Connecticut Home Remodeling - Frequently Asked QuestionsSince 1974 Village Building & Restoration, LLC has been remodeling the Farmington Valley, With attention to details and you, our client.
Before You Select a Contractor for Your Home Remodeling Project and Hand Over a Large Deposit...
Protect Your Investment and Ask Plenty of Questions and
Always Get the Answers in Writing
Over the years I have been asked lots of questions. These are the most common ones.
I believe that you should "check out" every contractor you meet and you can do that by asking very specific questions. This goes for every type of contractor, not just remodeling contractors.
Asking questions and requesting that the contractor provide their answers in writing helps to weed out unscrupulous contractors that take advantage of unsuspecting homeowners. This happens more often then you may read about so take the time to make the right decision.
Here is one example: instead of simply asking if the contractor is registered in Connecticut – ask to see their registration and then you can check on the State website to see if they are listed and current.
I welcome your questions. Ask as many as you want and I will provide you with our written answers at our first meeting. You can reach me from 7 AM to 6 PM on normal business days.
Reputation and Financial Condition
Q. Are you registered with the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection?
Yes, our registration number is HIC # 674537. Contractors that are not licensed should be avoided as they are likely to expose you to unnecessary insurance risks and provide inferior service.
When a homeowner hires an unlicensed contractor, they put themselves at financial risk, endanger the health, safety and welfare of the public, undercut licensed contractors who operate legitimately and lawfully, and hurt the entire construction industry.
- This registration must be prominently displayed at their place of business, in all advertisements and on all business documents including contracts and correspondence with customers.
- Contractors must have the certificate of registration to obtain municipal permits for property improvements. (The State of CT provides a toll-free number that anyone can call to check on the status of a contractor.) Be wary of contractors that want you to pull the permit. They're most likely unregistered.
A homeowner that contracts with an unregistered contractor will not be able to access the Home Improvement Guaranty Fund if there is a dispute.
Ask yourself this question: If a contractor is going to cheat the government and other legitimate contractors by operating outside the law, what are the chances that they will cheat me?
Q. Have you ever declared bankruptcy for this or any other company that you were an owner, shareholder or partner that has been a home improvement contractor?
The State of Connecticut updated its regulations on May 8, 2009. The Home Improvement contractor must disclose all legal entities that they have been an owner, shareholder or partner in that has been a home improvement contractor. This requirement is for the previous 5 years.
The State of Connecticut took this action to protect legitimate contractors and to expose unscrupulous contractors that would simply go out of business when they had problems and start up under a similar name.
You may have heard from a friend or an acquaintance that got a "great deal" on a project.
As an expert witness in construction defects, I can assure you there are far more stories about people being taken by not just unregistered contractors but also by those that talked a great game.
Don't be afraid to ask for proof in writing. We will provide you with the details to comply with this requirement of the State of Connecticut at our first meeting.
Q. Can I obtain a "ball park" estimate over the phone or via email?
The answer is simply no. As much as we want to do that, there are far too many variables to come up with the right number. Take kitchen cabinets for example. You can spend $10,000 or you can spend $100,000 for cabinets. The same can be said for virtually every component in a remodeling project.
We know that you want to know early on if this is the type of project you want to invest in, so we will meet you in person and ask you specific questions to gain a full understanding of your project needs. We will then be in a position to help you get a good understanding of what your completed project, labor and materials are likely to cost.
We will provide you with a fixed price agreement for the work specified, once your final layout is approved and the final material selections are made. Our price guarantee is easy to understand as well.
We require all change orders to be written and approved by our clients before we will make any changes that they want in the scope of the project. This simple step keeps everyone on the same page.
General or home remodeling contractors that will give you a "ball park" estimate should be avoided, it just isn't in your best interest or professional.
Q. How many references should I check?
We recommend that you call 5 or 6 for medium sized projects and up to 10 for larger projects.
It seems pretty standard for a contractor to provide 3 or 4 references. When you consider that most remodeling contractors complete 20 to 25 projects every year or two, coming up with 3 or 4 satisfied clients shouldn't be that hard.
Quality home remodeling contractors have multiple references from past clients. We believe that a home remodeling contractor should provide you with a list of at least 10 recent references – this prevents the contractor from giving you 3 or 4 "references" that are actually not real customers but friends or associates. (Yes, it's been known to happen).
Village Building & Restoration LLC provides a list of at least 20 references you can call.
If a contractor is unable or unwilling to provide at least 5 references that should be a red flag.
Q. Should I also ask for business references?
Yes. This is especially important in the current economy. There have been countless stories in local and national publications about trusting homeowners giving a remodeling contractor a large deposit and then going out of business or simply disappearing.
Home remodeling contractors that are in good standing with their bank and suppliers get the best treatment and pricing and that just makes them more competitive.
Q. It seems like everyone says they are "fully insured". What does that really mean?
Fully insured doesn't really mean anything because some folks think that $100,000 of liability insurance is enough and others think $1,000,000 is the right amount.
Unfortunately, when some companies get in trouble, they let their insurance slide and hope that nothing goes wrong.
Don't accept that someone is "fully insured". Ask to have the Certificate of Insurance sent directly to you by their insurance agent so you get assurance that their coverage is current
Village Building & Restoration LLC will have our insurance agent will send you our insurance certificate. We maintain $1,000,000 of liability insurance per incident.
Note; if the home improvement contractor utilizes sub-contractors – they all must also meet the same insurance requirements.
Q. What professional organizations do you belong to?
We are proud members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) www.NARI.org.
