Ready to do some home remodeling but not sure where to start or how to proceed? Bennett’s trusted and experienced project managers can help. Click on the links below for answers to some common home remodeling questions to help get you started. Make sure your project is on the right track for success. Contact Bennett today for a free consultation and we’ll walk you through all the necessary steps to ensure your project is done right from the start.

Links:

Choosing a Contractor

Bathrooms

Kitchens

Porches/Decks

Vinyl Siding

What Is A Change Order

Windows/Doors

Choosing a Contractor

How do I choose a remodeling contractor?

The best contractors get work through satisfied customers’ referrals not from the biggest ads in the paper. Consult friends and neighbors who have had work done and ask for a referral.

Also consult the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List for reviews of the contractors you’re considering. Be wary of a contractor with more than two or three negative reviews or complaints.

Ensure that your contractor is licensed. Licensing won’t guarantee success, but it does indicate a degree of professionalism and suggests that the contractor is committed to his or her job. The same holds true for membership in, or certification by, an industry group such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and the NAHB Remodeling Council.

Ask to see a current Certificate of Insurance, so that you can see that the contractor has both General Liability and Worker’s Compensation coverage. Everyone say’s “fully insured,” but many are not.

No matter how you find potential contractors, be sure to ask for a list of previous customers that you can call for referrals. Then call them and, if possible, visit their homes to look at the work. Ask specific questions such as:

  • Would you hire this contractor again?
  • Were you satisfied with the quality of the work?
  • How did the contractor handle cleanup each day?
  • How did the contractor handle differences and work changes?
  • Was the job completed on time and at the bid price? If not, why not?
  • Were the contractors and staff knowledgeable, friendly and helpful? Were they quick to respond to any questions or concerns you may have had?

You might also ask the contractor for a list of his or her building-material suppliers. Call them to see if the contractor has an account or pays for items upon delivery. Most suppliers are willing to extend credit to financially reliable contractors.

How do I spot a questionable contractor?

A warning signal should sound in your head if you encounter any of the following:

  • High-pressure sales tactics or threats to rescind a special price if you don’t sign on the spot.
  • A contractor who tries to scare you into signing a contract by claiming that your house puts you at peril (i.e., “Your electrical wiring could start a fire if it isn’t replaced.”)
  • A contractor who makes unsolicited phone calls or visits. Be especially wary of people who offer a bargain price, claiming that they’re doing a job in the neighborhood and have leftover materials.
  • A contractor whose address can’t be verified, who uses only a post office box, or who has only an answering service and no separate listing in the telephone book.
  • A contractor who isn’t affiliated with any recognized trade association.
  • License or insurance information you can’t verify.
  • A contractor who can’t (or won’t) provide references for similar jobs in your area.
  • The promise of a hefty discount—but no mention of the total cost of the job.
  • The promise of a deep discount if the contractor uses your home as a “demo.”

All contractors say “fully insured” but what does that mean?

Contractors should carry General Liability, Worker’s Compensation, NYS Disability, Vehicle and Builder’s Risk Insurances. Advertising claims are not good insurance; to be sure your contractor has current, paid-up insurance ask to see a Certificate of Insurance. These are an official statement of coverage, produced by the contractor’s insurance company. It is common for customers to ask for these and any good contractor will be able to provide one within days.

Bathrooms

Why should I choose a full service bathroom remodeler?

A full service remodeler like Bennett, will take care of all the preliminary steps involved in designing and creating your new bathroom from design and planning, to securing building codes and permits and scheduling.

Bennett’s full service remodeling will also guide you through the process of choosing the right materials for the job. Bennett partners with various local suppliers who have showrooms, samples and National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) certified designers.  A bathroom may be small, but it includes many choices:

  • Plumbing fixtures, tub, sink, faucet and accessories
  • Cabinets, mirrors, countertops
  • Design & install of tile, marble and ceramic materials
  • Shower door installation
  • Lighting & heating design
  • Painting, wainscoting and wall paper design

With 100 years of experience, and thousands of completed jobs from handicap accessible to custom spa designs, Bennett can advise you each step of the way. Our licensed plumbers and electricians on staff work efficiently, meeting all the local codes and inspector requirements.

