and increase the options that we can offer to you. This machine will make it possible to offer miter fold edges as well as cutting our production time in half.

These are pictures of the set up in the shop that we removed it from.

Granite Saw

Table is completely movable including standing up to accept the slab of Granite, Quartz, Soap stone, Ice Stone or any other material needed.

Granite Saw

Once we got it broken down, we loaded it up and headed down the freeway!!

Granite Saw

Granite Saw

Here we are arriving at our shop. We planned on 3-4 houris to move this Beam Saw and it ended up taking 8+ houris.  We had to put new tires on one of the trailers during this adventure and almost punched a hole through the other trailer. Needless to say we left them on the trailer and will unload and start installing tomorrow :)

Granite Saw

Granite Saw

Granite Saw

Granite Saw

Almost went through the floor of the trailer!! that would have been disastrous!!!!!!

Granite Saw

Do you know how to protect yourself from shady Contractors?

In this time and economy it’s more important than ever to  protect yourself from crappy contractors and shady Home “improvement” companies.
Since we specialize in Remodeling, Custom Cabinets and Counter tops I will  dwell on those the most.
Let’s look at some of the issues at hand.
1- Unlicensed contractors. If in doubt look them up!!
In Utah the web site is;jsessionid=0648d79e3a2600629ce35bb39235
You can see if they are licensed, what they are licensed for, and if there are any outstanding issues with their license. Have I said it enough? Unlicensed contractors are ripping off many people every day.
2- Are they insured? Contractors carry both liability and workman’s comp insurance. This protects YOU as much as the contractor. If they have an accident and burn your home down. And they are not insured, then YOU have to fight with your homeowners to cover the damage caused by their negligence. What’s more, if one of their workers gets hurt in your home, then your homeowners has to cover their medical expenses.
No one is telling you this. It’s a little issue that everyone seems content to sweep under the rug and hope you never find out.
Let’s look at things out side of your home and out of your control. (or are they?)
3-Garage/Storage unit contractors. There is nothing wrong with having your office out of your home. I personally do it for the tax write off. However it is illegal to be running a manufacturing company in the garage, back yard or barn. When I licensed my office, Farmington City sent me a long list of do’s and don’ts. They included how many company trucks could be on the premises (1) How many Company Trailers (0), How many signs (1 no more than 18×24), and a bold warning about having clients coming and going. Furthermore it stated that under Davis County law, and Utah Law you could not have any manufacturing. No outside storage of material or waste and no deliveries from trucks larger than 1.5 ton. I’ve checked with most of the city’s locally and they all seem to have the same type of law on their books.
Why do I bring this up?
If your cabinets, counter tops, furniture etc. Are being built in this environment; the company is most likely unlicensed. Again you can have an office but not a shop. Here is a scenario that has played out more than once. You pay your deposit. The company is in the production of your new cabinets. The city finds out that they are being produced illegally in their city. (Neighbors complain, drive by etc). They come in and shut down the company and you are out your money. What’s more scary is that the owner may go to jail under certain circumstances that I will get into in a minute.
We have gone in and finished many of these circumstances. It’s sad when a Customer has spent a chunk of money and now has to spend it again because of someone else’s ignorance.
Also we have found that due to not having the proper space to work, even with all the experience in the world. Most of these company’s do substandard work. I’ve seen many a client remiss about going with the lowest bidder hoping to beat the odds. In the end they spend more than the highest bid because of having to redo things.
Speaking of Quality. I am seeing more and more garage granite coming out to the job sites. Please beware of this. There is nothing like getting your granite tops installed to find that they were cut dry with a skill saw rather than wet with the proper saws. Cutting wet lubricates the blade and keeps from burning the granite. Also when its cut wet with a Beam or Track saw you get straight true lines. With a skill saw you get a wavy cut and typically if you look close enough there are saw marks in the polish.
The other next great thing to hit the market is Chinese granite. You hear the ads for ½ price granite. And Granite tops for less than the price of the slab. Sounds great till they get there and you see that they are cutting the sink hole on the front lawn. Again with a skill say and dry polished out. Then you have the issue of seams. We lost a bid to one of these companies. We installed the kitchen cabinets, but because our Granite bid was $300 more than this other company the homeowner chose to use them. In this kitchen we would have had 1 seam. Because of the way this company used prefab sections 4’ long they ended up with 12 seams. You are money ahead to use granite tiles rather than use this stuff. Besides the 12 seams there were 2-3 different color lots. Nothing like seeing color changes every 4 feet in your kitchen. They gave up a lot for $300.
Back to cabinets and furniture for a minute. If a Guy is building out of his garage then his environment is very dusty. It’s almost impossible to get a awesome finish with those circumstances. Besides the issue of the over spray and waste fumes have to go somewhere. Most of these guys are pumping it into the air out side of their homes. It’s toxic, dirty and illegal. The EPA has regulations on spraying for a reason. You wouldn’t want your kids breathing toxic fumes any more than you would want to breathe it. (If caught it is a massive fine as well as Jail time depending on what they can prove) Even if they beat the Jail time, the fines will put them out of business and your money will be lost.
I know a lot of Electricians, Plumbers and the like that use their garages for a storage unit to house their stock. That’s not as much of a concern to me. However it is nice to see a contractor that has invested in his company to have a shop of some sort. It tells me that he is in it for the long haul and not just for today.
Ok you have found a great guy that seems to have it altogether. His Company’s name is *Insert name* Handy man service. Just a word of warning. These guys can be licensed by the state but they can only have $1000 worth of work being performed at any one time. That INCLUDES material and labor. If they are working on your home for more than the $1000 cap or they are working multiple jobs then it’s a good bet that they are operating illegally. Real contractors have a million dollar liability policy and are typically licensed to do anywhere from 50k to a million dollars of work in the process.
What’s more a Handy man typically is a JACK of all trades and a MASTER of none.

