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Home Improvement Guide 2007
Get ready
Before starting any home improvement project, research and planning is the key to successful results.
Hiring a professional
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Strite says combining the two into a single team simply makes sense. Because everyone is invested in the result, design/remodel firms also tend to use higher quality subs. While they won't typically be the lowest bidder, Strite says they're the best choice for return on investment.

"You get a lot more product for the dollars through a design/remodel firm," he says. "We design for our people to build so we're not doing a full set of architectural bid-set plans with every nut, bolt and washer included. We want to put that money into the project and not into the design."

He adds: "With design/remodel, you have the best of right brain and left brain. The client gets the best of both worlds."

The homeowner from hell
Once the work begins, all remodeling pros are alert for the warning signs that they've signed on with the homeowner from hell.

Bob Larson, a self-employed plumber in Tacoma, Wash., says the most common variety is the homeowner who scampers down to the local hardware superstore and hauls back low-priced fixtures and fittings.

"A lot of times, if the homeowner doesn't know what they're doing, they will buy sinks and faucets that are incompatible. That means extra time and trips to come back while they get that straightened out," Larson says. "And a lot of times they'll buy cheap garbage like plastic faucets that cost me extra time to get to stop leaking. If I'm buying the stuff, I buy what I know is good quality that I don't have to mess around with."

Larson says it's common practice in the trades to mark up the cost of materials anywhere from 15 percent to 20 percent. Mess with that formula at your peril.

"If the homeowner wants to buy their own fixtures and I'm not making a profit off it, I'm under no obligation to come back and fix it if something goes wrong, whereas if it's a sink that I've installed, then I will come back," he says. "If there's a warranty issue, it might cover parts but it won't cover labor. If it's something that I've made a profit on, I'll supply the labor and get it fixed."

-- Posted: April 4, 2007
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