Remodeling when both adults work full-time?

jayneesJune 2, 2012

My husband and I are about to begin getting bids from contractors on a home addition we're planning. Now that we've gotten to this point, it begs the question:

How does one go through construction of a home addition when both adults in the household work full-time? One concern is that with us working full-time, we won't be around to answer "on the site" questions that a stay-at-home adult may be able to respond to. The other concerns is that once the wall between the addition and the existing home is broken through, the workers will have complete access to my entire house while my husband and I are at work.

I know we're not the first double-income family to build an addition, but I wonder if anyone else had the same mild fears about on-site questions and having random people gain access to the home during a remodel?

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on-site questions can be answered by cell phone. However, that will only work for workers who think to ask a question. There will be times when you get home and look at the progress, and say, "huh. That doesn't look right (or isn't what I thought'd be, etc"... So, you might need to consider in your contract how that will work/corrections will be made.

As for your stuff. Lock it up. Get a safe. Move it offsite. Etc. And, hire an honest guy.

    Bookmark   June 2, 2012 at 2:24PM
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Do you have pets? You also need to plan for how that will be handled. Our cat has been sequestered in the family room over the garage every day for almost 3 months as we put a new second floor on the house. And our dog goes to daycare like its his job :)

But the previous poster was correct, hire people you trust and don't leave stuff out.

    Bookmark   June 3, 2012 at 5:42PM
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It really comes down to trust and communications. If you don't trust your contractor with the keys to your house, then he shouldn't be doing the work - period. If you think he's going to be stealing your stuff, what kind of short cuts do you think he's going to be taking during the construction process?

I've done lots of work for people who aren't home (for a variety of reasons) and it comes down to having a clear plan and a level of expectation that everyone understands. If something unforeseen arises, and it will, then he can snap a couple of pictures with a cell phone and give you a call to discuss the options. It's pretty rare for something to come up so critical that a decision can't wait for a few hours.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 9:37AM
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We went through a major remodel while we both work. The major issue for us was that making all the decisions required was like having a second job for each of us - picking appliances, fixtures, tile, colors, cabinets, took a lot of time. As to the issue of strangers in the house - we picked a first-rate contractor who had great employees and great subs. We were told to lock our wine cellar.
Yes, some issues did arise while we were away on vacation, and they did let the cat out once, but overall there were no issues due to the fact that we were not there during the working day.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 10:03AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Cheap Charlie and his 72 rusted out Dodge van will probably not be the guy to do the job for you. You want competent and trustworthy, which means licensed, insured, and not cheap. That means he screens his workers and pays them decently, which greatly reduced the chanced for any incidental "misplacements" of stuff. That doesn't mean that you leave out your prescription medication and open liquor bottles during this any more than you would if you hired a teenaged babysitter. Take reasonable precautions with protecting your home's contents, and hire a good guy, and that's as much as any human can do unless you want to pay a relative or friend to be the site supervisor. Even then, you've got more chance of the relative or friend being a little too grabby with the goods than you do most decent contractors.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 1:59PM
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As a contractor, we want to bleed you not butcher you. Our liveklyhoods are much more important to us than what we can snatch and pilfer. Dont hire a company you cant trust. Most contractors like me, do background checks, drug tests, etc. to protect us, as well as you. We want back in your home the next time, and your friends. That wont happen if you have so much as a missing t shirt, Good contractors will guard your home, better than they do thier own. We can buy what we need, with what we earn, just like you.

Here is a thought, by the end of the week a contractor works for you, he knows the layout of your home, he knows the layout of your property, he knows your work schedule, and he has a good idea of the valuables in the rooms he hasnt even entered based on the ones he has. Are you scared for the next 3 months he will come back and rob you? He is in a great position to, just like when he is in it the first time. Are you going to sit in your bedroom for a week while the Mbath is being remodeled? or are you going to be in the living room, kitchen, and watering plants on the deck? toolboxes in and out + trashbags.
Your worrys should be over when you sign the contract, If you cant leave and go on vacation while the work is being done, you have the wrong contractor, period. keep looking.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 2:51PM
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You need a good working relationship and trust. The first time our GC did some work for us, it was supposed to be replacing all our windows and casings. Not a small job, but not huge either. After removing a few pieces of siding he called me out to take a look. There were streaks of mold under the window, no flashing, no Tyvek, no insulation. He could stick a pencil into my walls! He was flabbergasted, and I think a little embarrassed that another contractor would do that.