What are the pros and cons of acrylic bath liners?

The Advantages

1. Buying an acrylic bathtub liner and surround is easy. You can find lots of companies that will install an acrylic bathtub liner in your bathroom.

2. No demolition necessary if you choose an acrylic bathtub liner. This is the leading reason for having an acrylic bathtub liner and surround installed. The liner goes in the old tub.

3. The actual installation can be completely done in one day. On the other hand, replacing a bathtub and remodeling your bathroom can take several days.

The Disadvantages

1. A tub liner hides the problems, but doesn’t solve them. Water damaged walls, mold, rusty pipes, slow drains, inadequate wiring, get covered up by the liner and lots of caulk.

2. An acrylic bathtub is narrower and the sides are higher. Since it’s a tub in a tub, acrylic bathtub liners make your original tub two or three inches narrower and higher which makes it harder to reach into. It’s more difficult to clean the tub, bathe the kids, hand wash clothing, etc.

3. When you are done, it’s the “same old bathroom”. If your goal is to improve your overall bathroom appearance, create a safer, cleaner more comfortable place with better lighting, tile floors, shower seats, grab bars, big mirrors, warm floors and more then a simple acrylic liner may not be the right choice.

Conclusion

If you are looking for a “quick fix” the tub insert is quick and easy. If you want 20 years of quality and comfort in a newly designed bathroom then consider a remodel that will redesign layouts, update fixtures, replace the plumbing and wiring if needed and create a whole new bathroom experience. Contact a full service bathroom expert like Bennett Contracting for a free consultation.

Kitchens

What should I expect from a quality kitchen contractor?

When you choose a full service remodeler like Bennett, all the steps involved in creating your new kitchen from design and planning to building code and installation requirements, are professionally handled by experienced project managers and contractors. Bennett’s design/build process will guide you through the steps of choosing the right design and materials to create your desired kitchen. Bennett partners with various local suppliers who have showrooms, samples and National Kitchen & Bath Association (NKBA) certified designers. Your kitchen is the heartbeat of your home; it needs to be both beautiful and functional. Here are some of things to look for when considering a contractor to remodel your kitchen:

  • Architectural plans when a remodel involves structural changes or enlarging the home
  • NKBA certified kitchen designer, with full CAD drawings of the layout and cabinetry
  • Plumbing fixture showroom accessibility for selecting fixtures, sink, faucet and accessories
  • Wide choice of cabinets, countertops and flooring
  • Tile, marble, ceramic designs and installation
  • Lighting design services
  • Full line of appliances and installation

With 100 years of experience, and thousands of completed jobs from handicap accessible to custom chef’s kitchens, Bennett can advise you each step of the way. Our licensed plumbers and electricians on staff work efficiently, meeting all the local codes and inspector requirements.

Porches & Decks

My front porch is in poor condition, what should I do?

Porches are complicated structures and their design is governed by a wide variety of codes and safety standards. Refer to the how to select a contractor section and then call a professional full service contractor like Bennett to set up a free consultation in order to identify what issues need to be addressed.

  • Porches in disrepair can pose risk and hazard to the homeowner and should not be ignored.
  • Many times older porches were built with inadequate footings, resulting in settling or sagging of the structure.
  • In certain cases where the roof is in good condition, the porch roof can be braced while new footings, columns, framing and decking are rebuilt below.
  • Wood rot is a very common problem with porches since they are exposed to the elements. This rot can result in a danger to the integrity of the structure.
  • The longer you neglect to repair or rebuild a porch, the worse the problem will get.

What Material should I select for my Deck Surface and Railings?

A deck’s structural framing is constructed with pressure-treated framing lumber and sits on steel or concrete piers.

The area of the deck that you walk on and the railings are available in a variety of materials including several grades and species of wood, modern composites and PVC (vinyl). Second only to the size of the deck, the choice of material will have the most effect on the purchase cost and future maintenance requirements.

Wood:

  • Pressure treated wood (southern yellow pine most common)
    • Available in standard (lower cost) and select grades (less knots)
    • Premium Species including Cedar, Mahogany and Teak
      • Higher cost, longer lasting, better looking.
      • All wood is higher maintenance. It is recommended to paint or stain the surface annually

Composite:

  • High cost, low maintenance
  • Wide variety of colors, and surfaces

PVC (vinyl)

  • High cost
  • Very low maintenance
  • Limited colors

A full service contractor like Bennett Contracting will help you design and create your ideal outside space while keeping in mind your budgetary restrictions.