Ok so now you have a little knowledge of how some contractors operate. How can you protect yourself? Realize that there is never absolute protection but you can definitely swing all risks in your favor.
1- Always check for licensing. I gave the web site above. Understand that anyone working in the Construction industry is a “Contractor” If you’re having a home built then you are looking for someone with a B100 license. If you’re doing a remodel that requires structural changes then You use a B100 or a R100 Contractor. NO one else is licensed to change your home structurally, legally. For all other remodels a R101 is legal. These three licenses are the ones that can pull your building permits with the various cities. A plumber can pull a plumbing permit. An electrician a electrical permit and so on. Now you plumber/electrician may have a R101 licensee. You can find that out through the web site listed above.
2-ALWAYS insist on a building Permit if you’re doing a big home remodel, a remodel that involves structural changes, Or if you’re not that comfortable with your contractor. It will cost you more for your project in both time and money. If your contractor refuses to pull a permit then you need to run.
3- There is nothing wrong with asking for certificates of insurance for both liability and workers comp. Your contractor should be very open and free with that information. We were bidding a project in Park City 2 years ago. The homeowner called for a meeting to discuss the project and give us our deposit check. While I was waiting for the meeting to start I noticed that NONE of the original group that was bidding on the project at the beginning was there. (We were all with a Interior Decorator out of Park City) After my time with the homeowner was over and all of the details were worked out. I asked about the lack of the original build team. The home owner informed us that we were the only Licensed and Insured contractors that were on the team. As a result they had fired the Interior Decorator and found their own licensed and insured Contractor and subs. Because we were proper in our dealings we were kept on to do the cabinet part of the project that we had bid. (As a result we did a couple more projects for the home owners as well)
4- Ask around. Have your friends, people at work, Church or local clubs ever used the contractor you’re looking for. Its amazing the amount of information you may find. Always Google the contractor in question. Both the company name as well as their own. You may find that the Company shows great but the persons own name comes up with undesirable information. Police records, news articles as well as references in others blogs might give you reason to pause. For instance, we were doing work for a couple of professional ladies a year ago. These two were having issues with a fencing contractor and were not sure what his issue was. I suggested they Google him and see if there was any info on him and they found a blog that he kept, detailing his hatred for gays, lesbians, and people of color. It amazed the hell out of me that someone with so much hatred was out servicing people’s homes.
5-Don’t hesitate to ask for references. Realizing that no one in their right mind would give a bad reference. But it’s good to know they have no issue in giving them.
6- Go to their shop. Do they have an investment in buildings, machinery etc. If a shop has a ton of new shiny equipment then you have to ask, Do they have an incredible over head with payments to support this? Or are they so profitable that they can afford it? Sadly it usually is the first. When the market had its drop, those shops with high overhead and payments were the first to go under. Those with some cash reserves held on and they are also falling by the waste side. I prefer to deal with shops that are running older fleets of Vehicles. Their equipment is older and they usually have a shop full. Rather than scrimping on equipment due to lack of money. And the owner doesn’t have a look of stress on him at all times. Why? Because the equipment and vehicles are typically paid off and his/her overhead is low, allowing them to run at a lower profit margin and survive the market.
7- Does the Contractor have years of experience under his/her belt or are they new to the field. You only need 5 years of working under a contractor to become one. By way of comparison an Electrician and plumber have 5-10 years of school and apprenticeship before they can be licensed.

8-Do they have a web site? If so do they have all pertinent information like Address? Phone number? Information about the company? Not having a web site is not a bad thing. Although I can’t imagine not having one in this day and age. But if there isn’t any information about where they are, how to get a hold of them (cell phones don’t count) or any back ground on them then you run the risk of them disappearing. I know of a couple companies that have issues with honesty, integrity, and just plain being good people. They all have web sites that look good but don’t give you any real information. One is a cabinet company that has moved around from address to address. I’m assuming due to issues with money but I don’t know for sure. I searched out this company for a client a year ago and found that even though they were conduction business they did not have a business license or a contractor’s license. The first was resolved at that time but the second one never has.

9- When in doubt don’t. I hear of too many homeowners. Women especially that are being pushed into doing something that they really don’t want to do. If your contractor is being pushy, trying to make you decide on something you don’t want to do or not allowing you to make the choices you want, then drop them. There are a lot of good Contractors out there. Don’t ever rush into something as expensive as a remodel without you getting what you’re after.

