Frequently Asked Questions

General

Designations

Green Remodeling

General

Q: How do I find a professional remodeler?

A:

A home is the largest investment that most Americans will ever make. It is also one of the most important. When you hire a professional remodeler, you are purchasing a service rather than a product. The quality of that service the remodeler provides will determine the quality of the finished product and your satisfaction with the end result.

Some important characteristics you should be looking for to ensure that you hire a professional remodeler are:

  • Experience – Ask how long the remodeler has been in business. Longevity suggests financial stability, which is necessary for the remodeler to finish the job and still be available if problems crop up after the job is completed. Also, the more jobs the company has completed, the more expertise the remodeler will bring to your project and the hidden surprises that remodeling typically entails.
  • Reputation – Look to the remodelers’ former and current customers to gauge the company’s reputation. Seek referrals from friends, family, neighbors and coworkers who have had remodeling work done and ask them if they would hire the remodeler again. Obtain the names and phone numbers of customers you can call to get their impressions of the company’s work and customer service. Call them and make personal visits to see the work they had done. Even better, get references from customers whose projects were similar to the one your family is planning. Also, go visit one of the company’s jobs in progress to evaluate how they manage the construction process and how tidy they keep the job site. Ask whether these homeowners would hire the company again.
  • Business Credentials - A good place to start your search for a remodeler is with the Home Builders Association of Northern Colorado-Remodelers. Trade associations like ours help to keep our members informed about new products, construction techniques, business practices and industry issues. Participation demonstrates a remodeler’s commitment to professionalism and to the remodeling industry. Professional credentials, such as Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR) and Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist demonstrate a remodelers commitment to his/her craft and level of professionalism.
  • License and Insurance - Ask to see a copy of the remodeler’s license, if your region has such requirements, and call the licensing municipality to find out if there are any unresolved complaints against the company you might hire. It is also important to verify that the remodeler carries workers’ compensation and liability insurance. Have the remodeler show you copies of both insurance certificates to protect yourself from liability in situations involving job site injuries or property damage resulting from the work being done on your home.



Q: What should I expect from a professional remodeler?

A:

Consider these traits of a professional remodeler:

  • Your phone calls, emails and correspondence are returned promptly.
  • He/She is punctual for appointments.
  • He/She tells you when they will get back to you with a proposal, and does it.
  • The contract price is well-documented.
  • The supervisor and work crews are all respectful of your home and privacy.
  • Workers seem confident and sure of what they are doing.
  • Workers are clear in explaining their work.
  • The project moves along on a predictable schedule.
  • Problems are dealt with in a forthright and honorable manner.
  • Don’t expect anything less from your remodeler than you would from any other professional service provider.

The NAHB Remodelers have developed these 10 tips for a smooth remodel, an expectation of a professional remodeler:

  1. Establish good two-way communication with the remodeler. It’s essential to have good communication for a smooth remodeling project. Does the remodeler listen? Does he or she answer questions clearly and candidly? Can you reach him when you need to? Does he return phone calls promptly? Does he let you know when problems arise and work with you on solving them?
  2. Make sure you have compatibility and “fit” with the contractor. You’ll spend a lot of time with your remodeler so it’s important to have a good rapport and trust in him.
  3. Set a clear and mutual understanding about the schedule. You and your remodeler should agree on the schedule up front to avoid conflict and problems later in the project.
  4. Request a written proposal. Often times, two people remember the same conversation differently. Get the proposal in writing and work with the remodeler to ensure it reflects your wishes.
  5. Determine a clear and mutual understanding on the miscellaneous details. There are a lot of little details that need to be settled before work starts. What times of day will they be working? How will he access the property? How will cleanup be handled? How will they protect your property?
  6. Remember to be flexible. Remodeling is an interruption of your normal life. Remember to be flexible during the project so that you can handle the unexpected and go with the flow.
  7. Create a clear and mutual understanding of how Change Orders will be handled. With remodeling there is always the chance you may want to change materials or other project details during the job. Agree with your remodeler on how these changes will be handled before the start of work. Also understand that changes could affect the schedule and the budget, so it’s important you have all changes in writing.
  8. Agree on a well-written contract that covers all the bases. The contract should include these elements: a timetable for the project, price and payment schedule, detailed specifications for all products and materials, insurance information, permit information, procedures for handling change orders, lien releases, provisions for conflict resolution, notice of your right under the Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling Off Rule (your right to cancel the contract within three days if it was signed someplace other than the remodeler’s place of business), and details on the important issues (such as access to your home, care of the home, cleanup and trash removal).
  9. Ask for a written Lien Waiver from the remodeler upon completion of the work. If the remodeler hires subcontractors for portions of the work it is their responsibility to see them compensated. In order to ensure this has been done and to protect yourself, ask for a written lien waiver when the work is finished. This document will verify everyone has been paid.
  10. Establish a project plan, covering all phases and dependencies in the work. Plan your big picture goals with the remodeler and talk out your needs. Hire a remodeler who will plan it out with you, listen to concerns, and answer questions.



