Small Remodeling Projects

Related Articles

The "Secret Place"

Bathroom Vanity Makeover

Can't Afford Home Improvements

Small Remodeling Projects

We have a one-car garage door that we want to replace with a wall and two windows. The wall will also need an inside electrical outlet. We've tried getting estimates on this project, but most don't even show up! Is this too small a job for them to want? We've never done this type of work before and don't really have the time to do it anyhow. How much should this cost and how do I find someone to get it done right?

Find a Preferred Contractor

My husband is a remodeler in Georgia. The problem you have is common all over. A job like this will have a very small profit margin on it, and therefore, larger firms cannot afford to accept this assignment.

I would call my homeowner's insurance office locally and ask if they have a list of preferred contractors. The office manager is usually aware of the limitations of these firms and can usually recommend a smaller group to do the work. Costs can vary (drastically) depending upon the area you live in.

If you do not have the framing, electrical, and sheet rock skills to get this done yourself, don't try this. You can cause a lot of problems, possible injuries and additional expense (through work being redone and failing to meet the building code). Homeowners can often do the trim, painting, flooring, cleanup, and exterior themselves to save money.

If you can get at least two bids be certain to ask for a certificate of liability and a worker's comp certificate from the contractors. Without these, you are not comparing the prices equally. Call the office number listed and verify that the policies are current.

Realize that with a smaller profit margin and limited budget you may need to be flexible with the builder's time and the materials. For example, if the windows you want are out of the price range that the builder can afford, buy them yourself and pay for their installation only. Verify that they are acceptable for the work to be done before purchasing them.

It costs the builders money to meet with you and create an estimate with no guarantee of getting the work. Have a drawing ready of what you would like and even pictures and samples for them to look over. The estimate should include a timeline and a strict payment schedule holding 10% until the final walkthrough. Never make more than a 30% down payment and be certain to have a receipt for all payments. If you make changes after the start, be aware that this will cost more. Agree to the changes in writing and both parties need to sign.

Efficiency in the Route Less Traveled

Here's just a thought on how you might get the work done and give an opportunity to a vocational class. Here in MN the tech colleges often take in work in the area of study. Find out if there is a carpentry class in your area tech and ask if they'd like to do the work. Usually, at least with the classes I have approached for work, you pay for parts. I used the service to have an air conditioner revamped, a car repaired, and a haircut.

You might also ask members of organizations, such as your church, clubs, etc., if anyone would like to barter or pick up a few extra dollars. A church group here takes a group of teens on mission trips to help out where needed. They are well supervised by skilled laborers. They may be willing to do your job in exchange for a donation for a mission trip. Word of mouth is often the best source. You could also ask at your local Home Depot if they offer a class, often free, in the skills needed to do the task. The route less traveled may be the most efficient one. Wouldn't cost anything to try?

Find a Handyman

You don't say from whom you are trying to get estimates. If it is a contractor, then, yes, your job is too small. Try talking to a handyman. Usually they advertise in the local paper. They do all sorts of fix-it and remodeling jobs and usually charge per hour plus cost. Most do an excellent job! Ask for references.

Been There, Done That

I know exactly what you mean. We moved into a 100-year-old house and discovered that we had to rewire the whole thing immediately or we would get burned out! Here are some ways to find someone to do the job.
  • Go to your local hardware store, or lighting fixture store and ask if they could recommend anyone who can do small odd rewiring jobs.
  • Ask friends/neighbors for help. You'd be surprised how much hidden talent is out there.
  • Go to the local high school or local trade school and see if the instructor can help you find someone.

Whatever you do, buy or borrow a book on "Rewiring" and prepare yourself ahead of time. There are a lot of little items involved and you should know what they are used for. Don't accept shortcuts or a cobble job.

Give Andy a Call

In my area, a new company started up called "Andy on Call." I believe they are a national company. We got an advertising postcard in the mail from them with a discount coupon attached. They hire handymen to come out and give you a bid on the job you want done. Some of the time, these handymen are retired electricians, carpenters, plumbers. So they know what is involved in getting these jobs done.

They will buy the materials needed or let you go pick out what you need. They do not charge any extra for the pickup of the materials either. They even give you the receipt to show you what they paid for the items! So you can see there is no markup for picking up these items.

Anyway, they send someone out to look over the job, take measurements, and right there on the spot give you a bid. You can mull it over or set up a time right then and there for them to come out and get the job done. We are happy with this company and I highly recommend them.

Also, you might look in the paper under the "services" section of the classifieds. Lots of people do these jobs on the side or in their spare time. Some of these people are even fire fighters looking for something to do to earn a little extra cash. Check them out. Someone is always looking to be hired. You don't always have to go with a big company to get the job done right.

Another source is to ask neighbors or friends to recommend someone.

Ask Around

Many people have a friend or relative who is qualified but is just starting out on their own. Ask who has done work for your friends. There are those who are just breaking into the business on their own, but they have years of experience working for others. They can usually squeeze small jobs into their day. If someone is at home (or if you work close to home and can get away), offer to have the contractor call you when he finishes a job earlier than expected and you can buzz home for the estimate and later the work.

Once You've Found Him…

We just finished a fairly big project with someone who might have been too busy to do a small project. Having just hung out with my contractor for about four weeks, I feel qualified to make the following suggestions.

Once you've found the right contractor (I'm skipping a lot of steps here):

  1. Find out if he's doing any jobs in your area. He may be able to stop by your place while waiting for the inevitable delays on a nearby job. If you can be flexible with your schedule, let him know.
  2. Refer people to him, if you have the opportunity, and let him know who you referred. This will make him want to help you in some way. If he's not worthy of your referral, don't use him yourself.
  3. Be really clear about your expectations, and get a detailed estimate of time and money you'll need to spend, so the contractor can fit you in and get the job done in the time frame he has allowed for it.
  4. Continue to refer people to him, and next time, you'll probably be able to get him to come out for your small job without as much trouble. He'll be your contractor.


Stay Connected with TDS

Little Luxuries

to the Dollar Stretcher newsletter and get a copy
of our ebook
Little Luxuries:
130 Ways to Live Better...For Less
for FREE!

Your Email:

View the TDS Privacy Policy.

Debt Book