Lancaster PA Remodeling Tips & Tricks

January 17, 2013

Remodeling Sense is not Car Sense.

Filed under: Tips on Choosing Your Remodeler — Tags: , , — MBCremodeling @ 3:54 pm

Fact: You get what you pay for when remodeling.

Car Sense is a no-haggle way to buy the car you want. You research the make & model, and you can trust great service and the right price. Many inexperienced homeowners treat remodeling they same way; they decide it’s time for a new kitchen, and all they need to do is shop around for the lowest price.

Remodeling is not a product and it definitely isn’t a commodity – it is a service, plain and simple. This is sometimes easily forgotten, especially in an era when Carpentry is not given it’s proper due as a professional trade; it was in fact once considered the artist’s trade.

No two remodelers are the same… no two remodels are the same either. Deciding you are building a kitchen addition isn’t the same as deciding on the new Samsung TVs. It’s more like computers- brands, not models. What you save buying an off brand can easily cost you when the product quickly fails and you are left at square one.

MBC Building & Remodeling, LLC spends a lot of time discussing best practices for choosing a remodeler in and around Lancaster County, PA.

We hear so many Horror stories, even locally, from homeowners who thought all builders were the same, and that amazing low price was just their luck…

How many horror stories do you need to hear to realize that ‘too good to be true’ lowball offer is just that. And having a true professional contractor to come after and fix the subpar work the cheap guy completed (or didn’t…) is going to cost more to fix than to do it right the first time.

What To Do

What do you want – the Lincoln, the Ford… or the Lemon? Considerations for choosing your remodeling contractor based on Quality and Value – NOT price alone.

1. Better materials – this is often a main thing not considered by the average remodeling client, especially the first-timers out there. Also consider pricing is low due to big Home Improvement warehouses carry lower quality product lines.

2. Better craftsmanship – higher % increase of home value after project.

3. Better warranty – Most contractors offer no warranty. Some offer a year.

(P.S. MBC offers 5-years.)

4. Peace of mind – You need to trust this person and their crew inside your home, around your family, your pets, and with the fact you are paying them at work intervals and/or start of phases and not all up front. PA State Law allows no more than 1/3 down payment, excluding special order items.

Ask Your Yourself:
• Is a professional someone who makes money… or pays taxes?
• Gives their employees 100% health insurance coverage?

August 22, 2012

Apples to Apples? How to Compare Remodeling Proposals

Filed under: Tips on Choosing Your Remodeler — Tags: , , , — MBCremodeling @ 3:58 pm
    Most Importantly… Do You Trust This Person?

When it comes down to it, the most important thing to check is your own instincts. How do you feel about this contractor working on what is probably your single largest investment – your home? Do you trust this person inside your home and around your children? Can you communicate well with this person about the project? Are they ‘in tune’ to your needs? Are they an expert and experienced in the type of project you are envisioning? Don’t throw away money on poor workmanship that will lower the value of your home. And then cost more to be fixed.

    Important Considerations:

• Remodeling is NOT a commodity – you don’t decide on the project you want done and, like a TV or Car, go bargain shopping on the internet or around town. This effects your family’s wellbeing for an extended period of time, the value of your home and your hard earned dollars.
• No two Remodelers are the same.
• Every project is custom.
• You must thoroughly review each proposal to get an understanding of what each contractor is presenting a bid for.
• Your prospective Remodeler’s should be consulting with you to create your project, not selling you on what they think should be done.

    8 Questions to Ask:

1. Will they provide their Contractor Registration info (1)?
2. Do they offer Full Health Insurance to their employees?
3. Do they have Liability Insurance?
4. Are they Lead Paint Certified (2)?
5. How much will Change Orders cost / change the original quote?
6. Do they guarantee their proposal price? Or is it just an ‘estimate’?
7. Are they experienced in home remodeling or new home building (there is a HUGE difference)?
8. Have there been any complaints to the BBB (3) about them?

    Does the contractor, price and contract include?

