Remodeling your home, whether we’re talking about updating the look of a guest bathroom or a second story addition, is a big decision…and quite possibly one of the biggest lifestyle investments you’ll make outside of the original purchase of your home. We naturally expect that our clients will have a lot of questions during the decision making process, and throughout the remodel.
We’ve dedicated this blog to publishing a running list of the most frequent, and most thought provoking, questions that we hear from our clients.
Q: What is a “trades party?”
A: A “trades party” is an important step in the process of creating a description of work (DOW) and a fixed price agreement for our remodel projects. At a trades party we invite our construction partners to the job site (i.e. your home) to review the project with our design and production staff and provide their input. By giving them the opportunity to share their expertise and experience at the onset of a remodel we not only identify potential challenges, but also potential savings. We also ensure that they fully share in the knowledge we have of the project plan, and can safely and profitably fulfill their part in its completion on time, within budget, and to the expectations of the homeowner.
For more information, read our blog post, Party Time!
Q: What is STRITE’s warranty policy?
A: Another, and more relevant, way of posing this question is to ask, “Does STRITE stand behind its work?” The immediate answer is a resounding, “yes!” — but the heart of this question gets down to the difference between “explicit” and “implicit.” Explicitly, all STRITE remodel agreements include a one year labor warranty, with materials and products subject to the warranties of their respective manufacturers and suppliers. Having said this, however, we should add that in nearly four decades of doing business, warranties have never been an issue for our company. The reason for this is not simply that we stand behind the quality of our work, but more importantly because we believe that, “once a STRITE customer, always a STRITE customer.” To better appreciate the “implicit” side of our warranty policy, read our blog post on the subject.
Q: Why does experience matter?
A: For most of us, it goes without saying that the more experience we have with doing something, the better we get at doing it. While this may be true for individuals, however, it isn’t necessarily the case with organizations — especially in an industry where every job is a “custom build.” Where the rubber meets the road is in how an organization builds “repeatability” into its processes — and how it in turn inculcates those processes (think “standard operating procedures,” if you will) in its staff and associates. For STRITE, this “repeatability” resides in our project database — a rich information source for how we approached a project, the costs associated with that approach, the challenges that arose, and most important, how we managed those challenges. For more insight into how repeatability benefits our customers, read our blog post “Why Experience Matters.”
Q: What does integrity mean in our business?
A: This is a frequently asked question that we can answer in six words: keeping our end of the agreement — which is, of course, another way of saying “doing the things we said we were going to do.” As an integral part of the STRITE culture, this value goes beyond the notion of contractual obligation. Sure, our contracts require us to produce what we’ve agreed to on paper, but our interpretation of “integrity” is more about truly having the best interests of our customers in mind throughout a project and beyond.
Q: What does “value” mean?
A: For us, the concept of value starts with how we see our business, which is to provide a high quality service and product. If you think about a “higher calling” associated with any business, ours is to fulfill a community need — and after all, improving peoples‘ homes is certainly an investment in the quality of a community. Focusing on this aspect of our business model, rather than on simply making money, forms the basis of how we look at value. To this, we add integrity (doing what we do honestly and professionally), talent, and experience. For more about how we define value, read our companion blog.
Q: What does it mean when we say we know our numbers?
A: “Knowing our numbers” is more than just a point of professional pride at STRITE — it is part of the value we bring to our clients when we undertake a remodel project. Knowing what things cost, based on years of experience with a wide variety of remodel situations, comes from tracking every cost for every project we’ve ever completed. This knowledge benefits our clients in two very tangible ways: it makes for an accurate estimate at the outset of a job (which translates into a fixed-price contract), and it ensures the absence of “change orders” through the life of the project. For a better understanding of what this means to our clients, read our blog, Knowing Our Numbers.
Q: What kind of relationship do we have with our local trades people?
A: Mutual respect, when it comes to our treatment of our trades partners as well as our clients, has been an indelible part of the STRITE culture for as long as we’ve been doing business. While this respect cuts both ways, there are other reasons that our trades partners tend to make our priorities their priorities. It’s good business. Our trades partners know that when they attend a “trades party” to preview an upcoming STRITE project, they are virtually assured of getting the job. They know that when they show up at a STRITE job site, it will be ready for them to get to work. Finally, they know that we pay when we say we’re going to pay, and that once they’ve met our qualification standards (which include being insured, bonded, and reliable), they can count on a consistent stream of jobs. All of these things contribute to the profitability of our trades partners, and benefit our clients by ensuring that the folks who work with us fit our schedules into theirs, rather than the other way around. For more on this subject, read our blog, Don’t Call Them “Subs”!.
Q: How long will my remodel take to complete?
