General Remodeling Questions
I’ve heard I should plan on adding a “contingency” amount to the budget for my remodeling project – how much should I add?
It is really smart to have some contingency money ready on a remodeling project. Sometimes people spend it because of an unforeseen repair – like termite damage or wood rot inside the shower walls. Sometimes they will spend it on upgraded plumbing fixtures, or that gorgeous granite. They just can’t resist. Some don’t spend it at all, and just put it back in the bank when the project is done. In any case, it’s a smart move. Here are some general rules of the road: on projects under $50,000. add 15%. On projects over $50,000. add 10%. If you don’t spend it, that’s great. If you really need it, though, your stress level will be much lower because you prepared for the possibility.
How can I minimize the spread of dust in my home during the work?
Professional contractor should put up clear plastic walls around the construction area to contain most of the dust and mess in the construction area. Daily clean-ups and cleaning the job site also helps minimize the cost and the tracking of dirt, drywall mud, etc. to areas where it should not present. Our company is the only contractor in Houston also uses a unique “pre-filter” that fits over the air return to capture any dust that escapes the construction area before it is distributed around your house. This is a brand-new product that most contractors and homeowners do not even know about yet
How much will my project cost?
We have both a designer and an interior decorator on staff to help you with the overall look of your new project. Our designer, who is always involved in projects where we are moving walls around, uses a sophisticated drawing program to provide you impressive 3-D, color drawings so you can explore your project like you are walking around in the new space is for anything is built! Busy? Our interior decorator can speed you up on making your selections for plumbing fixtures, stone, tile, paint, etc. You will be confident that it will all work together and be beautiful. She will help you pick out your selections by going to a showroom or just catalog shopping with you. Your responses to our questions will help narrow the choices and our vast experience with products will help make the optimum selections in price and quality.
Will there be a big mess?
We take-to-heart this “invasion of your home” and your privacy. We respect your property by: laying down clean tarps as needed, taking down pictures, etc. that could fall off the wall, installing a ventilation fan when there is a window, clean the work space and traffic areas daily, dust and vacuum nearby spaces, and do a professional cleaning thoroughly the space on the final day of construction.
What kind of communication strategies are in place during the remodeling?
You’re entitled to get a weekly schedule so that you know who the remodeler expects to be coming to your home to perform work. Typically, this schedule cannot be accurately given beyond one week because the nature of remodeling is fluid. This means that the remodeler’s scheduling of various subcontractors, who have schedules of their own, or are working for other builders to perform work on your project. Not everyone can operate exactly as scheduled. For example, a plumber may be delayed for a couple of days dealing with a plumbing emergency on another job. It is important, however, that the project manager communicates any of these delays as soon as he becomes aware of them, so that you know the situation. Our goal is to answer your questions before you have to ask them. Unlike many remodelers, we have a full time office manager who is answering the phone, in person, all day, every weekday. This means that even if you can’t get a hold of your project manager temporarily, you can always get your message to us by calling the office. Long-faced and ill-tempered subcontractors and workers are not allowed on our jobs. You will find everyone who comes into your home to be NEAT, friendly and helpful in answering any of your questions.
What are the current popular features being installed in new bathrooms?
Tubs are being removed and replaced with luxurious curbless showers, personal hand-held showers, body sprays, deep soaking tubs, safety grab bars, glass block windows and seats in showers.
Do you provide references?
Legal Eagle Contractors provides references at our first meeting with you. Better than that though, you will get an invitation to come visit a job similar to yours that was recently completed, if you wish. There’s no substitute for making a field trip to someone’s home and inspecting the work yourself, asking the owner questions about the process, what the workmen were like, how messy it was or wasn’t, etc.
What kind of warranty do you provide?
Our warranty is attached to every remodeling contract we sign. It is good for a period of one year after completion of the project. It covers labor and materials during that period. The only exception is that manufacturer warranties on fixtures and appliances supersede our warranty. If you furnished a new oven for your kitchen, and it stopped working before the end of the appliance warranty period, you would contact the manufacturer for repairs, for obvious reasons. We often come out after the warranty period has expired to take care of things, because we know it further enhances the high level of trust our customers have in us. They will talk about us at the next cocktail party, and say good things.
Are you insured?