Siding

Why Choose Vinyl Siding?

Beauty

While traditional pastel and earthy color options are still available, today’s vinyl siding offers a comprehensive array of darker color combinations including bold, rich tones like barn reds, hunter and sage greens, deep blues and more. Nearly 350 different colors are certified to meet the ASTM (American Society for Testing and Materials) standards for vinyl siding color retention, so you can be sure the shades you select will resist major color changes in a variety of climates.

Durability

Of course exterior cladding has to look good for today’s discerning homeowners, but it also has a vitally important job of protecting a home from the elements. With the ability to withstand high winds (certified up to 110 mph or higher) and a composition that resists heat, cold and moisture, vinyl siding retains its great looks over time.

Vinyl siding never needs paint. Ever. The only maintenance it will need is a simple wash with a soft cloth and garden hose to keep it looking great, a feature today’s strapped-for-time homeowners really appreciate!

Green Building

Today’s vinyl siding, the most popular choice for exterior cladding in the United States and Canada, delivers recognized environmental benefits to help make and keep homes green.

Throughout the processes of manufacturing, transportation, installation, service life and waste management, vinyl siding scores well on tough environmental measures.  What’s more, vinyl siding has the potential to contribute to achieving more points than other exterior cladding in the leading green building certification programs including the United States Green Building Council (USGBC) LEED® for New Construction and LEED® Homes Rating Systems and the ANSI approved ICC 700-2008 National Green Building Standard™.

Choice

Any look – historic to contemporary – can be achieved with today’s vinyl siding. Vinyl siding has the widest array of profile offerings of any other cladding material including:

  • Horizontal and vertical panels
  • Shakes, Scallops, Shingles, Fish scales
  • Traditional lap
  • Dutch lap
  • Beaded designs in various profile widths

Today’s vinyl siding is available in a broad and ever increasing spectrum of solid and variegated colors. Dozens of new trim and accent options are also available to enhance neighborhood aesthetics. Vinyl siding is the number one choice for siding and Certain-Teed is the number one brand of siding.

How do I choose the right siding contractor?

One of the most important decisions you can make when it comes to fixing the exterior of your home is to hire a reputable siding company, like Bennett Contracting. While it might be tempting to take this project on by yourself, using a quality siding contractor can assure that your building products are installed correctly, avoiding any problems in the future from incorrect installation. To ensure you have a qualified siding installer, look for the following qualifications:

Certification: 

  • Your siding contractor should have skilled installers who have been trained by the manufacturer of the siding for your home.  Bennett employees are dual certified both be the Vinyl Siding Institute and Certain-Teed’s Five Star program. Beware of contractors who subcontract the installation.

Safety:

  • Your siding contractor should have the latest OSHA approved scaffolding and ladders, modern trucks and employees who have completed both OSHA safety and EPA Lead Safe Work Practice training. Your siding contractor should show you proof of insurances including worker’s compensation. Ask to see a certificate.

Choices, Designs, Referrals:

  • A quality siding contractor, like Bennett Contracting, has been around a long time and has hundreds of satisfied customers and completed homes like yours that you can look at.  You should also be able to view a computer rendering of your home to sample design choices. Look for siding contractor who offers options.  Insulation choices, such as blow-in cellulose, can make tremendous difference in your utility bills.

See How to choose a remodeling contractor for more general information.

How do I clean my vinyl siding?

How do I wash vinyl siding?
Wash vinyl siding with a soft cloth or ordinary long-handled, soft bristle brush. For textured surfaces, use only a soft bristle brush to keep the grooves in the texture stain-free. For best results, start at the bottom of the house and work up and rinse the cleaning solution completely before it dries.

Can I use a power washer?
Yes, though you should read the washer instructions carefully before use. When cleaning, hold the power washer straight at eye level to keep the water on top of the siding where it can clean most effectively. Do not aim the power washer upward as water may be driven behind the siding. Use caution around any opening in the wall, such as windows, doors, electrical wiring, and plumbing.