A: The easiest answer to this question is that things take what they take — and not all remodel projects are created equal. There are, however, a couple of key factors to getting a project completed as quickly as possible. The first is organization…which in turn is a function of experience. Having done thousands of remodel projects over nearly 40 years, we know how the necessary sequence of tasks mesh, and how to condense them down to a schedule that lets us hit the ground running while avoiding the inefficiencies and errors that occur when people are trying to work on top of one another. There is, however, another factor that ultimately trumps experience when it comes to the timely completion of a remodel project: the willingness of your trade partners to make your priorities theirs. For more insight into this frequently asked question, read our blog How Long is it Going To Take?.
Q: How do we treat our clients?
A: For STRITE, customer relations is as necessary a cost of doing business as meeting our payroll. One of the legacies of our company’s founder, Jim Strite, was to make customer care not simply a rigorous discipline, but the subject of on going study. Rather than handing out reading assignments on new construction techniques, which our project managers were already inclined to learn as a matter of perfecting their craft, the STRITE team was asked to study books like “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.” As a result, STRITE’s weekly production meetings typically focus as much on the emotional states of our remodel customers as they do on construction details. To better understand STRITE’s approach to client relations, read an interview on the subject with vice president Brad Milspaugh.
Q: What is a DOW?
A: Try to imagine filming a blockbuster movie without the benefit of a script, and you have some idea of how integral a “description of work” (DOW) is to the successful completion of a remodel project. In essence, the function of the DOW is to take everything we’ve learned from our clients in discussing their project goals, everything our trades partners have told us about those aspects of the project they will contribute to, and all the costs and lead times for materials, appliances, fixtures, and finishes involved in the final outcome, and then compile this information into a “narrative” of how the remodel will proceed from beginning to end. For our clients, the DOW serves as a way of confirming that their expectations will be met, while giving them a way to gauge the project process. The DOW also provides the broader context for scheduling the work of our trades partners and for the creation of the project calendars we provide our clients. To better understand the role that the DOW plays in the overall remodel process, click here for an overview.
Q: How do we deal with mistakes?
A: Nobody is perfect — least of all builders. In any endeavor with as many details and complexities as a remodel, errors are bound to occur. Our goal is to minimize their frequency and impact through detailed planning and an in-depth knowledge of the construction process, and then take ownership of our mistakes if and when we make them. This, of course, begs the question of when something is a mistake versus an unforeseen situation that arises in the course of a project. Because STRITE routinely generates a “description of work” (DOW), we never try to hide behind a “change order” as a thinly disguised mistake — which is why we don’t use that term in our business. Between the DOW and our ongoing communications with our clients, there is never any doubt as to the difference between an outright error and a mere “complication.” The truth is, neither matters when it comes to our obligation to do the right thing, on time and within budget.
Just visited a Kitchen remodel that started last week and found a kid’s height view window custom installed in the construction wall by Ed Lee, the project manager. The children obviously appreciated the gesture!
According to NARI of Idaho, these are some warning signs to watch out for while interviewing your remodeler
Avoid remodelers at all costs when:
- You can’t verify the name, address, telephone number or credentials of the remodeler.
- The salesperson tries to pressure you into signing a contract.
- The company or salesperson says your home will be used for advertising purposes so you will be given a “special, low rate.”
- The builder/remodeler tells you a special price is available only if you sign the contract “today.”
- No references are furnished.
- Information you receive from the contractor is out-of-date or no longer valid.
- You are unable to verify the license or insurance information.
- You are asked to pay for the entire job in advance, or to pay in cash to a salesperson instead of by check or money order to the company itself.
- The company cannot be found in the telephone book, is not listed with the local Better Business Bureau, or with a local trade association, such as NARI.
- The contractor does not offer, inform or extend notice of your right to cancel the contract within three days. Notification in writing of your Right of Rescission is required by law. This grace period allows you to change your mind and declare the contract null and void without penalty (if the agreement was solicited at some place other than the contractor’s place of business or appropriate trade premises-in your home, for instance.)
In addition, be cautious when:
- You are given vague or reluctant answers.
- The contractor exhibits poor communication skills or descriptive powers.
- The contractor is not accessible.
- Your questions are not answered to your satisfaction.
- The contractor is impatient and does not listen.
- Only the work is addressed, instead of your needs as the homeowner.
- There is no presentation book of previous projects presented.
Questions to Ask References
To protect yourself, always check the contractor’s references. This is an essential stage of qualifying the right person for your project. Here are just a few questions to ask previous customers:
- Could they communicate well with the remodeler?
- Were they pleased with the quality of work? (This is a tough question, however, since everyone defines “quality” differently. It is much better to ask to see the completed project to determine the level of quality for yourself.)
- Were they satisfied with the remodeler’s business practices?
- Did the crew show up on time?
- Were they comfortable with the trades people the remodeler subcontracted to?
- Was the job completed on schedule?
- Did the remodeler fulfill his or her contract?
- Did the contractor stay in touch throughout the project?
- Were the final details finished in a timely manner?
- Would you use the remodeler again without hesitation?
Originally from NARI of Idaho website.