Q: Why shouldn’t I try to do it myself?

A:

Despite the popularity of home remodeling and do-it-yourself (DIY) television shows, home owners should think twice before tackling a large remodeling project by themselves. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, home owner DIY projects account for 20 percent of all remodeling, and industry experts with the National Association of Home Builders-Remodelers say that between 25 percent and 30 percent of their work comes from fixing DIY disasters.

“With the popularity of all of these shows dedicated to projects that home owners can do themselves, it is important that home owners understand that many of these shows hire professionals to do the work and make it look easy,” says Remodelers Council Chairman Don Novak, CGR, CAPS, CGB of Novak Construction Co., Cedar Rapids, Iowa. “Embarking on a home project without the needed planning and expertise can be very expensive and can have a negative effect on home equity.”

While a motivated and highly skilled DIYer may do a remodel as well as a professional remodeler, you should ask yourself these questions first:

  • Have you ever done anything like this before?
  • Do you have the time, expertise, and resources to manage the following:
    • Produce accurate blueprints
    • Work with structural engineers on design
    • Apply for and receive necessary building permits
    • Deal with potential zoning and HOA issues
    • Expertise to know if subcontractors are performing work correctly
    • Time to meet with subcontractors and inspectors
    • Issues with jobsite safety and security
    • Find the correct and best valued materials
  • Will you know what to do if something goes wrong?
  • If you are doing all the work yourself, are you really comfortable with changes to:
    • Electrical – Are you a licensed electrician? Rewiring your home, if done improperly, can burn down your home.
    • Plumbing – Are you a licensed plumber? Moving or adding piping incorrectly can create a swimming pool in your basement.
    • Structure – removing or adding any walls or cutting holes into the roof can compromise the structural integrity of your home.

Remember, small DIY projects can and should be fun. If the project goes beyond your comfort level, hire a professional.




Q: When is it time to remodel?

A:

Perhaps it was that moment when you realized that avocado green and harvest gold are no longer the "in" colors for today's trendy kitchens. Or maybe you had an epiphany one day as you stood in line to use your own bathroom. Whatever the impetus, the thought has crossed your mind: Maybe it's time to remodel. Remodeling your home can modernize the style, make it more comfortable, improve energy-efficiency and home functionality, increase the value of your home, and help with upkeep and maintenance. Remodeling is a sure investment in your home to ensure longevity, usefulness, and home value.

If you decide to follow through on that thought, you'll join millions of others who decide to remodel their homes each year. The reasons for remodeling are as varied as the projects we undertake. Some of these include:

  • Adding more space.
  • Upgrading cabinets, counters, appliances, and fixtures.
  • Creating a floor plan that's customized for your lifestyle.
  • Improving energy efficiency with new windows, doors, insulation, and climate control systems.
  • Increasing the resale value of your home.



Q: How do I plan a remodel?