He made sure everything got fixed. We had to pick out siding basically overnight so it would arrive in a reasonable amount of time. He ended up replacing a lot of plywood, wrapping the house, replacing and flashing the windows, replacing the sliding door and fixing the floor next to it that had rotted three boards in due to lack of flashing with a deck, and residing with insulated siding. It took weeks. Plus he took down two trees for us while he was there, no charge because he took the wood so it was win-win.

When he came back for the bathroom remodel, he had one of the same guys with him. After all the interaction we had last time and seeing how he saw to it things were done right, we had no reservations about leaving him in the house while we were gone. We had some miscommunication about the shower hardware, but most of that was me trying to buy fancy fixtures on my own online when I know nothing about plumbing. Even so, he felt so bad about everything that went wrong with that. Wasn't his fault, but he did everything he could to get the shower working ASAP when the right stuff arrived.

He'll be back in a bit when it's kitchen time. We need to chat first about some things so I know what might be feasible or out of the question based on the structure, but once I have a plan he'll be the guy making it happen.

Also, if you can trust the GC enough not to question the price quote, that says a lot. I'll certainly ask about what might be more or less expensive to make better choices, but his quotes have been very reasonable so I don't see a need to scrutinize every dollar.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 10:14PM
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Thanks for the info, everyone! So far we've met with two contractors to get estimates, and both were highly recommended by friends who had used them. Really liked the first guy although he's young - but he answered every one of my 100+ questions that I had for him amd stayed over an hour asking lots of detailed questions about our project. The guys that came tonight were older, and were here and gone in 15 minutes. We have two more contractors planned to come out and take a look at the project.

All were recommended by people we know, so I know there probably won't be an issue with them being here while we're at work.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2012 at 7:31PM
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That said ... remove all small, medium to high-value easily sold items for the duration. Jewelry, silver, and electronics.

My BIL was robbed by the brother of his housekeeper. The guy stole his sister's keys and client list, walked across thousands of dollars worth of oriental rugs, unplugged the wires on a $300 stereo system, took it and left behind the expensive Magnaplanar speakers ... because he didn't see speakers he recognized.

He also forgot to return the keys to his sister's house, which is when the cops put 2 and 2 together and came up with Bubba.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 8:13PM
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lazygardens - we have pets, which we'll be locking up in our master bedroom each day during the build. We have decided to put any valuables in the room with them, tucked away and out of sight. We're hoping our dog's deep bark (while loud, he's harmless - but we won't tell the contractors that) will be enough to keep any lookie-loos from going in there. Fortunately, we don't have TOO much of value - and even then it's probably more sentimental value than monetary - but even so, an ounce of prevention and all that!

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 8:53PM
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What we are running into even early on in our addition project are the quality of the subcontractors. I don't necessarily question the quality of their work, since the General Contractor we hired uses them. But I would describe some of them as pretty gruff dudes with rusted out pickups.

I don't think they are necessarily going to steal from us, especially since they don't have access to the house yet. But I have been annoyed by how messy they have left our backyard - random fast food cups strewn about and cigarette butts EVERYWHERE. If they were the workers associated with the GC directly, I would certainly say something. But they are just the ones doing the foundation and will be out of here next week. I didn't think it was worth it to say anything. I have two kids, so I just think of it as if I have about five more kids that I have to pick up after for a few weeks. It's annoying, yes, but it's short term. Perhaps they think they'll clean up everything at the end, but since they are unearthing so much dirt, I don't want to be digging in my garden in four years and come across a soda can.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 5:47PM
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When we did our remodel, I made a point about asking about workers and subcontractors smoking habits. I hired a GC who was clear that smoking was not permitted at his projects...

    Bookmark   June 9, 2012 at 12:12AM
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Hi Jayness - Both me and my husband work and long hours at that and like another posted said, it's like a full time job. I'd suggest spreading out your decisions instead of making them when they tell you they need a decision on something in two days. This made it more manageable, less rushed, and kept our budget realistic. We were also in constant contact via email mostly with the staff onsite and in the office and also had weekly meetings to discuss the work done and decisions that were going to need to be made. One thing, mistakes happen fast. Thankfully, we didn't run into any problems.

We had to move out completely, so we weren't worried about anything being stolen.

Here is a link that might be useful: My Blog

    Bookmark   June 19, 2012 at 5:25PM
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Any chance you can get remote access to your workplace so you can work from home? I'm getting mine setup now for a project that should start in 2 wks.

    Bookmark   June 20, 2012 at 7:06AM
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An old boss I had once told me "the locks are just there to keep the honest people out".

    Bookmark   June 23, 2012 at 9:49PM
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