Absolutely, yes. We provide you with a certificate of General Liability insurance with every project. We have $1 million in coverage. A certificate is sent to you by our insurance company — it does not come from our office. Contractors have been known to fake insurance certificates by doctoring them then sending them to you directly.
Are applicable permits paid by you?
Yes. In most cases we submit your project for a General Contractor’s Building Permit. Our mechanical subcontractors, such as licensed electricians, plumbers and air-conditioning mechanics, pull their own permits under our general contractor permit. A general contractor cannot pull an electrical permit or a plumbing permit. Instead, our mechanical subcontractors pull their own permits, using our city-assigned project number. This is what I mean by “under” my general contractor permit.
Do you take credit cards?
Yes, we do, with a $20,000 limit per charge. Our customers use these for change orders and draw requests.
What is your experience with ADA or handicap accessible bathrooms?
Dan Bawden, owner of Legal Eagle Contractors, is not only a Certified Aging in Place Specialist, he created that certification working with the AARP and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB). He teaches senior focused and accessible remodeling in Houston and across the country to builders, remodelers, occupational therapists, physical therapists, realtors, and a host of other professionals who have an interest in the aging in place population.With more & more people staying longer in their homes, many of our clients have chosen to make existing bathrooms more user-friendly for senior citizens and others with disabilities. We begin by interviewing family members to determine both short- and long-term needs. Based on that information, we recommend options to best deliver the desired outcome. Some of the more popular choices include replacing a tub that’s difficult to step over with a walk-in shower that features a safety seat, safety grab bars and a hand-held shower within convenient reach. Grab bars are anchored by wood blocking that is installed in the walls and are carefully placed in locations pre-tested by the current or eventual users. Other designs include wheelchair-accessible bath rooms; sometimes with curb –free shower entrances. The addition of a main floor bathroom when the only other is on the second floor can also be a practical and relatively economical solution.We love to solve challenges presented by designing and constructing bathrooms that meet your every need– for today and tomorrow.
Remodeling Resources - Learn the EssentialsPrice Your ProjectWhere to Start?How Long Does a Remodel TakeTake the Contractor TestOur ProcessMeet Legal Eagle Contractors
Kitchen Remodeling Questions
How much will my kitchen cost?
It can really vary. The age and shape of your house, the size of your kitchen, the amount of work required and the quality and scope of the materials and details chosen are just a few of the variables. According to Remodeling Magazine — the national average for a “minor kitchen” is $16.925. A complete kitchen with mid-range selections run from $21,246 for a minor remodel to $49,530 for a major remodel, and the average for what is called an upscale kitchen is $101,202. Check out the 2013 stats at CostvsValue.com (Houston specific projects and prices at http://www.remodeling.hw.net/2013/costvsvalue/division/west-south-central/city/houston–TX.aspx)We still can do quality kitchens starting under $25,000 for a moderate size room that does not require much construction.
How can I establish a budget that works for me?
In our industry, a lot of companies will ask you for your budget. It seems difficult to establish a budget when you don’t know what it means for your kitchen. The national or regional averages, like those above, are not much help except as a point of reference. You will have your own preferences and your home is not the same as everyone else’s, so your design and construction issues will be unique. We take a little different approach. We believe the budget should evolve. It is a collaborative effort. After meeting in your home and discussing some ideas, we will put together both a preliminary design and pricing to help establish a starting point. We usually price several selections from one or more cabinet lines and a range of countertop possibilities, along with allowances for all of the remaining selections you will need to make. It will be much easier to make selections of cabinets, countertops, etc. when you can see how much they cost and how they affect the overall project cost. Modification of the design and the scope of work can also have an impact on the budget. There is even a term for this, “Scope-Creep” – the tendency to add features to the scope of work along the way. Now that you can see what things cost it will be easier to establish your budget and decide what you want to include in your new kitchen.
How long will it take to have my new kitchen installed?
Replacing cabinets can take as little as 2 to 3 days, more for a larger kitchen or an intricate design. If the counters can be ordered ahead the kitchen could possibly be completed in the same time. If counters have to be measured after the cabinets are installed—it can take an additional 2 weeks to fabricate and install the countertops. Additional time is required for any needed plumbing or construction work, flooring, backsplash work, and painting and decorating. For a kitchen project that includes framing, plumbing etc. it is not unusual for it to take 6 to 8 weeks from start to the installation of the tops with additional time for finish work like backsplash, flooring and painting.
