When you're considering having professional work done in your home, an in-home estimate is the best place to start. A professional service provider will schedule a date and time that best fits in your schedule and will drive to your home to speak with you about your renovation interests, take measurements, discuss with you your various options, and will submit to you a quote on a price for the work requested. It's recommended you have 2-4 professionals provide you with a proposal for their services, so that you can compare the costs and determine the best value while finding a company that you feel comfortable hiring and inviting into your home. But how do you decide whom to invite over? How do you determine which company is giving you the best value? What do you do when the professionals you invite over for estimates provide you with conflicting information? How do you know who to trust? Continue reading for a how-to guide to walk you through the process, as well as some tips and tricks that will help ensure you're making the best decisions for your project, home and budget.
STEP 1: DETERMINE YOUR DESIRED SERVICES
Before you begin calling service providers, it's good practice to know exactly what services you're looking to have completed in your home, as well as a list of possible additional services. For example: "I'm looking to have new hardwood flooring installed in my home, and I also may be interested in having my vents replaced, if the price is right." The more specific you can be, the better your professional can envision your desired end-result and provide you with an accurate price. "I'm looking to have new hardwood flooring installed in my home, having the flooring stained a shade in the Medium Brown range, and I also may be interested in having my vents replaced, if the price is right," would be better, and "I'm looking to have new 3-1/4" unfinished oak hardwood flooring installed in my home, having the flooring stained a shade in the Medium Brown range, and finished with a water-based polyurethane. I also may be interested in having my vents replaced, if the price is right," would be even better yet. If you're unsure about which services you desire, I recommend doing a bit of research- Utilize search engines, talk to your friends, request feedback from public forums, and have a list of questions prepared for your in-home estimate. While it's perfectly acceptable to seek guidance from your professional, you should not rely on him or her as your sole source of information; the more educated you are about the process, what to expect, and your available options, the less you're exposing yourself to the possibility of being taken advantage of.
STEP 2: BEGIN THE SEARCH FOR A PROFESSIONAL SERVICE PROVIDER
Now that you've been contemplating on which services you're interested in, it's time to begin scheduling in-home estimates. Finding service providers that specialize in your requested field is a breeze in this modern day and age- Websites and apps such as Angie's List, Thumbtack, and Home Advisor will assist you in easily sourcing local professionals. Many of these sites take some of the guess-work out of your search by providing screenings, background checks and reviews from previous customers. Obtaining referrals from friends, neighbors and relatives is also encouraged, as you can ask them directly about their experiences.
STEP 3: SCHEDULE IN-HOME ESTIMATES AND COLLECT QUOTES
Scheduling an in-home estimate is important; it allows the professional to take a good look at your current conditions to help you determine what is and isn't possible. It also allows the professional the opportunity to notice and mention any possible or foreseen issues you may experience in your renovations. It also provides you, the homeowner, the opportunity to get a feel for your professional- Did they seem respectful of your home? Did they show up on time? Did they give you any negative vibes? Do they seem trustworthy? How your professionals present themselves in your in-home estimate is a decent indicator of what you can expect, should you hire them.
Depending on your project, your professional should provide you with at least a few options for the services you request. For example, with hardwood flooring refinishing projects you have various options for finish, but two of the basic categories of finish are oil-based polyurethanes and water-based polyurethanes. When I am providing an in-home estimate to my perspective clients, it's important that I tell them about both options- the pros and cons of each, how the price of each would impact their total price, whether or not either would have any adverse affects on their health or the environment, how long each will take to dry/cure, etc., and allow them to decide which is best for their home and budget. I would be leery of any contractor or professional trying to steer you down a specific path- it is their job to educate you on your options in order for you to make the best decision for you, it is not their job to decide for you, or to dictate to you what they will be doing in your home.
Sometimes professionals will provide you with conflicting information. This can happen for a myriad of reasons- Some professionals will tell you oil-based polyurethanes are the better option while others will recommend you opt for water-based polyurethanes, but don't panic!. Allow each professional to explain to you why they feel this way and from what source they obtain their information. Also, seize the opportunity to seek both professional and public opinion on the matter. Do you have any friends that recently had their floors refinished? What did they opt for? Were they happy with their decision? Seek the advice of professionals that aren't performing the work in your home (make sure they're aware they won't be hired) so you can get an unbiased professional opinion. And Google, Google, Google.
Some other (highly) recommended questions to ask your professional include:
-Who does the work? Do you complete the work yourself, or do you subcontract the work to other companies?
-Is the company that is completing the work in my home insured? Can I obtain a copy of the policy? (Do they have coverage including accidental property damage? Physical/Medical coverage in case of an accident?)
-What brand/formula of materials will you be using in my home?
-Do you expect any possible issues that might impact the total price of my project, if occurred?
-What is your availability?
-What forms of payment do you accept? Do you have a specific payment schedule?
Once your professional has spoken with you about your renovations and collected accurate measurements of the project scope, he or she should provide you with their professional recommendation and a quote, or proposal, of what the price would be if they completed the services. Don't hesitate to ask to be quoted on your different options separately, so that you can compare the price differences between them.
STEP 4: COMPARE QUOTES APPLES-TO-APPLES
Comparing quotes isn't as easy as comparing the prices. Yes, prices do play a roll, of course, but the important thing to remember to ask yourself is what am I getting for this price? Referring back to my hardwood flooring example, the oil-based polyurethanes and water-based polyurethanes vary fairly greatly in price at about $20-$30 per gallon versus about $70-$125 per gallon, respectively. The difference in the price of the materials being used should reflect in the prices you are quoted. Therefore, a professional quote for refinishing using an oil-based polyurethane should be less expensive than a professional quote for refinishing using a water-based polyurethane. Request that the companies quoting you list the brands of materials they will be using, and do a quick Google search- See what the materials retail for and compare the costs with the materials being proposed by other companies to help determine the total value you're getting. You may find that while Company X has the higher price compared to Company Y, Company X is investing much more money in the quality of materials for your home, comparatively.
STEP 5: HIRE A PROFESSIONAL
You're almost there! Once you've gathered your quotes and have determined the best value, it's time to hire your company! Call them to inform them you would like to hire them based on the quote you received and arrange the dates for your project. Inquire as to whether or not there are any steps you need to take to prepare for their arrival- Do they require a monetary deposit? Do you need to move furniture? Etc. This will help ensure you are prepared to receive your company and will certainly help to expedite the process.
Never be afraid to ask questions. You should feel an overall level of comfort with your professional- You are, after all, inviting them into your home and entrusting them to perform a paid service. If you have an inquiry I haven't covered, please comment or feel free to contact me directly. Wishing you all the very best in your renovations!
Peace, Love & Wood,