Hope that helps with your contractor decisions.
Dion Richins

Custom Bathroom Remodel

Hello, It’s been a little bit since I updated my blog. We have been incredibly busy and I’m thankful for that. Today I’m going to bring you a bathroom that we recently remodeled. This bathroom had a wall that ran down it causing a little hall way between the bedroom and the closet. By removing the wall we expanded the bathroom by 3 feet wide. We took out the tub and moved the shower to the opposing wall. Add travertine tile, Custom cabinets, a Euro Glass door and you have a much more usable and enjoyable  bath.

As soon as the mirror is installed in the framing I will update this picture.

Quality Custom Remodels. Before and after.

Here at Richins Carpentry we specialize in custom furniture as well as quality remodeling. We are a full service contractor that can transform your out dated kitchen into a beautiful updated work of art for a fair price. Remodeling your kitchen is one of the most cost efficient ways to bring the value of your home up. We build with the best quality materials to give you the maximum value and quality for your Dollar. Our cabinets and counter tops will give you years of service low maintenance.

Take a look at this late sixties, early seventies kitchen. It is what you would normally find in a home of that age. This kitchen is complete with soffets to the ceiling and laminate tops. The microwave is using up much needed counter top space as well as a out dated single oven. Refrigerator cabinet is hidden behind the fridge making it practically useless. Kitchen has 1 light over the sink and one in the middle of the kitchen. We added 6 can lights as well as putting a can light over the sink.

During tear out.

After removing the cabinets/counter tops the soffets came down. Flooring was torn out and new sub floor was laid. Tile floor went in and walls and ceiling were textured. Once paint was applied then New cabinets were installed.

These are custom maple cabinets built in our own shop. The client loved the look of Alder but hated the softness of that wood. So we designed a color that could be applied to maple to give him the look with out the drawbacks of Alder. Also the homeowner had some awesome design ideas for the window treatment over the slider and look of the oven wall.

Counter tops are fabricated out of Cambria. A awesome Quartz product. Again Fabricated in our own facility. The homeowner handled their own back splash and I haven’t gotten new pictures to show the finished product. When I do I will post them.

Here are the finished product that I promised.

Green Alternitive Building. Bamboo style.

Want an alternative to standard building?  One out of a truly Green Alternative with awesome style? The Answer is BAMBOO!!!

We have been using bamboo for several years now. Terragreen and Plyboo are the suppliers that we use to build out cabinets and furniture from. We also have supplied a couple of Sport Court Style hardwood flooring from Plyboo. We want to extend a special thanks to “The Green Builders Center” for their support and material over the last few years. (see their link on our web site)

At Richins Carpentry inc we have been supplying cabinets and counter tops for many leed certified jobs. Including the Palisades Court house in San Diego California. We offer Green Alternative  Material such as: Formaldehyde free plywood’s, Wheat board melamine, Bamboo, Durango Buralwood, Torzo, Richlite, Paperstone, Ice Stone and others.

This wet bar is from a leed certified Remodel in Park City. The cabinets are fabricated out of Natural Bamboo with Caramelized Bamboo as accents. The tops are recycled Brown Rainwater Granite. Other pictures are of other Green Alternative projects including Kitchens, Vanities, Counter tops etc.

Bamboo wet bar with built in fridge and wine pull out storage.

Custom Bamboo Server with built in wine fridge, Soffett and window treatment.

Bamboo Wet bar close up showing 2 tone detail and reclaimed granite counter top.

Bamboo kitchen in model home. Farmington Utah. Caesar Stone tops.

Caramelized Bamboo Vanity

3 form “Orange Crush” Counter tops. (recycled milk jugs)

Paper stone Counter tops.

Awesome Paper Stone kitchen

Bamboo and Alder mix. 180g aquarium

75g 2tone Bamboo Aquarium stand and canopy

120g Natural Bamboo Stand And Canopy

Handy man

The amount of people getting taken by Handy men has become increasingly distressing over the last few months,. In the state of Utah, Handy men are only licensed to do a maximum of $1000 per job. Including both material and labor. What we are finding is that these people are performing jobs way out of their legal range. How does this happen? They underbid legitimate shops. This happens due to them not having the proper licenses and insurance. They typically do not have a “shop” or any other place of business. No overhead, No insurance, No body to go after if/when things go bad.

What is happening is these Handy men are starting jobs and collecting their deposits. Then they either don’t come back or do sub par work because they either don’t have the skill or proper tools. There are many more Handy men doing a great job and working with in their legal bounds than not. However it is an ever increasing issue.

Please be careful and make sure your protected when hiring someone to work on your castle. Liability Insurance protects you in the event of a fire or other damage caused from your contractor. Workman’s comp protects you from an employee of the contractor suing you should he get hurt on your job. And a brick and mortar building, which the contractor works out of, protects you from a “fly by night” guy from just disappearing.

None of these things can protect you completely, but it surly gives you some peace of mind. Thanks Dion

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