A kitchen or bathroom makeover can be a major undertaking for any homeowner, in terms of stress, emotional investment and, of course, cost.
The price tag for a new bathroom or a new kitchen, for example, can run into the tens of thousands of dollars and take days or even weeks to complete.
And that’s why most home construction experts will tell you to understand several aspects of the process before you get started. Namely, it’s very important to build a relationship with your contractor. You should also have a clear understanding of your budget and what’s feasible by talking things through with whoever is managing the project. Know what you want — and what will work for your home.
“We tell clients to have a fairly good idea of what they’re looking for,” said Tim Hardt of Hardt Construction Services. “They don’t need all the details, because a good contractor should be able to help advise and guide them through the process.”
Hardt, who has taught a course on home remodeling at Bakersfield College’s Levan Institute, also advises home or commercial property owners to create a list of their “must-haves” and “would-like-to-haves” for the project, as well as any specific components they’ve seen that they’d like to mate.
It’s a bit of straightforward advice, but it’s critical.
How a homeowner approaches the project, including a willingness to understand that issues might arise, can make the difference in whether you come away with a dream home addition or disappointment due to expectations that might not have been realistic from the start.
Finding the right contractor
There are a lot of home construction companies, but the first thing you must do is make sure the contractor you’re thinking about working with has a valid and active professional license, which is absolutely essential. (It’s also illegal for anyone to do any project valued at $500 or more without a license, and the absence of such a license could mean the contractor doesn’t have the proper liability insurance, which could end up costing you as a homeowner much, much more in the long run, if things go wrong.) They should also be able to help take care of permitting for any major work that requires it.
“If you don’t permit (the work) … you’re setting yourself up for a big headache later,” said Patrick Clarksean, who, along with Lee’o Whisenant, runs Old Ironsides Construction, a local firm that works on “anything under the roof,” in terms of home-remodeling projects.
Clarksean also added that any contractor should be able to provide examples of work they’ve done and references, as far as clients who are happy with their work.
Contractors know what an important investment a major home-improvement project can be, and the peace of mind that can come from talking to a customer or two who can voucher for the work and that the contractor is reasonable to work with, can be invaluable. That’s one of the reasons that old-ironsides.com has a host of projects and testimonials, Whisenant said, adding that the contractors are always happy to provide references.
Rick Sorci of Stockdale Kitchen and Bath said for his clients, he likes to be “the best waiter/professor they’ve ever had,” because the time he spends working with someone before a project is started pays off huge dividends when it’s time to do the work.
After he creates a 3D schematic of what a property owner is looking for, he likes to take the time to accompany them to the stoneyard, for example, to pick out the right material for countertops. He said there are two reasons for this: He wants to make sure all the materials are in Bakersfield before a project is started. Especially in the era of COVID, not having the materials available can be a huge obstacle.
And while the Stockdale Kitchen and Bath showroom demonstrates the company’s handiwork, these trips give him the opportunity to offer advice and guidance on what materials would work best for a particular situation, as well as caution the customer against a product that might look nice, but not be the most practical choice. Marble, for example, can be pretty, but it’s not great for every scenario, as it can damage easily.
Making the right choice
While home upgrades can range from a DIY project such as running new lights around the house, which one can often do themselves, to a kitchen makeover, which you’ll want to have a licensed contractor for — it’s important to have an idea of what you’re able to spend, as well as what you’re looking to add or upgrade.
James McKay’s company, Modern Valley Construction, is another Bakersfield firm that specializes in home renovations and construction, and he mentioned that it’s a good idea to speak with a number of contractors, and it might not always be smart to go with the lowest bid — or at least not let that be the only determinant.
“That’s not necessarily the right choice to make,” McKay said. “(Property owners) need to compare … what are they getting, the quality of work that they’re getting, the quality of materials that are being used and the track record for those contractors, as well.”
Hardt shared similar advice, adding that online reviews can be an effective way of looking at what a contractor is claiming versus what their clients think of their work.
“The other thing too, is to look for consistency in the comments that you’re hearing and seeing online,” Hardt added. “Online reviews are awesome because people don’t hold back — good or bad.”