Monday, January 31, 2011

New Lead Paint Law - what's up?

Here's a portion of an article from the Wall Street Journal 5/10 written by SARAH E. NEEDLEMAN.

Contractors and other professionals who work on building renovations are worried that a new government ruling aimed at protecting against the risks of lead-paint poisoning will add another financial burden to their already distressed sector of the economy.

As of late last month, businesses that repair or renovate older buildings—specifically homes, schools and daycare centers built before the federal government banned the use of lead-based paint in housing in 1978—are required by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to adhere to strict lead-safe work practices. To comply with the new regulation, those working on older sites will need to invest in lead-testing kits, plastic sheeting, respirators, protective clothing and other lead-safety materials.

At least one worker involved in such projects will also need to become certified, at a cost of $300 every five years, and pay out-of-pocket for eight hours of training. Those who don't comply could face fines up to $37,500 a day.

Renovation activities that disturb lead-based paint can create hazardous lead dust and chips, the EPA says. The agency—which estimates that 87% of homes built before 1940 and 24% of homes built between 1960 and 1978 have some lead-based paint—launched a public-service campaign last month to warn consumers about the hazards of lead-paint poisoning, which can lead to nerve disorders, high-blood pressure and memory loss.

The new law went into effect in April, but the hazards of lead-based paint have long been known and many businesses have been taking precautions to protect against lead poisoning since the late 1970s. Sarah E. Needleman

I'm all for being more aware of and excersing more care when renovating a property which has lead based paint, mold or asbestos, however, the fines are really exhorbitant as you will see below.

You certainly can make the decision to not follow the guidelines but is it really worth getting a fine of this magnitude? I think not. My lead foreman has gotten the certification and we are working within the guidlines called for as far as paint prep goes.

It will raise the cost of a paint job simply because of the prep needed and the fact that if someone lives in the home the job-site must be cleaned every day and all new plastic, hazard suits, etc. are required at the beginning of each new day of work. I'm educating all of my clients and anyone who calls for a bid. I'm not taking any chances on getting a fine and it's simply time to not take any chances with our health.

Will the fines come down or, if one gets caught, be this high? Who knows, but not worth testing it to me.

Do your own research and make sure exactly what's going on with the paint in your home and that the contractor painting is certified, or not. It's your choice. I've heard that the homeowner could get fined if they choose to hire an uncertified person but I've not found any evidence of that so make sure before you go the less money route.

Again, it's all about clarity.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


A remodeling coach is a person with experience and extensive knowledge in the home improvement industry and offers customized teaching and mentoring to homeowners and contractors. Remodel coaching is a unique service designed to help bridge the communication gap between homeowners and contractors empowering both to navigate the challenges of home remodeling projects.

A coach acts as an intermediary between contractors and homeowners as a way to prevent remodeling nightmares.
Coaches help homeowners figure out what they want in a renovation, set a budget, compare bids, choose the right contractor, create a work/payment schedule, and shop for materials and supplies. Once a project starts, they can stay on top of the schedule, monitor the quality of work and act as a liaison should any disputes arise.
Unlike many contractors who are moving between jobs all day, a coach has the time to discuss a homeowner’s plans, suggest alternate and sometimes less expensive materials and designs and explain why things cost what they do. Most contractors are so busy they often do not take the time to answer homeowners’ questions as specifically as necessary, walk them through a project or offer suggestions about how to do something better and possibly more economically.
Perhaps most importantly, a coach can help save a homeowner’s time, money and sanity. Paying for a coach can be far cheaper than ending up with a project you aren’t happy with, or a job that doesn’t get finished because of an unresolved dispute. Remodeling nightmares do not have to happen. A remodeling coach will bring them to an end and ensure a positive remodeling experience for everyone.
One of the worst nightmares for a homeowner is a contractor who continually doesn’t show up daily and doesn’t communicate effectively. Some of the main concerns for homeowners include contractors who:
• Don’t write clear, easily understood contracts.
• Continually add charges to the job with no explanation.
• Aren’t available for questions or conversation.
• Want to do all work without permits and don’t discuss why permits are or are not needed.
• Leave a messy job-site.
• Want money when it’s not due.
• Want to do less work than the original bid/contract calls for.


A coach teaches contractors how to interview prospective clients so that they only take the very best rather than continually taking clients that they have red flags about or, out of desperation they may feel about having to get a job. A coach helps negotiate a clear contract that lays out, in total clarity, the details that pertain to their particular job and discuss the change order possibilities with homeowners so the job runs smoothly and according to schedule. The biggest area a coach helps contractors with is in preventing disputes with the homeowner by being honest and open about the money and mess of home improvement.

One of the worst nightmares for a contractor is a customer who continually asks for work to be changed or redone and has no concept why that would cost extra money. Some of the main concerns for contractors include homeowners who:
• Don’t pay on time or continue to haggle about what is due
• Look over their shoulder and hang around constantly
• Asking a series of questions without allowing work to proceed in a timely manner
• Request work to be done without permits
• Try to get contractors to do more work and not want to pay for it
• Try to renegotiate the price after the job has been completed
• Change their minds, followed by constant complaints and nitpicking

If you feel like a potential customer is a “red flagger”, don’t try to get out of the job by overpricing it. Simply say “Thanks, but no thanks.” It’s OK to say no to a potential nightmare. It’s really about choosing a homeowner that’s the right client for you and bidding jobs properly so that the cycle of under earning and, therefore, not making a profit stops. I encourage you to show up for yourself and earn the money you deserve and the respect you are worthy of.

