• Build in a financial cushion for the unexpected. Ron Key of Key Construction emphasizes that "even if the contractor bids and designs the job correctly, you should build in a budgetary cushion of around 15 percent to account for the unexpected. "In the past, for the most part, we found that budgets increased because people changed their minds and added things as the work progressed," key said. But today, something else is on the rise. "While we used to find most radiant and electrical systems were working just fine during our remodel projects, Eichlers are getting older, and as a result, we are seeing an increase in whole system failures. Your electrical system could be rotted and you may not even know it until the walls are opened up." Homeowners should be aware that whole-house upgrades could be expensive. Upgrading an entire electrical system can add as much as $15,000 to $20,000 to your project cost.
• Anticipate other work that can be done. Work with your contractor to anticipate other repairs or changes that may also make sense to do in conjunction with your kitchen improvements. For example, code may require certain upgrades to the electrical system, such as replacing old outlets with new ones. However, you may also want to add wiring for extra phone lines or high-speed Internet connections.
Selecting the right general contractor can be a challenge. We all hope to find someone that is honest, thoughtful, easy to work with, skilled, and reasonably priced. When interviewing a contractor, here are some questions to consider:
• Do they have experience working on Eichlers? While there are many capable contractors, do you really want your home to be the guinea pig for someone to learn on? Eichlers are unusual enough that it may well be worth it to find a contractor with plenty of Eichler experience.
• What do their former customers say about them? Be sure to check references. Call as many of the contractor's previous customers as it takes to get a good flavor for what they have to say about the entire remodeling experience.
• Do they allow you to go onsite to current jobs and talk to their customers? Contractors that are honest and above board will not hesitate to allow you to accompany them to current job sites. If they do a good job for their customers, they will not be afraid to bring you to current job sites and introduce you to their clients.
• Are they responsive? Upgrading or remodeling can be a lengthy process and it is important to find someone that is responsive and prompt in returning phone calls and answering any questions you may have.
• Does their bid seem understandable and reasonable, and are all associated costs clearly broken down? It is much easier to discuss the job with your contractor, and to later refine the plan, if every detail is in writing.
• Are they licensed and in good standing with the California Contractor's State License Board? You should check the status of their contractors license with the board. You can do this online at www.cslb.ca.gov, or by phone at 1-800-321-2752.