How to Find the Perfect Contractor

Whether you’re thinking about renovating the guest bath or want to give the master bathroom the whirlpool tub you’ve always dreamed of, you’ll want to find the right contractor – because a home remodel is only as good as who you hire. As a result of the sluggish housing market, many Americans are staying in their homes for a longer amount of time, and many are choosing to remodel and renovate along the way. With these tips, you can be sure you choose the perfect contractor for the job.

Personal Referrals

Chances are, you have a few friends and family members who have recently remodeled or renovated their home. By asking those whose homes have recently gone through remodels their opinion on their contractor, you’ll be able to get personal testimonials from a trusted source. Also, be sure to keep an eye out for neighbors’ projects that seem to be going well. The advantages of personal referrals include opinions you can truly trust, the option to gauge the quality of work firsthand, and, in all likelihood, the referring friend or family member has already shopped around to find the best offer in the area.

Make Plans & Get Bids

Once you have a list of contractors whose track record is clean and work ethic seems responsible, you’ll want to stop looking back at their past work and start looking forward to your own project. A reliable contractor will not only want a complete set of blueprints, but a general idea of what homeowners want out of the project and what they’d like to spend. In order to best compare bids, ask each contractor to break down the total cost into the following categories: materials, labor, profit margins, and other expenses. Generally, materials should account for 40% of the total cost, with the rest covering overhead. A typical profit margin for home renovation work is 15-20%, depending on the size and depth of the job.

Don’t Let Price Be Your Guide

If an offer sounds too good to be true, chances are it is. In fact, many contractors and home design professionals urge homeowners to throw out the lowest bid, as it could be a sign of desperation or low-quality work. Beyond technical competence, homeowners should look for someone they’re comfortable with. The single most important factor in choosing a contractor should be how well the two parties are able to communicate. At the end of the day, it’s better to spend more and work with someone you’re comfortable with, then spend less and end up with a contractor who is difficult to work with.

Confirm Licensing and Insurance

If your state licenses contractors, you can typically do an online license check. As far as insurance goes, the Better Business Bureau’s website indicates what the insurance requirements are for each state – so that’s a good place to find pertinent information. At the minimum, all contractors should have worker’s compensation insurance, so you’re not financially liable if one of their employees injures themselves while on the job. To verify, ask to see a copy of the contractor’s certificate of insurance. Any reliable contractor should have these items on hand and will gladly provide them upon request.

Don’t Ignore Red Flags

With a large number of scam artists posing as professional contractors, homeowners should be aware of who they’re dealing with. If a contractor pressures you for a quick hiring decision, accepts only cash, wants to skip the building permit, tries to cut you a deal using materials leftover from a previous project, or quotes a final price without seeing the job, consider cutting all ties and moving onto your next option. Although some reliable contractors solicit door to door, be wary if they’re not local to the area.

Put Everything in Writing

Once you’ve chosen a contractor, be sure to draw up a contract that details every step of the project, including payment schedules, proof of liability insurance, a start date, a projected completion date, specific materials and/or products to be used, and a requirement that the contractor obtain lien releases from all subcontractors and suppliers. Lien releases will protect you if he or she doesn’t pay their bills. Insisting on a clear contract isn’t a sign of mistrust, it’s a sign of insuring a successful renovation from start to finish. Happy home renovating!

Organize Your Linen Cabinet in a Few, Easy Steps

Linen cabinets are an awesome addition to any bathroom – they ensure extra towels and linens are always within reach and, depending on the style of linen cabinet chosen, can also act as a beautiful focal point in your bathroom space. Typically, linen cabinets are used as a catchall for bath essentials, towels, sheets, and personal hygiene products. With such a variety of items being stored, it’s easy for the space to become overwhelmingly cluttered. If you avoid opening the doors of your linen cabinet for fear of what lies within, these tips can help you condense and organize your linen cabinet.

Bundle Spare Sheets

For many people, the main source of their linen tower clutter is sheet sets that somehow get separated or tangled. By bundling sheets together, you can avoid mismatched sets and heavy piles that topple over. Sheets can be bundled together by stacking sheets in a wicker basket, or tying the sets together with leftover wrapping paper ribbons. Don’t forget to add labels so you’ll know which size bed the sheets are intended for. Aim to have at least two sets of sheets for each bed in the house.

Purge Frequently

How many times have you headed to Costco and bought toilet paper in bulk, only to realize you already had ten rolls hidden in the back of your linen cabinet? A common mistake many homeowners and renters make is purging linen closets and cabinets only when necessary. By adding linen closet organization to your monthly cleaning list, you’ll be able to keep a better inventory and avoid accidentally purchasing the same item twice. In order to better keep control of your inventory, try fixing a dry erase board on the inside of your linen cabinet – as items run low, make a note.

Utilize Hanging Hooks

Every space has a hidden potential if you’re willing to think outside the box and get a little creative. By installing hooks from the walls of linen cabinets, you can conveniently hang loofa, robes, towels, and whatever else you can think of. If you don’t want to go through the effort of purchasing and installing hooks, repurpose your old shower rod and hooks for linen cabinet storage. It’s as simple as trimming down the rod to fit in your linen cabinet, installing the rod towards the back of your linen cabinet, and hanging items like washcloths, hand towels, and spare loofas from the hooks.

Maximize Shelf Space

By using stackable boxes, bins, or basket for storing small items like cosmetics or first aid supplies, you can maximize vertical space on the shelves of your linen cabinet. Another good way to corral small items, like cotton balls and q-tips, together is to arrange them on a tray or in a drawer which you can easily slide in and out of your linen closet. For easy maintenance and cleaning, be sure to use a tray that’s both waterproof and wipeable. If you use your linen cabinet to store shower products while not in use, load up a caddy with bath products so you can easily move the products in and out of the shower.