• Designs/Plans/Permits
• Realistic Allowances for your fixtures, cabinets, flooring, etc?
• All required legal documents – 3 days to cancel clause, Arbitration clause, etc
• Do they require no more than 1/3 down payment (excluding special order items), as required by PA law?
• Is there a clear listing of all of the specific details involved, including design, permits, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, inspections?
• A workmanship warranty?

    VALUE is KEY.

There are two ways a contractor can earn your business. He can try to be the lowest price or the best value. (4)

The lowest price typically comes with a large amount of risk. A low price typically means the following: no experience, low overhead (lack of capital, needs large down payment), no workers compensation insurance, no general liability insurance, no business license, and no contractor’s registration. The more items on the above list that applies, the greater the risk to the homeowner.

The best value is typically achieved when the customer knows exactly what they are going to receive (detailed specifications) from a company that has a solid reputation built on years of experience with the type of project you are having done. They will supply a large reference list of previous customers in your area, require no more than 1/3 down payment (PA State Law, excluding special order items), provide proof of insurance with a contact and phone number, proof of business license, and a state contractor’s registration and EPA lead paint certification. They will also offer a Warranty on their workmanship.

Resources:

(1) PA Attorney General Contractor Registration Search
(2) EPA RRP (Lead Paint) Certified Firm Search
(3) Better Business Bureau (BBB)
(4) Remodeling Magazine 2011-12 Harrisburg, PA Cost vs. Value Report

August 7, 2012

Home Contractor Horror Stories (and how you can avoid them)

Sometimes real life is scarier than the movies… like when you are looking for a Home Remodel Contractor in Lancaster, PA, but have no idea who to call. All we hear are stories, like the ones below, about contractors ripping people off and walking off with sometimes 6 figures of hard earned money. Some reports say upwards of $2 Billion a year is taking from people in Contractor Fraud. And that doesn’t include the ones that perform shoddy work that needs to be redone by a professional remodeler within a few months… or the value of the home will significantly drop.

Our tips: Do your research! Ask for references and registration info and check for ratings online. Throw price aside, you get what you pay for – select the remodeler who you feel comfortable working with. They will be in your home day after day.

Videos:

NC Home Contractor Accused of Fraud:

Home Improvement Scams: Unlicensed Contractors:

This woman was ripped off so bad, she started her own bootcamp to help people avoid a similar nightmare: http://www.contractorsfromhell.com/home-premodeling-boot-camp-for-women-and-the-men-who-love-them/

 

Articles:

Excerpt from “A Contractor Horror Story? Join the Crowd” from NYTimes.com.

ALL she wanted was a nice fence around her backyard. Danielle O’Connell was planning a 2-year-old birthday party for her daughter at the family’s Elmsford home and wanted the 18 toddlers safely fenced in.

Mrs. O’Connell and her husband got several estimates but were discouraged by the cost and how long it would take to finish. All the contractors who bid told them the fence would cost at least $5,000 and take four to six weeks to put up.

Then the O’Connells got lucky — at least they thought they did. The couple found a contractor in the Yellow Pages who promised to build the fence for $2,000 and to do it in a week. “We were like, ‘Thank God we found this guy,’ ” Mrs. O’Connell said. “We’re thinking, ‘This is fantastic — those other people were going to rip us off.’ ”

There was a rip-off involved, of course, but it was by the low bidder, not the other contractors. After pressuring Mrs. O’Connell to give him a $1,000 deposit for construction material quickly, he disappeared. He never showed up to build the fence, nor did he answer the phone calls Mrs. O’Connell made as the weeks dragged on.

The O’Connells later found out that he is suspected of bilking at least 11 others out of their money, too.
Excerpt from “Learn from Other People’s Contractor Horror Stories” from NewsChannel5.com.

Jason Brooks is another former customer of Carlton’s.

Brooks paid him $50,000 to build an addition for his in-laws.