A:
  • The first step is to develop an idea of what you want to do. Write a prioritized list of your needs and wants. Look at magazines and Web sites and collect pictures of what you like. The more clearly you can envision the project and describe it on paper, the better prepared you'll be in making your decision.
  • Think about traffic patterns, furniture size and placement, colors, lighting and how you expect to use the remodeled space. If your decision to remodel involves creating better access for someone with limited mobility, you may want to consider contacting a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist.
  • Figure out how much money you have to spend on the remodeling job, furnishings, landscaping or any other cost you might incur.
  • Avoid contractor fraud, hire a professional and make your dream home reality.



Q: Which comes first: the Designer or the Remodeler?

A:

Many of our members offer design/build services. With the design/build approach, you lessen the chance that you’ll receive a design that fails to meet your budgetary criteria or is impractical to build. By starting with an experienced remodeler, you will be led through the design process by a team appropriate for your project. By contacting a remodeler first, he or she will be able to explain the logistics and building challenges that accompany working on existing residences. The designer may be ‘in house’ or outsourced to a ‘partner’ for those needs; but in either case, you’ll get a team, and that team approach will ensure you a good process and great results.

Q: What does a remodel cost?

A:

Since no two projects are the same, a simple formula for identifying project costs is not realistic. All too often people get rapped up in dollars per square foot numbers or some other simplified formula that has little to no bearing on actual cost. Long term satisfaction with a completed project has much more to do with the service provided by the remodeler and the quality of the work performed than any potential bargain or discount on their service. With price as their primary focus, they ignore other criteria that may carry more weight in producing a successfully completed project and a smooth working relationship with the remodeler. Rather than selecting a remodeler based on where one bid falls compared to others, shift your focus to finding a professional remodeler; then go about getting a bid on your job. If the bid is higher than what you budgeted, work with the remodeler to decide where you can cut back or what you can postpone to keep the project on budget.

If your goal is a seamless remodeling project, then your best bet is to hire a professional remodeler. Any additional cost will pay for itself in the satisfaction you receive while the project is in progress and during the many years you will enjoy the end result. When it comes to selecting a remodeler, too many buyers conveniently forget the time-proven adage that “you get what you pay for”.




Q: How do I pay for a remodel?

A:

One of the most important considerations for your home improvement project is financing. After all, the project will go nowhere if you can't pay for it. Fortunately, there are several options that can provide the dollars you need. Four of the most common are a home improvement loan, a home equity line of credit, a home equity loan or second mortgage, and a cash-out refinancing of your current mortgage. Obviously, the simplest method of financing is cash.

Currently, there are many rebates and tax incentives which could offset the cost of energy-efficient improvements to your home. Consult your tax advisor and a professional remodeler for assistance in identifying these incentives.




Q: What improvements will add the most value to my home?

A:

Maintaining your home in good repair is the most critical of all investments that you can make to your home. The shape it’s in matters as much if not more than what other attributes your home may have.

The quality of the work you have done on your home is another factor that can’t be ignored, if you are looking to make a good investment. Shoddy workmanship, low-grade materials and inferior products will wipe out any value the remodeling might have added to your home.

Remodel for yourself and your own family, not the next owner. It is a gamble to predict what the likes and dislikes of the next owner might be. Keep in mind, however, the more your tastes stray from the norm of most of your neighbors, the less likely you are to get maximum return from your improvements. Stay with styles, colors and features that have broad appeal.

Kitchens and bath remodels are the two most popular remodeling projects year-in and year-out, no matter where you live. Minor kitchen remodels tend to recoup more of their costs than major kitchen remodels. Bathroom remodels also vary on how much they add to resale value, depending on the extent of the makeover. These two rooms carry the most weight when it comes time to sell your home. Attractive kitchens and baths fully outfitted with popular features will not only help sell your home faster, they also can drive the price a buyer is willing to pay for your home.

Extra space in the right place offers a high rate of return since existing homes tend to lack the roominess of new homes. New family rooms, larger master bedroom suites, finished basements and eat-in kitchens are all examples of spaces that most buyers value highly.

Although it is difficult to put an exact price on the resale value of a particular remodeling project, for most of us the real value of remodeling is the comfort and pleasure it adds to our lives.




