Home improvement, also known as house remodeling or renovation, is the process of upgrading an existing home interior (such as electrical and plumbing) or exterior (masonry, concrete, siding, roofing). Projects may include maintenance and repair work; constructing additions; making improvements to gardens and garages; or improving safety and security.
Homeowners are increasingly choosing to make repairs or renovate their existing homes instead of buying new ones, even though the cost of home ownership is soaring. They’re repairing a damaged roof, updating their HVAC systems, or sprucing up their kitchens and bathrooms to improve their comfort and style.
In the last two years, more than a half-trillion dollars in home improvement projects were completed by Americans. But homeowners say they’ll be more cautious going forward, citing high inflation and a potential recession.
If you’re thinking about taking on a home renovation, here are some tips to help you avoid common problems and make sure you get the best possible results.
The first step to any successful home improvement project is to plan it. It’s best to map out what you need to do, including how much it will cost and how long the project will take.
It’s also important to get bids from multiple contractors for the same work so you can compare costs and services. Be sure to ask about experience, reputation, and length of time in business.
You should also check to see if the contractor has liability insurance, and get references. You can also find out if the company has a contract with an arbitration clause that will settle any disputes between you and the contractor in a neutral, third party court.
A homeowner should always use a licensed contractor. This ensures that the contractor is experienced, qualified, and insured. If you hire a company that isn’t properly licensed, you could end up with an unsatisfactory job and potentially face serious liability.
In Maryland, all home improvement contracts must be in writing and signed by both you and the contractor. You should also be sure to obtain warranties for materials and workmanship.
If a homeowner is in need of assistance with repairs, the state offers the Home Improvement Program to help low- and moderate-income homeowners pay for major home system upgrades. This program is available through the Department of Human Services’ Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) and can be applied for online.
Some contractors offer free estimates before beginning the job, but you should never sign a contract without getting a full price quote. That way, you can determine if you can afford the project before you begin.
Many contractors also offer payment plans, which can make the whole project easier to manage and ensure that you can stick with it until completion. You’ll save money in the long run by using a payment plan and not paying the entire amount upfront.
When it comes to selecting a home improvement contractor, the quality of work and professionalism can vary significantly from one firm to the next. You should do your homework by requesting written bids, verifying license and insurance, and checking references. You should also get your contract in writing and ask that it be signed before any work begins or payment is made.