As he walks around the half-finished project, he points out different areas where there are problems. Much of Carlton did, Brooks tells NewsChannel 5 Investigates, failed inspection. And then, he says, Carlton vanished and wouldn’t return calls.

“He’s turned what was supposed to be a dream project into a complete nightmare,” Brooks shares.

But perhaps what is most surprising is that Carlton knows what he’s doing is wrong.

Our investigation found that he’s been arrested repeatedly for working as a contractor without a professional license. We also found that he’s ignored repeated orders by the state to stop working until he gets a license.

And, get this. He’s even used someone else’s license, claiming it was his.

Jason Brooks believes, “He doesn’t care. That’s the thing. He doesn’t care about this. He doesn’t respect the law.”

Gene Spitzer adds, “We just thought cause he was a minister, he would be a decent human being.”

Tips on choosing the RIGHT home remodeling contractor:

Tips from the BBB: Hiring a Contractor – Do you know the Red Flags?:

PA State Rep Joseph Preston, Jr: “Check for Home Contractor Registration”:

 

When it’s time for your Lancaster County, PA renovations – Trust MBC:

May 14, 2012

The best value in Lancaster County, PA Home Remodeling.

Filed under: Tips on Choosing Your Remodeler — Tags: , , , — MBCremodeling @ 12:04 pm

Not all Lancaster County, PA remodeling contractors are the same. We feel we are the best value in the area, and here is why.

MBC Building & Remodeling, LLC Customer Commitments:

1. You will NOT be sold. We are consulting with you on your family’s project. We will discuss specific options and ideas with you, and not things that you don’t need or want.

2. You will know EXACTLY what is included and will be performed in our proposal price, with no hidden fees or fluctuating estimates. This includes a payment plan, which will not require, as by PA law, more than 1/3 down payment.

3. You will know EXACTLY who will be here and what they will be doing. EVERYDAY.

4. We offer a 5-year Warranty (vs. the industry average of 1 year) so you know that no matter what may happen, we will ALWAYS be here to take care of it for you, promptly and professionally.

5. When we are on your project, we are here to work. No excessive breaks, no goofing around. From 7am to 3:30pm Monday through Friday we will be focused on creating your DREAM HOME.

6. Your family and your home will be treated as if it was our very own, with respect, care and courtesy.

When it’s time for a new sunroom, a home addition, bathroom, kitchen, deck or basement renovation, give us a call!

Thank you!

Home_Remodelers_Lancaster_PA

Matt & Mike Blank

Matt & Mike Blank
MBC Building & Remodeling, LLC
[717] 371.5136

January 6, 2012

What is Full-Service?

Filed under: Tips on Choosing Your Remodeler — Tags: , , , — MBCremodeling @ 4:51 pm

We are often asked what we mean when we say we are a Full-Service remodeling contractor here in Lancaster County, PA. Full-service means understanding that every project is unique. And it means working with each and every customer in whatever capacity they need us. Don’t like drywall (who does?) but love to paint? No problem. We can leave finished drywall in a home addition or basement remodel and you can paint to your heart’s delight. Find an AMAZING deal on flooring online? We can install products for you without ordering them. Or we can take care of everything if that’s what you want.

Kind of reminds me of this song…

Is your Lancaster, PA home remodeling contractor Full-Service? Any way you want it, MBC Building & Remodeling, LLC will take care of it!

Thank you for reading!

Home_Remodelers_Lancaster_PA

Matt & Mike Blank

MBC Building & Remodeling, LLC
PA Reg#: 1024
Lancaster County, PA Home Remodeling
[717] 371.5136

August 23, 2010

Home Improvement Projects Made Easy (Part 1)

Filed under: Tips on Choosing Your Remodeler — Tags: , , — MBCremodeling @ 11:48 am

