GREAT EXPECTATIONS... What do Renovations and Violins Have in Common? - July 4th 2008
One of my earlier lessons in the world of contracting came twenty seven years ago in the backyard of a home owned by two elderly gentlemen. We had just completed a siding installation job on their home and I found myself defending the quality of the siding joints and mitre cuts on the vinyl trim. It all seemed rather bizarre to me because the job was well done from my perspective (which concurred with industry standards). From their perspective it was not.
After much debate I was finally able to zero in on why we were so far apart in our opinions. I was informed that their life work included the building of violins. Their point of reference came from the exactness required in creating a musical instrument. Their attempts to transfer the preciseness of their world to the installation of vinyl siding resulted in certain disappointment, and I made a decision at that time to take the time necessary to explain to my future customers more specifically what we could do and maybe even more important , what we could not do before starting the job.
Over a quarter century later I am still learning lessons on how to be proactive in managing customers' expectations. The purpose of this exercise is not to lower the expectations so that inferior work will be acceptable but rather to match the level of quality and service to the reality of the product and the economics of the job.
Here are a few areas that may be beneficial for both the contractor and the homeowner to be clear on before the renovation begins.
Start dates, scheduling and finish dates
Projecting an exact date to start a project two to three months down the road is a formidable challenge for any contractor. Factors including weather, present work loads and worker availability should all be discussed so both parties are conscious of the need to continually keep updated so there are no surprises on "start day".
Both service and product aspects are closely linked to the world of expectations. As contractors, our challenge to stay on a schedule has escalated with the arrival of a myriad of new products that are marketed to our consumer. Experience tells us that new products often bring new problems such as availability and unknown installation times. These factors can have a major impact on scheduling beyond the control of the contractor, no matter how good the intentions are. Ask your contractor about the availability of the products selected for the job and where the potential problems could arise.
The majority of homeowners underestimate the level of disruption that a renovation causes to their routine of life. When delays occur as a result of changes made by the homeowner or a backorder from a supplier the disruptions intensify. Most contractors would prefer not to spend any time dwelling on the negative "what if's" especially before a job is even started. The reality is that most renovations encounter both changes and unforeseen challenges. These changes need to communicated and dealt with in a predetermined way.
Quality of workmanship and products comes in variety of degrees
Remember the musicians? What may be acceptable to one person may not be adequate for another.
There are some products that seem to come to the forefront when we are talking expectations. Paint colors are definitely one of them. A color is chosen from a one inch by one inch paint sample. The room is painted and now it doesn't look like they expected it to look. Picturing the room with all the elements at its completion is often difficult to an untrained eye. This problem is often eliminated by incorporating a professional decorator to help with these decisions. If that is not in the budget you could consider purchasing a small amount of paint and do a test wall before the painter is scheduled to arrive.
Natural wood finishes also bring out varying expectations. Cedar sunrooms are a good example of this. Clear cedar comes in very light, very dark and everything in between. To some, this is the beauty of natural wood and to others this variance is viewed as a mismatch of material. The same can be said for cabinet products and an experienced contractor can bring these scenarios up for discussion to ensure you will be happy with the end result.
Dust and Clean up
No write up on renovation expectations would be complete with out a paragraph on dust, dirt and cleanup. Don't kid yourself; your renovation does not occur in a vacuum. Precautionary measures can be taken so don't be hesitant in discussing with your contractor, steps that could minimize the amount of cleanup that will be required before, during and after completion.
A good relationship with a trusted contractor and a little extra time spent at the beginning of your project can go a long way towards making your expectations a reality.
Shell Busey's Home Service Referral Network
Shell Busey's Home Services Referral Network, has forged relationships with many reputable services and trades companies, and maintains a strict qualification process by which contractors are tested against before they are registered as members.
This is to insure that any company working under Shell Busey's Home Services Referral Network logo is guaranteed to do the best job for you the homeowner, and take into account all of the above considerations, even if you don't.
Having your home renovated can be an exciting, and at times stressful experience depending on the communication between the homeowner and contractor, and the expectations of both parties. Make the safe choice and go with a contractor guaranteed to do the job properly.