How do I remove mold and mildew?
Small spots of mold and mildew can be handled with cleaners such as Fantastik® or Windex®. For larger sections, a solution of vinegar (30%) and water (70%) has proven successful. Alternatively, you also could try the following solution: 1/3 cup (2 2/3 ounces) powdered laundry detergent (e.g., Tide®, Fab®, or equivalent), 2/3 cup (5 1/3 ounces) powdered household cleaner (e.g., Spic & Span®, Soilax®, or equivalent), 1 quart (32 fluid ounces) liquid laundry bleach, and 1 gallon (128 fluid ounces) of water.

What types of cleaners should I use for other stains?
A list of commonly accepted cleaners is provided in the box below. Be sure to spot check any general or stain specific cleaner before using it on a large section of siding. After removing the stain, rinse thoroughly with water. Do not use cleaners containing organic solvents, undiluted chlorine bleach, liquid grease remover, nail polish remover, or furniture polish or cleaners. They can affect the surface of the siding.

Vinyl Siding Cleaners
General cleaners (e.g., Simple Green®, Nice & Easy®, Armor All®, etc.) can be used to clean dirt, bird droppings, and spider webs. Stain-specific cleaners are listed below. Rinse all cleaners with water before they dry.
Stain Cleaners*
Bubble Gum Fantastik®, Murphy Oil Soap®, solution of vinegar (30%), water (70%) and Windex®
Crayon Lestoil®
DAP (oil-based caulk) Fantastik®
Felt-tip Pen Fantastik®, water-based cleaners
Grass Fantastik®, Lysol®, Murphy Oil Soap®, Windex®
Lithium (car) Grease Fantastik®, Lestoil®, Murphy Oil Soap®, Windex®
Motor Oil Fantastik®, Lysol®, Murphy Oil Soap®, Windex®
Paint Brillo® Pad, Soft Scrub®
Pencil Soft Scrub®
Rust Fantastik®, Murphy Oil Soap®, Windex®
Tar Soft Scrub®
Top Soil Fantastik®, Lestoil®, Murphy Oil Soap®
*Cleaning Materials are listed in alphabetical order.
*VSI does not endorse products or processes and makes no warranties for the products referenced herein. Reference to proprietary names is for illustrative purposes only and is not intended to imply that there are not equally effective alternatives.

 

WINDOWS/DOORS

How do I choose a quality window and door contractor?

Picking a high quality window is important. It helps ensure energy efficiency and insulation for your home.  Picking a high quality and experienced window installer is essential. High efficiency windows will not perform as designed unless they are correctly installed. Don’t be tempted to simply pick the contractor with the lowest price. The money you invested in the window could be wasted if they are not correctly installed.

Choices/Referrals

  • A full service window contractor will offer all types of windows and doors; wood, vinyl and metal from several manufacturers, to be able to select the product that best compliments your home. Beware of “one-size fits all” window companies who only sell one brand.
  • You should expect your contractor to have a fixed business location with a showroom, warehouse and service department.
  • Quality window contractors have been around a long time and will have many satisfied customers and homes like yours that you can go look at.
  • Windows and doors are components of your home and your installer should be versatile with carpentry skills and knowledge of construction.

Skills/Warrantee

  • A quality window installer has ongoing training programs or their employees and is certified by several window manufacturers.
  • Quality trades people are NOT piece-rate paid subs, they are hourly employees of an established local business.
  • You should receive two written warrantees, one from the installer for labor and one from the manufacturer covering the product.
  • Keep in mind that lifetime warrantees from companies that have only been in business a few years and not worth very much.

Safety

  • Your window contractor should have the latest OSHA approved scaffolding and ladders, modern trucks and employees who have completed both OSHA safety and EPA Lead Safe Work Practice training. Your window contractor should also show you proof of insurance, including worker’s compensation.  Ask to see a certificate.

See How to choose a remodeling contractor for more general information.

What type of material should I select for my replacement window?

Today’s windows are made of a combination of materials but generally fall into one of three categories: vinyl, wood or metal. Vinyl and wood are the two most popular for use in residential homes. What you are seeking from your windows in terms of budget, maintenance, look and function will help determine which style is right for your home.

