Important Information That Can Save You Thousands When You Remodel Your Home. The Report That Fly-By-Night Contractors Hope You Never Read


Avoid Common Misconceptions

1. Misconception number one:

If the Better Business Bureau doesn’t have any complaints against the contractor, he must be qualified. This is a common and often costly misconception. You need to investigate the company further. Many contractors, though they have no BBB complaints, do not do a satisfactory job (much less a superior job). To ensure you’re dealing with a reputabl professional, use the BBB as a starting place, not the only place.

Also, keep in mind the BBB is not a government agency, and it does not keep a record on every contractor in town. There are several very reputable contractors that the BBB has no record of at all. To truly gain perspective on a contractor’s credibility, research beyond the BBB.

2. Misconception number two:

Choosing the lowest price saves you money.

No, not necessarily! Everyone tends to look for the lowest price! On a low estimate, you must ask yourself what is being left out, or what short cut is being taken.

One roofer had his job priced $300 less than anyone else. The homeowner wanted to save money and accepted his proposal. After the job was completed, all the old shingles and nails were still lying around the yard and the homeowner was having a fit. The contractor told the homeowner that he had not figured the “clean up” in his proposal, and that was how he could do the job for so much less.

One of the most common signs of trouble ahead is someone who is offering to do the work for much less money than the others. Bob Smith learned his lesson the hard way when he converted an attic to living space at his Greenview Drive home.

“It was a $50,000 project, but the contractor bid $40,000,” Bob said. “Not only did he not finish the project, but we had to get someone else to finish for us.” Meanwhile, the first contractor declared bankruptcy, leaving Bob stuck with the unpaid bills from the subcontractors. Liens were placed against his home.

“It ended up costing a lot more,” Bob said. Now Bob is adding a deck and 600 square feet of living space. “Our thought was: this time, let’s go with the best contractor we can find,” he said.

Like anything else, you only get what you pay for. Be careful of choosing your remodeler based upon the lowest price.

3. Misconception number three:

Doing it yourself saves you money.

No! Sometimes the “weekend warrior” can undertake small projects like painting, hanging wall paper, routine repairs, etc., but beware of undertaking larger, more complicated projects. What starts out as an attempt to save money can rapidly turn into a costly mistake. All too often the job is botched and it costs more to have a professional come in and fix what’s been done. According to an article in the Baltimore Sun, less than 20% of these ‘do-it-yourself jobs’ work out. This is due to lack of experience on the part of the homeowner. If you want to be sure your job will turn out the way you want, call a qualified professional.

4. Misconception number four:

If a person claims to have many years of experience, they must do quality work.

No! I can’t tell you how many people receive bad workmanship from contractors who’ve claimed to be in business for 15 years or more. Take experience claims with a grain of salt. Don’t believe that just because a person has 15 years experience, he will do a good job. He could have done a poor job for 15 years! Investigate further to make sure you’re dealingwith a qualified professional.


Recognize Common Scams

1. Common scam number one:

‘Today only discount’. The most common ploy used to pressure homeowners into signing a contract immediately is “today only discounts”. If a contractor tells you that a price is available “today only”, politely show him the door.

Quite often they’ll say that by signing today entitles you to a “model home” or “advertising discount.” This story centers on the need to use your home as a “model” to advertise their services in the neighborhood. They mark their prices up to give you this false discount. Don’t be fooled. This is an old trick used to pressure homeowners into making an immediate decision.

2. Common scam number two:

High Pressure Salespeople. You should never feel pressured into making a decision about choosing your contractor. If you ever feel that a contractor or salesperson is pressuring you, ask them to back off. If they persist, it’s time to look for another contractor. High pressure usually leads to bad decisions when remodeling. A qualified professional would never have to pressure anyone into a project.

3. Common scam number three:

Door To Door” contractors! Beware of people knocking at your door saying they are contractors offering free estimates for remodeling projects. They may not even be legitimate contractors, and they were certainly not solicited. Don’t let them into your home.

Some contractors that are working in your area may put out fliers or come to your door soliciting additional work in the area. These contractors could be honest, reputable, people. Even if you’re interested in their services, do not invite them into your home. Ask them for their business card and the name, address, and telephone number of the people they are doing work for in the neighborhood. Make an appointment with those homeowners to take a look at the quality of their work, before calling the contractor.


10 Questions to Ask A Contractor Before You Invite Him into Your Home

1. Are you licensed?

Make sure the contractor is properly licensed. In the state of Maryland, all contractors are required to be licensed with the state department of licensing. To qualify for a license you must pass a written aptitude exam that ensures you understand the fundamentals of construction. If the contractor is not licensed, do not hire his services. If he is licensed, ask him to provide you with a copy of his license, to determine if it’s current.

2. Do you carry general liability insurance?

Make sure your contractor carries general liability insurance. This type of insurance protects your property from damage caused by either the contractor or their employee. The insurance company of the contractor will pay for the cost of replacing and/or repairing any damage that occurs. Make sure you see your contractor’s “certificate of insurance” before you sign a contract.