Father’s Day: Bathroom Gadgets for Dad

Whether your dad is technologically savvy or new to the tech game, these bathroom gadgets are guaranteed to make the perfect Father’s Day gift, no matter his experience level. Forget about embarrassing him with another funky tie or cliché Hallmark card, and really put some thought into his gift this year. Here’s some ideas to get your creative juices flowing:

Heated Shaving Cream Dispenser

With a heated shaving cream dispenser, your dad’s favorite foam or gel will be warmed for a luxurious, close shave each and every morning. The product works with virtually any brand of foam or gel, and even comes with two separate nozzles. With an attractive, chrome-like appearance, the design of this shaving cream dispenser is sure to blend in with virtually any bathroom design. Setting up the dispenser is simple: use the included tool to pop the top off any standard can, attach the proper nozzle, adjust the heating preference, and in about two minutes the heated gel or foam will be ready to dispense.

The iPad Musical Shower Curtain

If you’d like to turn your dad’s shower into a media-rich bathing event, get him this iPad shower curtain. This shower curtain comes with built-in speakers and a waterproof pocket for an iPad. The shower-facing side of the pocket is made of touch-enabled material so he can navigate through a movie, jump from song to song on his favorite playlist, or even take a call while washing his hair. The integral audio cable of this product connects an iPad, iPhone, Android phone or MP3 player to two speakers in the upper left and right hand corners of the curtain, so he’ll never be bored in the shower ever again.

Single-Handed Soap Dispenser

If your dad’s a bit of a self-proclaimed germaphobe, he’ll love the unique design of this soap dispenser that can be operated with the back of one hand. To use, your dad will just have to place his hand into the C-shaped opening and press down firmly to dispense soap onto his fingers or into the palm of his hand. The dispenser is easy to fill and clean, comes with a soap-level indicator so he’ll never have to worry about running out of soap, and is suitable for all types of liquid hand soap. Additionally, this single-handed soap dispenser will keep the top of the pump cleaner and more hygienic.

Eco-Friendly Water Pebble

For the eco-conscious dad, this palm-sized pebble will take the guesswork out of water conservation by tracking exactly how much water he’s using during his daily shower. Programming the water pebble is easy: simply click the restart button on its base and place it near the shower drain. The pebble will measure his water usage and will flash future finishing times against this benchmark, reducing suggested stop times by 5-7 seconds each time he showers. Before your dad knows it, he’ll be enjoying shorter showers and conserving water in the process.

Towel Spa Towel Warmer

For dads who live in exceptionally cold areas of the United States (or those who just prefer to stay warm after a shower), this towel warmer will produce toasty towels, robes, and small blankets in just a few minutes. Traditional towel warmers take up to twenty minutes to work, but this product will warm your dad’s towels in less than six minutes – more than enough time for him to hop in the shower and enjoy a warm towel upon completion. This towel warmer is small enough to move from room to room, and can conveniently fit on dad’s bathroom counter. Something tells us mom is going to love this one, too!

Is There a "Best Time" to Remodel Your Bathroom?

While a bathroom renovation can technically take place at any time of the year, planning to renovate at specific times can help facilitate the process. Any type of home improvement project can take a great deal of time to complete – from hiring the contractors to choosing and ordering the products, it can be upward of six months before a renovation project has been completed. Homeowners who time their projects just right can take advantage of slow times in the design industry while capitalizing on deals.

The Best Time to Purchase Products

The best time of the year to purchase products, such as plumbing hardware or tile, is usually in the winter, after the holidays. The fall is a busy time for the design industry, since many homeowners are trying to complete their renovation projects before the holiday season. By holding off on purchasing products until December through March, you'll enjoy emptier showrooms, more attention from design consultants, and you may even be able to get products at lower prices through negotiation.

In an effort to move products quickly, many showrooms hold winter sales or specials and some may even offer flexible pricing. During this time, showrooms tend to experience a decline in foot traffic, making it easier for homeowners to take their time and get extra assistance from sales people. Even if you don't plan on starting the bathroom renovation project until the early summer, ordering products in the winter can save valuable time and money. In some instances, specific products can take over a month to arrive, so by planning ahead you'll also have a greater selection of products to choose from.

The Best Time to Hire a Contractor

Obviously, planning a project during contractors' busiest times is not a good idea. If your contractor is juggling a few other jobs in addition to yours, they're more likely to make a mistake. Additionally, when every contractor within a ten mile radius is putting in orders for toilets or sinks, there's a greater chance orders will be postponed or mixed up, causing all parties involved to experience aggravation and delays.

Ask any contractor their schedule, and usually they'll be booked from August to November. Fall is the busiest time of the year for home renovations of any type, due to the upcoming holiday season. To ensure the best contractor is able to take on your project, consider waiting until the spring to begin renovating. Slow times for contractors could also mean a reduction in pricing. If you're planning on renovating during the late summer or fall, be sure to book the contractor well in advance. Waiting too long can mean being forced to settle for a contractor, or paying more for the services offered.

The Benefits of Spring/Early Summer

The benefits of remodeling in the spring or early summer are too great to ignore. In addition to contractors being available and products being easily purchased, the days are longer and the weather in most areas of the United States is cooperative. If you're planning for a spring or early summer remodel, remember it's not unusual to book a job as early as six months in advance. That way, you’ll avoid having to scramble to get everything done before the start date. Happy remodeling!