Will we be without a sink for weeks?
Maybe, if there is substantial construction involved. Our goal is to have the countertops measured as soon as possible in the process. Other work can proceed after the tops are measured while we are “on-the-clock” for the countertop installation. Sometimes we can put in a temporary sink after the countertop measure to help you get by while waiting for your countertops.
Do you help with product selections, pros and cons of materials, etc.?
Of course. We can price several levels of cabinet and counter selections so you can get a feel for the cost versus the quality and style that you have to choose from. Typically, we will try to suggest products that are consistent with the quality of the cabinets and counters that you choose. We will try to make sure many possibilities are considered.
How do you compare to other kitchen cabinet stores & outlets?
Our cabinet lines range from good quality production cabinets, through medium to high-end custom lines. This purchasing power gives us quite a range of products to accommodate various tastes and also, a wide range of prices, medium to high end. Because we purchase directly from the factories, we are competitive with any retailer, distributor or outlet, including home centers and builder distributors. In fact, our low overhead usually allows us to price a little under most other cabinet sellers. Our unique advantages are:
- Professional, creative kitchen, bath & renovation design.
- 3-D, color designs.
- Detailed product knowledge.
- Extensive specialized kitchen installation experience and knowledge.
- Good purchasing power – you can buy your appliances and fixtures at my builder cost with NO markup!
- Full service – from ideas, design, product selection, complete installation / construction.
- Our penchant for listening to a customer.
- Considering a project successful only if the customer considers it successful.
What if I want to do some of the work myself to save money?
Many remodeling companies will not relinquish control of any of the work steps. We are fairly flexible. For example, if someone has their own painter or wants to put in their own flooring that is okay with us. These steps happen at the end of the project and there will be a logical stopping point for our work. However, if the homeowner wants to do their own wiring or plumbing, we won’t allow that, for obvious liability reasons. We only subcontract to licensed electrical contractors & air conditioner contractors licensed by TDLR.
What makes a kitchen more or less expensive?
Cabinets account for about one-third to one-half the total cost of the project and will have the greatest impact on your budget. They range in price considerably, based on quality, the type of material they are made of, and whether they are in stock (ready made in specific sizes) or custom (produced specifically for your kitchen in whatever sizes and finishes are needed).The material you choose for surfaces, including counters, backsplashes and floors can also account for variations in price. Ceramic tile can cost $4.00 per foot, travertine $8.90 per foot, iridescent or mosaic glass – $25. per sq. ft. in the current market. Other key elements that factor in to the equation are talent and workmanship. In the remodeling business, you tend to get what you pay for. An accomplished designer, skilled sub-tradesmen and expert installation crews may cost more. But you’ll appreciate their ability every time you use your kitchen.
Should I select my appliances first and then call in a kitchen planner?
This is not recommended. A kitchen design is much like a jigsaw puzzle, where each piece must fit into the whole design. By all means, research your appliance choices and formulate your “wish list,” but it is usually better not to purchase your appliances until the design has been finalized.
Can I get other bids on the final design?
Our policy is to not release the plans, which are protected by copyright, until a purchase agreement has been made. In any event, it is extremely difficult to “comparison shop” for a kitchen, because different firms feature different products. Most of the time you will end up comparing “apples and oranges.”If a company has been in business for some time, it’s usually a sign that their prices are competitive or they wouldn’t have stayed in business. Also, it’s more important to work with someone you feel comfortable with and trust, than to try to save money with someone who implies they can save you “X amount of dollars.”
What can I do myself to help cut costs?
How much you can or should attempt to do depends on your ability and knowledge of remodeling. You’ll definitely be able to tear out old cabinets (be careful not to damage walls or beams – and avoid touching any wires or pipes), take up old vinyl flooring and handle trash removal. You may also want to paint or wallpaper on your own. You’re better off letting licensed pros handle plumbing and appliance hook-ups – if you try it on your own, you may violate building codes or invalidate manufacturer warranties. And let a professional installer put your new cabinets in so that they look their best.