Jim Whittemore was president of the The Remodeling Contractors Association which was the predecessor organization to NARI of CT and he remains as a Board Member of NARI of Connecticut www.NARICT.org
Trade associations are designed to establish standards for the industry. Specific standards established for the home remodeling industry would include:
- Guidelines for References
- Office & Field Safety Systems
- Compliance with Insurance & Regulatory Issues
- Blueprint Reading and Estimating Skills
- Safety Program Requirements
- Increasing Trade Knowledge
- Administration of Certification Examinations
Belonging to a professional association requires a commitment of time and money and we believe it allows us to stay current with the latest innovations in materials, keeps us up to date on government regulations and allows us to gain valuable training so we can continue to improve.
Experience, Operations, Service Record and Warranties
Q. Can you explain how you price your projects?
Yes. I spend extra time up front detailing every aspect of your bid and anticipating potential issues based on my 39 years of experience. There isn't much I haven't seen!
I will provide you with a fixed price agreement for the work specified, once your final layout is approved and the final material selections are made. My price guarantee is easy to understand as well.
My written installation processes make it easy for you to make a true apples-to-apples comparison of what I am offering with what my competitors are offering. This also helps me to maintain a consistently high level of quality. I don't take things for granted, I make sure my crews know what is expected and it is in writing.
Many contractors will provide as little detail as possible because this keeps plenty of "wiggle" room in what they can provide to satisfy their bid.
Here is an example: "high quality cabinets" really doesn't mean much because every manufacturer thinks their cabinets are high quality. There is a big difference in the quality sold at big box stores and fully customized cabinets. I will recommend the best combination of price and value for your project. Every job doesn't need the highest end cabinets and at the same time very few will come out right with the low-end ones. Like most things in life, you will get what you pay for.
Q. Who will be supervising my project on a day-to-day basis?
This is a great question.
I will use my 39 years of experience to supervise your project. I will be on your project every day to make sure it is moving toward the promised completion date.
It is also a great idea to ask very specific questions about every supervisor's experience. Ask them to describe similar projects that they have worked on and what challenges they had to overcome. You might even ask them what they like about remodeling to make sure they really like what they do.
I also have a written policy on the use of alcohol or drugs by my crews.
Q. How often will you meet with me during the project?
I will meet with your crew every day to review job progress. These meetings are a key way of keeping your project on time and on budget.
I meet with you every week to update progress on larger projects. For shorter projects I will provide you with an update every 2 days. If you are traveling, I can email you pictures to keep you up to date.
I also provide my clients with multiple ways to contact me via the phone, email and fax. Keeping you informed allows you to feel comfortable that progress is being made.
My ability to respond is in sharp contrast to many of my competitors that seem to be constantly juggling too many balls. All this means is you will often wait days for a return call even on a minor issue.
Q. When you start a job, do you stay until it's done?
Yes. We are motivated to complete your project as that is the only way we get paid. Once we start your project, we stay on it each day until we are finished unless there are circumstances beyond our control like weather or delays in inspections that don't permit us to work.
In any significant project there will be some "gap" days due to issues just listed. Our clients know that we are always working on their project – coordinating material deliveries, setting up town inspections, coordinating specialty trades and more. Our ongoing communications keep you informed so you won't be left wondering.
Q. What is your warranty policy?
We provide a 3-year warranty for the labor and installation on all home remodeling projects.
This is as much as 2 years longer than most of our competitors. We also provide a 10-year warranty on structural items. This demonstrates that Jim stands behind his works just like he has for 39 years.
If you think about it a one year warranty isn't really worth much. Most projects will last a year before starting to fall apart even if they are very poorly constructed.
Jim conducts a one-year on site inspection to make sure all the little things are working as designed. To his knowledge, he is the only contractor in the area to offer this service to back up his warranty.
Q. Do I need to be home when you're working?
Not all the time but we do ask that you be available each day so we can provide you with an answer to any question you have.
Q. How long does it take?
We provide approximate start and finish dates based on my 37 years of experience. The State of Connecticut also requires that contractors provide start and completion dates, prices and payment schedules.
The fact is, every project is different. We give you an approximate start and finish dates in our proposal so you can plan. Once we start your project, we stay on it each day until we are finished unless there are circumstances beyond our control like weather or delayed inspections that don't permit us to work.
Jim Whittemore has an enviable on-time record. We encourage you to ask our references about this and especially ask the references of other contractors. An inconsistent track record in finishing on time is a red flag.
Q. What about bathrooms?
For larger jobs we will provide portable toilets. If this is a smaller job we may ask for access to a bathroom as a courtesy. We will respect your privacy and your property in using the bathroom.
Q. Where will you clean up?
We do ask for access to a sink that we can use for cleanup but will make other arrangements if that isn't possible.
Q. Do you work with Home Owner's Associations?
Yes. We will provide the appropriate information to your HOA.
One Other Important Question if Your Home was Built Prior to 1978
Q. When is the New EPA Law to Prevent Lead Poisoning going into effect?
Common renovation activities like sanding, cutting, and demolition can create hazardous lead dust and chips by disturbing lead-based paint, which can be harmful to adults and children.
To protect against this risk, on April 22, 2008, EPA issued a rule requiring the use of lead-safe practices and other actions aimed at preventing lead poisoning. Under the rule, beginning in April 2010, contractors performing renovation, repair and painting projects that disturb lead-based paint in homes, child care facilities, and schools built before 1978 must be certified and must follow specific work practices to prevent lead contamination.
Village Building & Restoration LLC believes that this is a very important step to protect adults and children from the harmful effects of lead paint. Jim Whittemore is certified as well as Village Building & Restoration LLC is a certified renovation firm and will follow the laws in providing our services at your home.