Everyone in Lancaster County, PA has heard the expression, “You get what you pay for?” This saying is never more relevant than when discussing your home remodeling project. Going by price alone increases the risk of a project failure… and higher costs down the road. With the proper planning and a knowledgeable contractor, you can be assured of a job well done at a reasonable cost. Remember that home improvement can be a fun experience for you and your family too. You should always choose the contractor you feel most comfortable working with. Here are some tips to get the most out of your next home project:

1. Connect with your contractor. The right person for the job will be easy to talk to.
2. Do you see eye to eye? Be sure to hire a contractor that understands your goals and has experience in the type of work you are looking for.
3. Understand the price of the materials may reflect their quality. Ask your contractor for their recommendations. Is it worth it to cut corners if it’s a temporary fix?
4. The lowest bid may not be the best candidate. Request a written description of the materials necessary for the job. A low bid may indicate a contractor that uses sub-par materials or is desperate for work. The more accurate bid is likely somewhere in the middle.
5. Get involved by keeping the lines of communication open. Insist on regular contact by e-mail, phone or text. Allow the work crew to manage their day-to-day work, but set up a weekly face-to-face update from the foreman.
6. What’s in a name? Abbreviations behind your contractor’s name can represent certifications from national trade organizations and that company belonging to certain organizations that bound them to a strict code of ethics. Such abbreviations include: CGR & CAPS and BIA & NAHB.
7. Get it in writing. Your contract should detail time frames, the total cost, payment arrangements, your contractor’s license number, project description, names of parties involved, and how to handle additional costs if necessary.
8. Be cautious if you are not given a timeline for the job to be completed. This may indicate the contractor has several current jobs and may not complete your job timely.
9. Record key contact information for everyone working on your project.
10. Be upfront about your budget. If necessary, break the project down into mini-projects. Although this may increase the total cost due to repetitious start-up expenses and inflation, it may be a better option for you to spread the cost out over time.
11. Is your contractor insured? This is a must; otherwise you are liable if a member of the work crew becomes injured on the job.
12. Educate yourself on what permits are required and what regulations need to be followed. Your contractor or architect should be responsible for applying for and acquiring all necessary permits.
13. Ask for information about what’s going on behind the scenes. The cost of the job will increase if the contractor is surprised by outdated wiring or other concealed budget-busters.
14. Organize your job-related documents (such as the contract and contact information) in a readily accessible file.
15. Make space for the work crew to keep their supplies and equipment on site. The more organized and accessible these items are, the faster they will be able to do their work.

Your dream kitchen is within your reach, your new family room awaits! Stay tuned for more tips next month.

Matt Blank
MBC Building & Remodeling, LLC

May 17, 2010

Frequently Asked Questions About Remodeling

Filed under: Tips on Choosing Your Remodeler — Tags: , , — MBCremodeling @ 1:01 pm

Why 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.

When is it time to remodel?
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 . . .

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.

What are some remodeling ideas?
Before you head too far down the remodeling path, it’s a good idea to think through your wants and needs:

  • Decide what changes you want to make.
  • Ask yourself and other family members what you like and dislike about the house, then create a prioritized list.
  • Look at magazines and collect pictures of what you like.
  • Think about traffic patterns, furniture placement, colors, lighting, and how you want to use the remodeled space now and in the future.

For more ideas on remodeling your home to make it more comfortable, modern, and valuable, check out this article from NAHB.org.

How do I plan a remodel?
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.

If you’ve decided you want to hire a remodeling contractor, learn how to choose a professional, avoid contractor fraud, and make your dream home reality.

How do I pay for a remodel?
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 (second mortgage), and a cash-out refinancing of your current mortgage. However, the simplest method of financing is cash.

How do I find a professional remodeler?
When you hire a remodeler, you are buying a service rather than a product. The quality of service the remodeler provides will determine the quality of the finished product and your satisfaction with the result. To ensure your satisfaction, make sure you hire a qualified, professional remodeler.

Look at our How to Choose Your Remodeling Contractor resource guide for tips and questions to ask potential remodelers, plus qualities to look for in a remodeler.