Vinyl

  • Vinyl windows are the most popular because they are less costly, are available in many styles and require very little maintenance.
  • Vinyl windows are available in several forms:  double hung, casement, bay or bow, slider, garden, hopper and picture.
  • Bennett’s vinyl windows are manufactured in the Northeast from American made components.
  • All of the vinyl windows offered by Bennett Contracting come with a lifetime warrantee.

Wood

  • Wood windows are popular for their authentic look and feel. In historic areas wood is required, but in many older homes it’s just the right choice.
  • Wood windows are available with a low maintenance metal or vinyl cladding on the exterior.
  • Wood windows are available in a variety of woods including oak and pine for interior finishes.
  • Wood windows are available in several styles including: double hung, casement, bay, bow, hopper and picture.

Choices/Referrals:

  • A full service window contractor will offer all types of windows and doors including wood, vinyl and metal, from several manufacturers, to provide you with a selection of products that best compliments your home.
  • Beware of “one-size fits all” window companies who only sell one brand.
  • Quality window contractors have been around a long time and will have many satisfied customers and homes like yours that you can go look at.
  • Windows and doors are components of your home and your installer should be versatile with carpentry skills and knowledge of construction.

What Is A Change Order

Change Orders (CO’s) are the means by which we add, delete or modify the Work Schedule.

The Change Order form details the change in scope and the change in cost.

Here are some tips about change orders:

 

  • It’s OK: Don’t be scared of CO’s, they are normal and it is our way of documenting changes. It is very common for a project to have at least one change order. Larger jobs may have multiple change orders throughout the project’s duration.

 

  • Allowances: A specified dollar amount included in the price, which is how we budget for those materials that you need to select (ie tile). If you spend more than your allowance, the difference will be added plus sales tax. If you spend less, we credit the difference.

 

  • Adding: If you want to add work, just ask!!! The earlier the better, that way we can determine the impact on the job. It can be very cost effective to have our crew provide some added work while we’re already at your home working.

 

  • Modifications: Altering work can be tricky. If we’ve already ordered material based upon the original contract, and you request modifications, certain items may not be returnable. Also, if we have to re-do work that you’ve decided to change, we still need to charge for the labor and materials to do it again.

 

  • Time Frame: Adding or modifying work will result in the job taking longer. In some cases, if we have to wait for materials to arrive, we may even need to pull the crew off until the materials arrive and we can get back to work. Be prepared for these delays. Some Change Orders are out of our control and are just plain necessary.
    1. Rot/Repairs: If we discover rot, it is necessary to fix it now. We will not ignore or cover up rot…it will only get worse and cost more down the road.
    2. Code Upgrades: Most commonly with plumbing and electrical and especially in older homes. We always intend to include observable code upgrades, but we may discover hidden code violations inside the wall that require upgrades.
    3. Surprise! Occasionally, we discover an unforeseen problem on a job. Maybe a cracked beam that was hidden. Be prepared for surprises.

 

Identify:  If possible, do a quick review with the Lead Carpenter each day.  If you would like to add work or make any modifications, first discuss with the Lead Carpenter to confirm if the change is possible and what might be involved. If necessary, the Project Manager or Designer will become involved with larger modifications.  Your Lead Carpenter may come to you with proposed changes (ie rot is discovered).

 

Communicating:  Once identified, in order to proceed, our Lead Carpenter will need your written or verbal authorization to do that additional work.  Be aware that if you agree to have additional work done, you are agreeing to pay for that work.  The Lead Carpenter will not offer to do extra work for free. Details of the added costs will be drawn up on a CO form for your review, either before the work is started or after (if Time & Material is used).

 

Pricing:  CO’s are either priced based upon Time & Material, or Lump Sum.  Either way, the price is determined based on materials, labor, subcontractors, taxes plus overhead and profit.  The rates and mark up percentages are spelled out on the Work Schedule.  The Project Manager and the Owner will determine which is used.

 

Conclusion:  You and Bennett are working together to create the project that you have imagined. We both want your job completed quickly, safely and with the best possible outcome.  In order to do that, we want to work with you in a collaborative manner. If changes are needed to reach that goal, we will work together to make that happen.