There is much to be improved around this topic of remodeling nightmares and being part of the solution is the only thing that will contribute to the healing of this industry. Remodeling on purpose is a two way street. When contractors are running a profitable company and paying both themselves and their employees, they are running a business-on-purpose. When homeowners are open and honest about what they desire and come clean about their expectations they are initiating a relationship-on-purpose.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Clear Verbal Communication & Detailed Written Contracts Can Prevent Home Improvement Nightmares

Before starting major home improvements or modifications, you must build a solid foundation with clear communication, both verbally and with a written contract. A thoroughly detailed contract goes a long way in making sure that you and your contractor understand what work is to be done and what it will cost.

Your well-written and detailed contract should specify:

• All the work the contractor has estimated to perform and all the materials the contractor will use, including the quality, grade and brand of each material. Who will pay for said materials. If you have a set of plans, is the price layed out according to these plans?
• When the work will start and end with any possible, projected delays.
• Who is in charge of getting any necessary permits from the city or county. (Most people prefer the contractor to do this.) The cost of the permit and time involved in obtaining said permit(s) will be included in the bid.
• How and when you will pay for the work. A thoroughly outlined payment schedule with payments matching work performed.

Be sure that everything you’ve agreed to is written down, including any guarantees on the quality of work. If you don’t understand any of these items, ask a remodeling coach or attorney to go over the contract. Or, better yet, have that conversation with your contractor.

Also, before you sign any home improvement contract, it’s smart to find out what legal protections you have if things go wrong. Can you fire your contractor and under what conditions? This may vary from state to state.

Check the laws in your state. Be sure to get a copy of everything you sign and keep it in a file specified for this project.
What You Don’t Want
• Don’t approve any plans or blueprints unless you understand them.
• Never sign a contract with any blanks or that you do not understand.

If any of this is confusing or you would like more details, call me and allow me to unstick it for you.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Call to find out why our prices are higher.

Our prices are higher because the crew is highly trained. We show up on time, do the job right, and guarantee our work. We do not cut corners and we use only the best quality products. We do not stop until your project is completed and you are satisfied with our services.

There are two kinds of consumers - people who are looking for deals and people who are looking for quality. This doesn’t mean you don’t negotiate for the best deal or that you should pay more than you need to for a product or service. But there is a relationship between the investments you make and the returns you get. If you skimp on your investment(s) you will get skimpy returns.

This principle is as important to the service you offer as to the service you receive. If you spend a lot of time trying to keep your prices down, you may compromise the quality of your offering and lose business you might have gained if you gave 100%. So, instilling more quality in your offering will likely result in larger profits over time.

The Law of Attraction governs all business transactions whether you believe it or not: people who respect quality find each other and people who are looking for bargains find each other. Bargains are cool when they’re valid but not when they undermine quality.

I give my best and ask for it from others. I receive quality results for quality investments.

Those are just some of the reasons why my prices are higher.

Friday, January 7, 2011

What do you expect when it comes to price? Why do the bids differ so much?

I went on a coaching call recently. A gentleman called and asked me to come over to help him make sense of three interior painting bids he’d received. They ranged from $3,000 to $13,000. The first thing I told him was to get rid of the lowest bid; since I'd already looked around at what needed to be done, and I knew $3,000 wasn't enough. Then I looked at the other two bids and was able to distinguish the difference in the bids (what was included and what wasn't) and choose the one that was right for his project.

So many times people will look at the lowest bid and get way too excited about it without even considering what might not be included that would add extra costs to the job. Let's consider the $3,000 bid was for labor only and didn't include material such as primer, plastic, paint, etc. Depending on the size of the job, this could easily add over $1,000 to the cost.

When looking at bids and comparing them, one with the other, you really have to compare apples to apples so you are making an educated decision when choosing a contractor for your project.

This coaching call resulted in him saving $3,600 because we chose the right bid for his job.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Contractor - DIY

There are definitely two schools of thought. If you are going to act as your own GC you may think of it as a part-time gig or ask “how hard can it be”?

However, bottom line, “it comes with full-time expectations. Subs expect you to be on top of everything and have everything ready for them. It makes the difference in the job moving ahead smoothly and on time.” Thus quoted by homeowner Alan Koch of Portland, OR.

He’s absolutely right. Any of you who’ve acted as a GC/project manager on one of your own projects knows exactly of what he speaks.

I am the project manager on my jobs right now and have been in the past and it is definitely a full-time job. Not only because I’m working with the client but I’m also working with the subs and vendors.

I’ve often heard people say “well, I don’t think it’s worth the extra money to pay a contractor to manage the job when I can call all the subs myself and set things up.”

To that I say, really? Especially if you have a full-time job yourself. Also, where are you going to get the subs you use on the project? Have you worked with them before and are they trustworthy?

These are just some of the viable questions I would ask someone I’m coaching that wants to do it themselves.

Know it absolutely can be done by you but first, know your project, have a plan and be diligent about implementing that plan with clear, honest communication. Otherwise........who knows what nightmare you may be in for?!