Angie's List: How to avoid remodeling problems

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Remodeling a room in your home can be exciting and rewarding with kitchen and bathroom makeovers often returning as much as 80 percent of the original investment -- if the job gets done right.

If not however, it can be costly and frustrating. This week’s Angie’s List report focuses on a project gone wrong so yours can go right. 

Shannon Roberts dreamed about having a new master bath in place before her fourth and fifth children were born over the summer. The project started great and finished on time and on budget, but her dream became a nightmare just months before her trip to the delivery room. 

“I didn’t realize how different it was until it started leaking through my ceiling into my kitchen and that’s when you find out that the underneath part was not as pretty as the finished product,” Roberts said.

“It was quite a challenge trying to shift everything to using a… small, little basement bathroom while your shower’s leaking, and then you’ve got damage to your kitchen,” Jake Roberts said.

The shower leaked; the tub’s cold water stopped working; fixtures fell off; other problems developed, too. That’s not what the Roberts expected for their five-figure investment.

“In the construction world, the assumption is that everybody in it is going to operate at the same level of quality and integrity, and that’s not always the case,” Jon Guy of Guyco Homes said.

The original contractor told Shannon and Jake that the job was out of warranty. Instead of fighting, they hired Jon Guy to fix the problems, and that’s when they discovered how little information they received from their first hire. 

“One of the key issues that pop up in remodeling projects that go wrong is lack of communication, and sometimes that can be an oversight on the front end. You don’t think about making sure you have someone you can communicate with easily, regularly and you can speak your mind, because solving problems early make them a lot smaller problems,” Angie’s List Founder Angie Hicks said.

The Roberts now know that. They consulted three companies, but didn’t do a thorough reference check, and the choice to go with the lowest bidder became a very expensive lesson.

“You’ve got to take time to do a little research. It cost us a lot of money,” Roberts said.

Angie says you need to get at least three estimates so you can know if you’re paying a fair price, but don’t look only at the project cost. Examine all the details and ask questions if you don’t understand something. Find out how the contractors’ work holds up over time by talking to past clients. Tie payment to progress and hold back at least 10 percent until you’re fully satisfied with the work.

Angie's List