senior

Do I Really Need Three Bids?

The short answer is no, however the Contractors State Liscense Board (CSLB) says"Yes". Discrepancy? Not really. 

Alameda Victorian kitchen

Alameda Victorian kitchen

What the CSLB is trying to do is help protect you, the consumer. Too often homeowners like yourself decide to use the first "nice guy" contractor they meet to remodel their kitchens and bathrooms. Unfortunately an overwhelming number, seniors and younger generations alike, are taken advantage of by unlicensed, expired or even shared license contractors who take excessive time in completing the remodel and usually increase the cost by nickel and diming "unforeseen" circumstances that they really should've been aware of and all too often these "nice guys" disappear never to be found or finish the work you've already paid them to do. The CSLB isn't recommending that you do this practice of getting bids just so you can find the lowest bidder. In fact it's the mere opposite. Doing the bidding process will illuminate for you who has listened and payed attention to your needs, home, budget and other details vs who it trying to be the lowest bidder. Typically the lowest bidder has not made a clear detailed description of the work they will be doing for you, how long it will take and fixed costs, sometimes they even have asingle page contract that generically says "remodel kitchen".

So why do I disagree with the CSLB regarding bids? Honestly it's because you can vett the good contractors out more easily. Start with a conversation. Ask your interior designer or architect for recommended professionals they have relationships with. Ask them why they think the contractors they are recomending might be right for you. During the Schematic Design Process, I often recommend a couple of contractors for the homeowners to meet. Occasionally I haven't worked with them before in a home, but I've built a relationship with them through the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and I've had great feedback about them and their work from colleges and past clients. More often than not I have worked with them on some remarkably transforming spaces. 

Main things I look for and recommend you look for too:

Lafayette Cottage Traditional Kitchen

Lafayette Cottage Traditional Kitchen

Trust

  • How do I feel in there presence
  • How do the things they say about their business model and process align with my core values? 
  • What is my basic gut feeling? It's okay to say it's not a good fit based on this alone.

 

Practical

  • What will they be like to work with as a designer and as a homeowner? 
  • Do they speak contractor over my head terminology or can they explain things in a way that I can easily understand? 
    • One of my pet-peeves is when experts in their field are my advisors, such as accountants and insurance professionals, and speak over my head in a lingo that is only specific to their career knowledge base.

 

Value

  • Pricing style:
    • Do they give a bid right after their first conversation with you based on random allowances?
      • How realistic could that really be?
    • Or do they offer a small contract to assess your home and provide a detailed construction contract with a fixed price?
      • In my experience this is the best path for a successful remodel.
  • Communication:
    • Does their construction contract provide a detailed list spelling out every fixture, faucet, work being done to re-wire and where etc?
    • Do they provide a construction schedule with their agreement outlining everything from where materials are ordered to when construction is expected to be completed?
    • Do they respond to emails and phone calls etc in a timely manner (generally 2 business days if they're not computer savy)? 
  • Finished product: 
    • Have you seen their recent work online or another portfolio?
    • Will they invite you to not only meet a past client but also see their project if you ask?
    • Did they pay attention to details or do you notice odd things that seem unfinished?

While there is nothing "wrong" with getting bids, we've seen how that can have a major negative impact in projects like the new San Francisco Bay Bridge from Oakland to San Francisco and the gigantic cost overruns! The most important thing to remember is that this is your home, who do you want to invite into your most private spaces?

It's Not your Grandmother's Grab Bar

Bathroom safety is a designer's top priority with function and style running a close second. You may have heard the commercials saying "I've fallen and I can't get up!". Well, its a more serious topic than the silly commercials leave you to believe. Many seniors fall in tubs and showers and opt to sponge bathe for years rather than take a chance at being that person crying for help. The market is littered with ugly grab bars, suction-cup attaching things and other white plastic hospital style temporary safety stuff which gives bathroom safety a bad name. 

Its my job to tell you that grab-bars are not just for seniors! They are for everybody, and they don't have to be an eyesore to your newly remodeled home!

I recently had a client in her 40's comment "you must think I'm old". In truth, I had not considered her age when I told her that I was recommending a grab bar in her shower. What I had considered was basic human experience. I use a grab bar every day, and yes, I'm only 36. It is easy to over heat ourselves while relaxing in a warm bath or under a hot steamy shower and become dizzy. When we have the flue, or simply don't feel good we are even more prone to needing a little assistance, whether it's to sit down or step out or simply shaving our legs. When I was pregnant, with our now 3.5 year old, I was even more sensitive and even kept the bathroom door open so that my husband could hear if I collapsed.

It could happen to anybody. Have you ever stepped out of the bath only to accidentally grab the towel bar just to have it bend out and fall from being under very little weight? Have you ever stepped into the shower and grab onto the hand-shower bar? Of course, we all do, its a natural tendency. So why fight it?

Now in my best "info-mercial voice" But wait, there's more! 

Ginger Kubic Grab-Bar with Squared Corners

Ginger Kubic Grab-Bar with Squared Corners

Watermark Designs Loft Adjustable Sliding Hand-Shower Mount

Watermark Designs Loft Adjustable Sliding Hand-Shower Mount

Delta Contemporary Tissue Holder with Assist Bar

Delta Contemporary Tissue Holder with Assist Bar

Style doesn't need to be sacrificed! Ginger Co, Watermark Designs, Delta Faucet and many other companies at all ends of the cost spectrum, have designed grab-bars that essentially match their towel bars. Check them out, reach out and touch them if you can, the Jack London Kitchen and Bath Gallery showroom in Oakland has just installed a couple of these beauties in their live bathrooms. You'll find that they have a larger diameter than the average towel bar but otherwise, they have the same mounting trim detail as the rest of the accessories for your bathroom. Ginger was one of the first to provide aesthetically pleasing designs, Watermark Designs has integrated their vertical hand-shower slide-bar into a grab bar to make it more useful and Delta has taken the next step and integrated an "assist bar" into their towel bars and even their toilet-paper holders!