Q: Living With Your Remodeling Project

A:

Remodeling your home is uniquely different from building a new home. With remodeling, your home becomes the worksite. You live side-by-side with the project from start to finish. Once construction begins, you'll probably long for simple pleasures like a dust-free home or a fully functioning kitchen or bath. But the end result will be well worth these inconveniences.

Remodeling is a dirty business, and you may find yourself without the comforts you take for granted, such as hot water or a flushable toilet. When signing a contract to improve any room of your home, assess the capacity for makeshift spaces. You may find the disruption easier to weather if you can carve out room for a small refrigerator and coffee pot, while your kitchen is out of commission. If not, you may want to consider a temporary move to save both time and money. Moving out entirely will generally speed up the remodeling process.

Some other items related to living in your remodel are:

  • What areas of your home will be off limits to workers?
  • Will workers need a key or will someone always be there?
  • How will you ensure that your children and pets stay out of the work space?
  • How will trash removal be handled? Where will the remodeler locate the dumpster on your property?
  • Does the remodeler anticipate any interruptions of utilities during the project? If so, when and for how long? At certain stages of construction, the project may affect basic household necessities like water and electricity. Will you need to vacate the house at any time?
  • What times will workers begin and end work at your home? Be sure to consider the neighbors as well as household members.
  • Where can workers park near the jobsite?
  • Will bathroom facilities in your home be available to workers?
  • What is the remodeler's policy on smoking on the jobsite?
  • Will you allow workers to play their radios at a reasonable volume? Are there any stations or programs that you do not want played?
  • Prepare for inconvenience. A remodeling project can turn your home and -- on some days -- your life upside down. A kitchen remodel will, of course, affect meal planning. But a little ingenuity and some culinary shortcuts can lessen the impact. Set up a temporary cooking quarters by moving the refrigerator, toaster oven, and microwave to another room. Arrange a dishwashing station in your laundry room. If the weather is warm, fire up the grill and dine alfresco.

Designations

Q: What is a Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR)?

A: NAHB Remodelers of the National Association of Home Builders created the Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR) Program. The CGR designation helps you, the consumer, determine which remodeling contractor you can count on to do a professional job.

The CGR designation indicates that a remodeler has completed the requirements of the CGR professional designation program, including educational credits, prescribed business standards and experience. If your remodeler has earned the CGR designation, you can be assured that he or she also understands the value of continuing education and is ready to do his or her best for you.

To maintain the CGR designation, all CGRs must complete a continuing education requirement every three years. Continuing education requirements include attending remodeling or business-related seminars, trade shows and educational programs. Obtaining other professional designations also counts towards meeting the continuing education requirement.

The Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR) designation assures that your remodeler:

  • Has met NAHB prescribes standards of business practice.
  • Has a proven track record of successfully completing projects.
  • Has completed relevant educational requirements.
  • Pledges to uphold the CGR Code of Ethics.

NAHB and the NAHB Remodelers

As the largest and most influential trade organization in the building industry, NAHB has worked for nearly 50 years to strengthen the professionalism of its members. NAHB is recognized in the building industry as the leading advocate of quality construction, responsible business practices, and reliable customer service.

The NAHB Remodelers, a division of NAHB, was founded in 1982 to serve the residential and commercial remodeling industry. The Council provides information and education to improve the management and technical expertise of its members, supports their business interests at all levels of government and promotes professionalism in the remodeling industry.All Certified Graduate Remodelers subscribe to a Code of Ethics based on professional workmanship and customer satisfaction.

They pledge to:

  • CONDUCT business affairs with professionalism and skill.
  • PROVIDE the best remodeling value possible.
  • PROTECT the consumer through the use of high quality materials and remodeling.
  • MEET all of their financial obligations in a responsible manner.
  • COMPLY with the spirit and letter of their business contracts, and manage all employees, subcontractors, and suppliers with fairness and honor.
  • KEEP informed regarding public policies and other essential information which affect their business interests and those of the building industry as a whole.
  • COMPLY with the rules and regulations prescribed by law and government agencies for the health, safety, and welfare of the community.
  • PROVIDE timely response to items covered under warranty.
  • SEEK to resolve any controversy in which they may become involved through non-litigation dispute resolution mechanism.
  • REFRAIN from harming, either directly or indirectly, the professional reputation, practice, or employment of another remodeler.