3. Do you carry workman’s compensation insurance?

Make sure your contractor carries workman’s compensation. Workman’s compensation insurance protects you from liability if a worker is injured on your property. Be aware that if the contractor doesn’t carry workman’s compensation coverage, you may be liable for any injuries suffered by any of the contractor’s employees while working on your property. If the contractor does carry workman’s comp., ask him to show you a copy of his policy.

4. Will you provide me with written lien waivers?

Your contractor should provide you with written lien waivers. Subcontractors and suppliers have the right in most jurisdictions to file mechanics’ liens against your property, if they are not paid by the contractor. Even though you may have paid the contractor for those materials or that work, if he doesn’t meet his obligations, the supplier or subcontractor can go after you. After you pay the contractor, make sure you get copies of lien waivers to protect yourself from these suits.

5. Are you a member of NAHB?

Choose a NAHB contractor. NAHB stands for the National Association of Home Builders. It’s always a good idea to hire a NAHB contractor. In most cases NAHB attracts conscientious contractors interested in bettering the industry and in weeding out unprofessional builders. Second, in order to become a member, NAHB investigates a contractor’s background and references. Third, all NAHB members must sign a written code of ethics and pledge to professionalism. Most members take this pledge very seriously. If possible, use a builder with a C.G.R. status. This stands for Certified Graduate Remodeler. It takes years of education to acquire this title from the NAHB. A builder who has such status is an expert in the industry, a “doctor” of construction if you will!

6. Will you obtain all the required building permits?

Make sure your contractor obtains all required permits. This is very important. When a contractor pulls the required building permits, you know things will be built properly and to “code.” County Inspectors will check to see if the work is being done properly. Also, many homeowners’ insurance policies require you to obtain permits on major remodeling to keep your home properly insured. Not all contractors will do this. Many prefer not to pull permits because of the time involved and the “hassle” with the inspectors. Some contractors may ask you to get the permits. A reputable contractor will permit every job where a permit is required.

7. Do you guarantee your work?

Your contractor should guarantee his work. We believe at LeFaivre Construction that if you can’t guarantee it, don’t build it. We believe every job should be backed with a workmanship warranty. Many contractors will not guarantee their work. Some may provide you with a one year workmanship warranty. (All of our work is guaranteed for three full years). Most faulty workmanship should be easily detected within a one year time period. If your builder won’t guarantee it, don’t buy it.

8. Who will be in charge of the job?

Ask, who will be on the job every day? A foreman or superintendent? This is especially significant on a large project where several workers and/or subcontractors will be necessary to complete the project. If you will be gone during the day and will leave your home unlocked for the workers to complete the job, you do not want to be worried about what is going on when you’re not there.

9. Will you provide me with references?

A good contractor will gladly provide you with references. You should look for a well-established contractor who can give you several customer references- usually previous customers from the last six months to a year. You may also request references from the contractors’ accountant or banker. You want to ensure that the contractor is financially sound and won’t be declaring bankruptcy in the middle of your project.

10. How do you handle “dirty work?”

Dust and dirt, can get everywhere, especially if any sanding is being done. Make sure the contractor will cover your floors and/or furniture with tarps. If possible, have him seal off the construction site with a plastic drop cloth. Make sure it’s understood that you want the debris cleaned up at the end of each day. Will he dust? Do laundry? Well, lets not get carried away....... but the place should not be left a mess at day’s end.


The Biggest Mistakes Homeowners Make And How To Avoid Them

1. Listening to the wrong people.

t never ceases to amaze me how many people take advice on their construction and remodeling project from people who are totally unqualified to give this critical advice. Often, when we see these “construction messes”, we ask them where they got the idea to do that, and we inevitably hear things like:

“My brother-in-law told me to do that. He used to do work like this on the side when he was a student!”

“I asked the guy whose office is next to mine. He did the same thing to his home when he lived in Wisconsin!”

“I read an article by such and such that said we should do . . .”

And so on.

Everyone has an opinion about what you should do with your remodeling dollars. “Do-it-yourself,” “hire a subcontractor and supervise the job yourself,” etc. Unfortunately, just because someone is your relative (or whatever) doesn’t mean they know the answers to your questions and problems. If you’ve got an idea or a thought about improving your home, call someone qualified to answer your questions.

2. Not calling at least three of the references you’re given.

Many people ask for references, but feel “shy” about calling. Call the references! You can never learn enough about the person you are considering to hire. Take a few minutes to call these people. It will be worth it! Ask if the job was done on time and at the “agreed upon” price. Ask if the contractor was easy to reach, and easy to deal with.

3. Not visiting the references and seeing example work.

You can learn a lot from simply going out and taking a look at the finished product. If the contractor is good, many previous clients are extremely proud of their “new home” and will be glad to let you take a look..

See a job in progress. Is the job clean and neat? Are tools and material strewn about like a hurricane just blew through? Is everything dusty or dirty, or is furniture covered, and rooms sealed off? Most often, if a contractor keeps his work site clean and neat, (especially at the end of the day when leaving the job site) you have a conscientious contractor.


