Beginning a Successful Home Renovation

I just finished reviewing the contract and scope of work for a large residential renovation project, so I’m sharing the advice that I gave my client as she began her renovation.  At the start of any project, I check licensing, insurance, and then carefully review the contract.

Licensing:  Ask your General Contractor (GC) to provide their license number so you can verify they are licensed and in good standing with the Contractors State License Board.   Make sure that the license is active, and that the proper bonds and insurance are current.  If there are complaints on file, read those and check to see if they were resolved.  If there are mechanical or electrical changes/additions in your project, ask the GC to provide the license numbers for all of the sub-contractors on your project.  If you must submit drawings for a permit that requires an Architect’s stamp, you can do the same check using their license number at the California Architects Board.

Insurance:  GC’s, architects, and designers all need to carry insurance for their protection and yours.  All of these professionals should carry General Liability (GL) insurance, so ask them to provide you with current GL certificates.  GC’s should also provide a Worker’s Compensation certificate, and designers should provide an Errors & Omissions certificate.  Each of these certificates needs to list you as “additionally insured”.  If you proceed without these certificates, you alone assume the risk and liability for the project.

Contract:  When reviewing the contract for the project, pay close attention to the project schedule.  Ideally, the schedule should have clear start and end dates for each task.  If that level of detail is missing, then it will be hard for you to hold the GC accountable to the schedule.  The contract should also state when progress payments are due. This will ensure that you are not paying for work that hasn’t been performed.  The final item, and one of the most confusing and potentially contentious, is the deposit paid upon signing the contract.  California law states that the deposit should be $1,000 or 10% of the project value, whichever is LESS.  Some GC’s will tell you they need a larger deposit to buy materials, and this indicates that they are cash-strapped and trying to stay afloat on other projects.

Managing your renovation will be stressful, especially if you’re in and out of town.  Hopefully these tips will help get you started; and if you’d like additional guidance, I’m an experienced construction manager ready to advocate for your interests.

Common inspection observations



This week I did several inspections, and each of the homes had some common observations.  Here are my top three along with tips for home owners:

  1. Missing  ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) receptacles:  these outlets are required by NEC (National Electric Code) for protection against electric shock–especially near water sources.  They are required in bathrooms, garages, outdoors, unfinished basements, crawl spaces, kitchens (including the receptacle for the dishwasher), laundry/utility/wet bars and pool/spa areas.  The most common observation is that GFCI receptacles are installed in bathrooms but forgotten in kitchens.  So, take a tour around the house to see where this common hazard may be hiding.
  2. Missing or improperly located detection devices for smoke and carbon monoxide:  building code requires one smoke detector for each bedroom, and carbon monoxide detectors installed outside each sleeping area in the immediate vicinity of the bedrooms on each level of the home.  This includes basements with fuel fired appliances like furnaces, water heaters and gas stoves.  Make a list of these areas in your home, and be sure that you know where each detection device is, and what kind of batteries it takes.  Put a note on your calendar, or a reminder on your phone, to check your batteries twice a year when you change your clocks.
  3. Roof debris:  I commonly see a build up of organic debris (leaves, berries, palm fronds, etc.) in roof valleys.  This is particularly common after a wind storm.  The strong winds can lift the tiles and debris gets wedged between the tile edges.  When built up roof debris gets wet, it can prematurely deteriorate the underlayment.  Premature deterioration can lead to dry rot of the framing, and create an environment conducive to mold growth.  This type of hidden damage can go undetected until it becomes a costly problem.  Check your roof quarterly, and after a big wind storm, to ensure that debris is not collecting in the roof valleys.