Q: What is a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS)?

A:

A Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist provides a “Safe, Accessible Home for All Abilities and Ages”.

A Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist (CAPS) has been trained in:

  • The unique needs of the older adult population
  • Aging-in-place home modifications
  • Common remodeling projects
  • Solutions to common barriers for persons with limited abilities

Keep in mind that when you hire a Certified Aging-in-Place Specialist, you are buying a service rather than a product. Each CAPS professional draws from a different knowledge base and will approach your project in a different way. No matter where you start in the process, you will eventually need to hire a professional remodeler to actually make the modifications to your home.

If you’re like the majority of Americans over the age of 45, you want to continue living in a familiar environment throughout your maturing years. According to the AARP, older homeowners overwhelmingly prefer to age in place, which means living in your home safely, independently and comfortably, regardless of age or ability level.

The NAHB Remodelers of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) in collaboration with the NAHB Research Center, NAHB 50+ Housing Council, and AARP developed the Certified Aging-In-Place Specialist (CAPS) program to address the growing number of consumers that will soon require these modifications. While most CAPS professionals are remodelers, an increasing number are general contractors, designers, architects, and health care consultants.

How should you modify your home to make it more comfortable? To age-in-place you will probably need to modify your house as you mature to increase access and maneuverability. These modifications range from the installation of bath and shower grab bars and adjustment of countertop heights to the creation of multifunctional first floor master suites and the installation of private elevators.

Who can you rely on to modify your home? CAPS professionals have the answers to your questions. They have been taught the strategies and techniques for designing and building aesthetically enriching, barrier-free living environments.

The CAPS program goes beyond design to address the codes and standards, common remodeling expenditures and projects, product ideas, and resources needed to provide comprehensive and practical aging-in-place solutions. CAPS graduates pledge to uphold a code of ethics and are required to maintain their designation by attending continuing education programs and participating in community service.

Green Remodeling

Q: What is green remodeling?

A:

A home can be considered green when energy efficiency, water and resource conservation, sustainable or recycled products, and indoor air quality considerations are incorporated into the process of home building. The increased availability of education for remodelers, growing consumer awareness and the exploding market for sustainable, environmentally friendly and recycled building products has accelerated green building’s acceptance rate and move into the mainstream. According to a recent survey, more than half of the members of the National Association of Home Builders, who build 85 percent of the homes in this country, were incorporating green practices into the development, design and construction of new homes by the end of 2007.




Q: What are the benefits of green remodeling?

A:

Green homeowners enjoy knowing they are doing something good for the environment, their family and the future by saving energy and precious resources. Counties can make consumers aware of rebates and credits to encourage them to build green. Many lenders now even offer energy efficient mortgages.

It’s good for the community, too. Local jurisdictions can make consumers aware of rebates and credits to encourage them to build green. By using fewer materials and generating less waste, green remodeling can help counties lower waste management fees, achieve recycling goals and delay the need for new power sources.




Q: Who does green remodeling?

A:

A new professional designation program from the National Association of Home Builders will soon provide home owners with additional assurance that the remodeler they’ve chosen is authentically “green.” The Certified Green Professional™ designation (CGP) was unveiled during Green Day at the International Builders’ Show in 2008. “We know green is the future of building. With the Certified Green Professional designation, we’re helping our qualified members demonstrate to their clients that the future is here,” said NAHB Past President Sandy Dunn, a West Virginia home builder.

Builders, remodelers, and other industry professionals must have at least two years of building industry experience to apply for the Certified Green Professional designation. They must also complete the “Green Building for Building Professionals” course, a two-day training and education session that more than 1,200 industry leaders have already completed since the course was piloted two years ago. Candidates must also complete a University of Housing management course, agree to continuing education requirements and sign a code of ethics. The business management and Green Building for Building Professionals classes are also offered at other NAHB conferences and by local home building associations throughout the country.