How to Tell If Your Remodeling Project Will Run Smoothly, Before You Sign the Contract

1. Good communication.

If you can talk with each other, you can work out any details that come up. When you leave a message, does he return your call? Does he return a page promptly? Does he listen to you?

Nothing is more important than feeling that your contractor understands your needs and concerns. If your contractor is so busy that he can’t return calls or pages promptly, maybe it’s time to look for a new contractor. When you’re in a discussion, does the contractor really listen to you? I mean really listen. This is vital. You should always feel like both of you are on the “same page”. This can avoid mis- communications and costly errors. This is a very important “secret” to a successful and enjoyable remodeling experience.

2. Comfort level.

If you feel “comfortable” with your contractor, the chances are good your project will run smoothly. Ask yourself, do you feel comfortable with this person? You’ve just invited a stranger into your home. Do you find this person nice? Considerate? Personable? A listener? Are they polite and courteous? Or did they make you feel that they aren’t interested. You will be working with this person for a matter of days, weeks, or months, depending on the project you need completed . . . can you stand to have this person around?

3. Trust.

If you feel your contractor is trustworthy, the likelihood of a successful project is good. Check his references. Keep in mind that if your project will entail entrance into your home and you won’t be home during the day, the keys to your castle will be given to your contractor. Can you trust him? Listen to your inner sense.

4. Completion schedule.

Will your contractor give you a written schedule of how the project will progress? This provides a verifiable timetable for both of you. A good contractor will be happy to provide this for you. Nothing is more frustrating to a homeowner than a remodeling project that runs over schedule.

5. Written Proposal.

A good contractor will provide you with a written proposal that includes all the details - exact materials, costs, payment schedules and time of completion. This avoids misinterpretations and confusion.

6. Details. Work out the details before construction begins.

Where will the dumpster go? You don’t want it right in front of your storage shed where you keep your golf clubs! Make sure access isn’t blocked to and from the site. Large construction vehicles may need to get by. What time will construction start in the morning? End in the evening? Weekends? Let your neighbors know you will be remodeling. Communicate to them the day’s construction will be happening and the hours the contractor will be working. No need to have them awaken bright and early by the sound of a bull dozer that just pulled along side their bedroom window! Most neighborhood tensions can be defused with a little prior communication.

7. Flexibility.

Remodeling is an interruption of the “normal” way you do things. If your project involves the kitchen, plan to eat a few meals out with the kids (better yet, send the kids to “Mom” and go out yourself). Remodeling time may not be the best time to host a slumber party for your eight-year-old daughter.

8. Contractor’s Appearance.

If your contractor has a neat appearance, this is a very good sign of his neatness on the job to come. Is he clean; his truck clean? Does he have muddy shoes? Will he track mud from another job throughout your house? Will he keep your home clean?

9. Down Payment.

If the contractor asks for a big chunk of money up front, this could be an indication that they are not in good financial shape, and you could be in for a rocky experience. A fair amount for a down payment is 10 to 20%. As the work progresses, you should expect to pay out additional funds to match the prescribed, completed stages. Be wary if a contractor asks you for a large initial deposit!

10. Change Orders.

With remodeling, it’s not unusual for you to change your mind about a particular material or contract item. If there will be a change to the contract, make sure you sign a change order form that spells out what’s to be done and how much additional it will cost you.


Plan Your Project!

This is really the greatest “secret” of all! Plan your project with a qualified remodeling expert!

Many people spend more time planning a one week vacation than they do a major remodel to their home. If you’re considering remodeling in the near future, sit down and talk with a professional remodeling expert who can answer all of your questions.

You need someone who will help you through the “maze” of planning a remodeling project, someone who will listen to your concerns, and someone who practices the principles and “secrets” discussed above.

As you may have guessed, this is the way we work here at J.R. LeFaivre Construction Company Inc.

Initially we provide a FREE, NO OBLIGATION, interview to find out what your concerns are, and determine if we can be of service to you and your family.

Hopefully, we can show you, as we have many others, how to make your home absolutely gorgeous, and something to be really proud of!

If you’re a little skeptical or concerned about how the process works, we completely understand.

Why not think it over for a couple days. Then, if you have a question, give us a call.

You have to understand that I love getting new clients, as a matter of fact, I am hired by several people each month as their builder.

But because I have a steady volume of business, I never accept clients that aren’t really excited and interested in undertaking their project. I have so much fun seeing people’s homes (and their lives) change for the better, that I would never work with anyone who wasn’t excited and really looking forward to seeing their “dream house” become a reality.

If all this makes sense, and you’re curious about our approach to remodeling, please give us a call.

And remember, absolutely No Pressure!

No one is going to force you to do anything. This is simply a chance to meet us, and see if our service can benefit you. If, after our meeting, you believe there is no benefit to be derived from working with us, we simply leave and that is that. If however, you find that you would like our help, we will discuss how to proceed from there.

I can’t think of a better way to work.

Can you?

If you think my approach is fair and honest, please call my office to set up an appointment.

Call 751-1375 or 1-800-578-2073.


Matt LeFaivre, CGR, CGP

President J.R. LeFaivre Construction Company, INC. MHIC #17126