What should I expect during the remodel?
While remodeling can be an exciting process, it can also present unexpected challenges. Many problems can be avoided by planning ahead. Check out these 10 Tips for a Smooth Remodel.

Thanks to NAHB.org for the info!

December 23, 2009

How To Choose Your Remodeling Contractor

As anyone who has any experience working with contractors will tell you, finding the RIGHT contractor for your project entails much more than just finding the lowest price. Less tangible items like your ability to communicate and feel comfortable working with your contractor will inevitably prove to be much more important in determining your eventual satisfaction with the job – particularly if it’s a large project.

It’s always good to start your search with local building associations, like the Building Industry Association of Lancaster, National Association of Home Builders and the Better Business Bureau for accredited contractors in your area. You also want to make sure the contractor specializes in Home Remodeling and not Home Building. While they sound similar, they are very different. After you get a few names, the following are important tips that will help you choose the right contractor for your Home Improvement project:

Ask For References

Talk to homeowners this contractor has done work for in the past. Were they satisfied with the work? Did they keep the job site clean? Was the work finished? Did the contractor keep to the agreed-upon schedule? Did the contractor return phone calls?

Get Two or Three Specific Written Bids

Different contractors can vary widely on pricing and level of detail even when bidding for the same job. Make sure and get several estimates on your project, especially if it’s a large project. As much as possible, make sure that you explain the job fully to each of the contractors to ensure each one bids on the same exact job so that you can compare the estimates ‘apple-to-apple’.

DO NOT Automatically Accept the Lowest Bid

The old saying “you get what you pay for” applies here. A higher bid may be worth the price in better materials, workmanship and reliability. A large number of complaints filed against contractors are the result of homeowner taking the lowest bid and then being unhappy with the low quality of work. Even when the contractor promises to do the same job, be careful – often contractors will bid a job extremely aggressively in order to get it. When the work takes longer than originally planned, the contractor can feel ‘squeezed’ by the budget and try and cut corners. What you ‘save’ up front could easily cost you when they don’t guarantee the estimate and charge you much more then promised. It could also actually DECREASE the value of your home because of unprofessional work.

Make Sure Your Contractor is Properly Registered

It is very important to know that a license is not an endorsement of the quality of work. It does however provide some financial protection for you, the customer. As of July 1st, 2009 Contractor Registration is required in the state of Pennsylvania. Their registration number should be on all paperwork they show you. You can verify any contractors’ registration with the Attorney General.

Make Sure Your Contractor is Properly Insured

Ask your contractor for a copy of his proof of liability insurance and workman’s comp insurance or the name and number of his/her insurance agent to call and verify proof of coverage.

Most Importantly… Do You Trust This Person to Work on Your Home?

When it comes down to it, the most important thing to check is your own gut feeling. How do you feel about this contractor working on what is probably your single largest investment – your home? Do you trust this person inside your home? Around your children? Can you communicate well with this person about the project? Are they ‘in tune’ to your needs?

I hope you found this information useful. Choosing the right contractor for your project is the most important step to guaranteeing your satisfaction, and will make all the difference in the long term.

[This article was also published in the Lancaster Newspapers Spring Home, Lawn & Garden Issue on Page 2.]

Until next time,

Mike Blank, CGR CAPS

www.MBCRemodeling.com

December 17, 2009

The Importance of a Remodeler’s Warranty

I was recently interviewed for LowesforPros.com (published by Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse) regarding the importance for Remodeler’s to have a Warranty on ALL work. Check it out here.

I recommend you always make sure anyone doing major improvements to your home has a warranty.

Thanks!
Mike

Mike Blank, CGR CAPS, is the owner of MBC Building & Remodeling, LLC based in Lancaster County, PA. With over 30 years of Remodeling experience, Mike is past Chairman of the Lancaster BIA Remodelers’ Council and a multiple BIA Design Winner. You can contact him at (717) 371.5136 or Mike@mbcremodeling.com.

The Shocking Blue Green Theme Blog at WordPress.com.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,341 other followers