How long should it take from the start of work to finished kitchen?
It can take 8-10 weeks, even after the design is finalized. Custom cabinets usually take around 4 to 6 weeks for delivery, so we don’t start work until just before the cabinets will be arriving on the scene. It also depends on the extent of the job, the contractor’s workload and the availability of materials. Once all the materials have been delivered, installation can often be completed in as little as 7 to 8 weeks, if things go well.
Who’s the best person for the job?
There are a lot of professionals out there – interior designers, architects, remodeling contractors – but your best bet is to pick a designer or firm that does a lot of kitchen and bath design and remodeling as a steady thing. One of the best questions to ask is if the contractor has any certifications. Contractors with certifications are a cut above the rest, and take their business seriously by doing continuing education, and passing courses in order to gain expertise. Ask specifically for certifications like “certified graduate remodeler – “CGR”, “graduate master builder – “GMB” “certified kitchen designer – “CKD”; “certified bath designer – ”CBD”.You’ll probably meet first at his/her office or showroom to share your ideas and basic needs. Then he’ll come to your home to take careful measurements of the space, make note of plumbing and structural elements, and get a feel for your home’s style. He’ll also ask a lot of questions about your kitchen or bathroom, lifestyle and family. He’ll be listening carefully so that the finished room, you work to create, reflects your personal taste and how you use the space. You’ll choose products, colors and materials together, working within your budget. The relationship may only go as far as creating your design, or he may manage the entire project for you – including hiring sub-contractors and scheduling the work and supervising the installation.
What about contracts and orders?
Before any work begins in your kitchen or bathroom, get a detailed, written estimate, project specifications and a signed contract from the professional you hire. Make sure they’re fully insured with general liability insurance of $1 million or more. Ask if all of the sub-contractors also carry their own insurance. Check references carefully. Your design-build remodeler should prepare project drawings including floor plans and renderings that clearly represent your project. If anything changes mid-project, you will be asked to sign a change order, so there is a good paper trail of your approvals for any added work.
What about payment?
Don’t pay 50%, or 1/3 down or anything like that! The best method is to create a pay-as-you-go payment plan tied to visible milestones in the construction. Every week or so, you “catch up to us” as the contractor achieves progress to that next milestone on your job. This motivates the contractor to get work done so he can get to the next milestone. If a separate Design Contract is done first, you may also be asked to pay the design fee, usually at 2 phases of the design work.
What is the kitchen “work triangle” and why is it important?
The “work triangle” is the kitchen area from the refrigerator to the main cooking area to the main sink. Connect the three and it should form a triangle (unless you have a ‘one-wall’ kitchen). It’s important because at / or immediately adjacent to the triangle’s points, all the key kitchen activities – food preparation, cooking and clean up – take place. The work triangle helps to ensure that your kitchen will be functional. It keeps cooking activities centered in one area, with all the necessities close at hand.
Where’s the best place to put a microwave?
Like most things about your new kitchen, it will depend on how you and your family use the appliance. From a safety and accessibility standpoint, the microwave should be positioned so that the bottom of the appliance is 24″ to 48″ above the floor. Consult with your designer for the best place to locate it.
How long does it take for cabinets to come in?
Our cabinet company carries various lines that all differ in cost and quality if we are building the cabinets on-site, it takes about one or two weeks. The average delivery time for prefab, prefinished cabinets is about 4 to 6 weeks from the ordering time.
Bathroom Remodeling Questions
What makes a bathroom remodeling more or less expensive?
No single element of a bathroom remodel comprises a significantly larger portion of the costs than other elements. However, the type and quality of cabinets you select will affect your total costs, countertop granite, stone, and tile work, including accent tiles, are all significant cost components.
Not surprisingly, fixtures and fittings account for a high cost percentage in the bathroom, especially if you have expensive taste! Expense for fixtures and fittings will vary, depending on the brand, type of materials, and array of products you select.
In bathrooms, installation typically accounts for a little more than a quarter or more of the total cost. This is because the installation work in a bathroom tends to be intricate (for example, tile setting). If you’re looking to cut corners, this is probably not the place to do it.
Can I save money by cutting a few corners?
