Information & Renovating Tips

Starting a renovation or building a new home seems like a daunting task. There is both a financial and an emotional investment. Most homeowners don't know what to expect or even how to best manage the process. At Torbilt, we believe in helping our clients make the best decision for their home and family.

The steps in planning to build or renovate include:

1. Determine your budget.

Determine what your budget is and how you will finance the project. Since your budget will determine the reality of your project, you should begin securing your financing.

2. What are your goals.

Write down your specific goals. Create initial specs and/or a wish list. What kind of materials do you like? Try to determine the amount of space you need and how you will use it. Do you prefer tile or hardwood? Do you want additional or special moldings, sky lights or other added features? What type of fixtures do you prefer? What styles do you like? Even though your specs will change later, an initial list will provide an "apples to apples" comparison of builders and architects. Often homeowners start the process by talking to contractors with little consistency from meeting to meeting. Thus, bids can vary greatly in scope and cost. Having a list put together keeps everyone on the same playing field.

3. Hire and architect.

Hire an architect. Not only can the architect help guide your budget, but a professional architect will design the best layout and concepts based on your goals, home style, property site and neighborhood. In addition, NJ law prohibits construction firms or contractors from drawing up plans. Therefore, professional architects can also save many headaches by proper planning for structure support, wiring, and pipes in the blueprints--something the average homeowner cannot do.

4. Do your research.

Get names and do some research on construction firms. Start your list by asking your neighbors, friends and family who they used for their project – especially if you like the work. Also, your architect may know of, or work with, a firm regularly. It is very important that the architect and builder can work well together, so their referral is valuable. Make sure the firm has a license for the type of work they are doing – and that they only used licensed subcontractors. They should also be insured. Check public sources of information such as the State Attorney's office, BBB.org and other consumer websites for complaints against the company. If there are any complaints find out if they have been resolved satisfactorily. Make sure to find out how long the company has been in business. Not only does that tell you how much experience they may have, but it is a good indicator of stability.

5. Screen your options.

Phone screen selected construction firms. Make the call to set up an appointment and ask a few basics. How big is the firm? Have they done similar projects? Are they responsive to your messages? Make sure they sound professional on the phone.

6. In person interview.

Conduct an interview in person. Make sure to ask important questions, such as: How many projects do they do at once? Who will be on site daily to manage the project? What is their work philosophy? Do they have an extensive list of references? Does the firm's representative appear professional? Can they show you samples of their work or other information about their company? Do they do other work in the area or community? Is there a formal bid process? Do they have professional recognition, awards or affiliations? Can you check out any of their projects? Chances are if they are providing you with a professional presentation, you will receive the same service throughout the project.

7. Request a Proposal.

Request proposals. Based on the specs you developed in step 2, you will want to get formal bids from three or four of the top construction firms you picked. You will want to pay attention to the following: How is the bid prepared? Does it clearly outline the scope of the project such as costs, time frames, specs and deliverables? Does the bid seem significantly lower than the rest of the quotes? If so, be cautious. Some firms will underbid to get the job, but have many unexpected "add ons" later. With the exception of unforeseen conditions or client changes and upgrades, the result may be a much higher bill than you anticipated. A good rule of thumb: take the average of all the bids and add 10%. Better to over estimate the cost than get surprised later. Also, look for firms that manage your price expectations well. Your wish list can always be pared down to meet your budget.

8. Ask Questions.

Ask questions. Don't be afraid to clarify your thoughts and to communicate. A good construction firm will step you thru the process and communicate regularly with you, the architect and the vendors.

9. Payment Plan.

Pay in steps. A 10% deposit is standard practice with payment at intervals based on completed work.

10. Enjoy.

Enjoy your new home!

What People Are Saying

This letter sends out sincere thanks to you for doing such a terrific job on the front walk and porch of our house.
Joe, Berkley Heights, NJ

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