Yes, but chances are you’ll be disappointed when it’s done. Postponing some things is a better way to save than cutting quality. Put your money into the best quality products your budget can afford, even if you have to limit the number of products that you buy. Choosing a professional contractor who will do the work right the first time is also always less expensive- and less stressful in the long run
That said, a typical gut and remodel of an 8 x 10 bathroom takes about six weeks. Once all the materials are on-site. At about two weeks for remodeling a bathroom where you are moving walls to expand into an adjoining bedroom or closet.
Here’s a sample timeline, for illustration purposes only, of a bathroom remodeling project that does not include relocating fixtures:
- Meet with a Remodeler for a Free Design Consultation and get ballpark price – 1 week.
- Meet at our showroom, finalize the scope of the project and the terms of a Remodeling Agreement – 2 to 3 weeks.
- Select all the materials for the project – 1 to 4 weeks.
- Materials are ordered and delivered – 3 to 6 weeks.
- Demolition and removal of old materials and appliances – 1 week.
- Installation of new materials and appliances, flooring, plumbing and painting – 4-5 weeks.
- Finishing touches and clean up – 1 week.
What do I need to do to prepare for my bathroom renovation?
You can start by getting a good idea for the type of look and style you want. If you don’t know yet, go to houzz.com. Open an account and start searching the wonderful FREE images they have there. Save images you like in an “Ideabook” then share them with your designer & contractor, so they get a good handle on your vision for the project. Then, contact us for a Free Design. You will be instructed by your Remodeling Consultant as to what exact steps you need to take. But, generally speaking, before construction begins, you’ll want to clear out the area being worked on of all your personal belongings that can be removed. Although, we cover the areas surrounding our work area, you’ll want to protect your furniture from dust with plastic and/or sheets.
What is the typical workflow for a bathroom renovation?
1. Create design
2. Select materials
3. Order materials
4. Deliver materials
7. Sub flooring
8. Floor tile installation
9. Wall preparation
10. Wall tile installation
11. Plumbing fixture installation
12. Countertop installation
13. Medicine cabinet installation
14. Accessories installation
16. Touch up and cleaning
Will my Contractor or his designer help me choose all of the materials?
Some people can pick out all of their fixtures, stone, tile and paint colors on their own. Most people are too busy these days to visit all the showrooms and feel overwhelmed when they try to do so. Working with the designer to quickly and efficiently make selections that suit your taste, can be a godsend. My company provides a designer for you on an as-needed basis.
Where can I buy those products? Can I buy them at a discount?
An established, professional general contractor to provide you with a list of resources (good stores), or you can make your selections and get good advice. We provide our customers with a list of stores for selections of everything they might need for a remodeling project, including: tile, stone, plumbing fixtures, appliances, decorative hardware, replacement windows, doors, etc. We offer the benefit of allowing you to buy your fixtures and appliances our builder cost. This can save you thousands of dollars on a major kitchen renovation.
Do I need to have design ideas before I start the renovation process?
Absolutely not; but it helps if you do. Your Free Design Consultation is meant to help generate ideas or work through the ones you already have. Spending some time on houzz.com is also an excellent way to collect ideas that appeal to you and share them your contractor and designer.
What features should I plan to invest the most in for my new bathroom?
Depending on your style and taste, the floor and wall tiles can be the most expensive. Other possibly considerable expenses are the plumbing fixtures in the shower system and custom cabinets. Question: What type of return on investment can I expect from remodeling my bathroom if I sell my home? Answer: Bathrooms typically get the best return on investment in a remodeled home. (Houston specific projects and prices at http://www.remodeling.hw.net/2013/costvsvalue/division/west-south-central/city/houston–TX.aspx)
Is re-glazing a bathtub a good solution to replacing the tub?
Re-glazing is a great way to save money. It is quick and inexpensive. It requires less labor and eliminates the cost of installing a new tub. Many older tubs are cast iron – a very sturdy and expensive material. In addition, some older tub models may be deeper than new tubs. There are several good reasons to re-glaze but there is one big disadvantage –– it doesn’t last. The glaze usually begins to wear off within one to two years, so I don’t recommend this approach, unless you are getting your house ready for sale. Nothing really replaces the visual appeal of a brand new tub. If you want to do it right and are not limited by budget, replacing the tub is the best way to go