It’s Remodeling Season. Vet Your Candidates Carefully

It’s Remodeling Season. Vet Your Candidates Carefully!

You’ve been dreaming of that new kitchen makeover, bathroom renovation, or addition for years, and now you’re ready to make it a reality. Selecting the right home remodeling company can be the difference between realizing your dream and ending up in a living nightmare. At first glance, all the candidates may look very similar and tell you what you want to hear. But what happens when you start asking the tough questions. The strong contenders won’t shy away, sweat under the spotlight, or try to redirect your attention to one of their talking points. They’ll welcome the scrutiny and answer your questions directly and thoroughly. Once properly vetted, only the strong will remain, the ones worthy of your vote and your hard earned investment dollars. Here are some key issues to raise as you evaluate the nominees.

What Kind of Track Record Do They Have?

How long have they been in business? What kind of references can they provide? Is it an extensive list where you can call and speak to whoever you want? Or do they just present a list of rather anonymous testimonials? “Steve in McLean, Mary in Alexandria… etc”. When you ask for references does it take days or weeks for them to get back to you? These are signs that they may have a hard time pleasing customers consistently or have something to hide.

Does their Rhetoric Pass Your Fact Check?

Don’t just take their word for it. Do your own investigating and independently verify their claims to be true. Reliable 3rd party sources, such as, the nation’s leader in customer satisfaction surveying for the building industry, provide hard data on how companies measure up, as well as reviews from previous clients. Consumer Checkbook is another vetting source. They provide not-for-profit ratings of local service companies. Angie’s List, Yelp and Google are also useful tools. Check them all. Some companies may have a few glowing reviews on one sight and a few scathing digs on another. Opinions vary, but listen for common themes. The reliable metric is a combination of quantity and quality.

Do They Have a Plan?

A renovation is a complex project that requires detailed preplanning and skillful execution. The more through and detailed the plan, the smoother the execution will go. That being said, unforeseen circumstances will occasionally arise. For the unprepared, a minor setback, such as a part damaged in shipping or a weather emergency, could create a bottleneck that delays the overall project. A reliable firm will have a comprehensive plan with built-in contingencies to stay on track.

Do they Have their House in Order?

Do the companies you are considering have a “bricks and mortar” office or showroom you can visit, or do they operate out of a truck with a website and 800-number. Be sure to get a copy of their business license and current certificate of insurance. What does their contract look like. Is it a professional document that is detailed yet easy for a layperson to understand, or is it a cryptic legalese that only a lawyer can decipher. Or worse, is it simplistic and vague. The home improvement industry has suffered many a black eye from shady contractors who disappear after a deposit has been given, or even worse, mid-project. If they do finish your project on time and on budget, what does their warranty cover. Remember, a warranty is only as good as the company providing it. If they go out of business, any warranty they’ve provided goes with them. Make sure the company’s foundation is as stable and secure as the one you’d have them pour for you.

Would You Trust Them to Hold Your Baby?

When you renovate your home, you are essentially inviting a stranger, or group of strangers into your house to tear it apart and put it back together again. Who are these people? How do you know you can trust them? A smart home owner will make sure everyone involved is properly trained, licensed, insured, drug tested and background checked. Taking these extra steps will result not only in peace of mind for the safety of your home and family, but also for the quality of the work being performed. If a problem should arise, those who go through the proper channels have recourse not available to those who gambled on a lower price, faster finish time, or some other carrot dangled to entice an easy victory.

When it comes to improving your home, vetting the candidates is a critical step. After all, once your vote has been cast, you’ll be living with the results for years to come. Choose carefully!

If you would like to talk about ideas for remodeling or renovating your home in Fairfax, Mclean, Springfield, Woodbridge, Alexandria, Arlington, and Falls Church VA, reach out to us at Foster Remodeling. Call now for a free consultation!

written by: Dory Clemens, Design Consultant – Foster Remodeling Solutions, Inc.



Ideas and Tips on External Siding

Here are some ideas and tips on the various types of exterior siding. I have installed hundreds if not thousands of squares of the siding products below and would like to describe the differences in each of the types of siding. I listed the products in order of cost with vinyl typically being the cheaper of the products. I have a couple of issues with the exterior contracting industry as a whole most notably the lifetime warranty on products. A warranty is only as good in my opinion as long as a company or manufacturer has been in business and one should make a decision based on these warranties but if they are following industry guidelines on installation, and have independent track record of responding to warranty claims from independent consumer sites. Also many companies will advertise a thin vinyl siding at a very low price limited to certain amount of square feet which after arriving is not applicable to your home. I also would caution homeowners from high pressure sales companies that will drop their pricing sometimes by half as they walk out the door with all sorts of gimmicks (first home on the block, manager deal). They didn’t cut any pricing they simply operate on a par system where the salesman is allowed to keep certain percentage of the sale over the allowed cost. At Foster Remodeling Solutions I can truly educate and advise on best products from range of manufacturers with outstanding service and installation with standard fair pricing.


insulated vinyl siding.jpgVINYL SIDING
Vinyl Siding is the most commonly used siding by remodeling companies mainly due to the ease of application for the installers and cost of the material. Vinyl Siding has had some major improvements over the past few years most notably the ability to have darker color shades that will not fade or chalk and more secure fastening which provides for less ability for the wind to peel panels off the building. Vinyl siding cost is directly tied to the thickness of the panel which is measured in thousandths of thickness. The thicker the panel the more expensive the panel, this is critical in knowing when shopping for vinyl siding and being able to accurately compare costs. The typical builders grade panel starts at .040 thickness and panels generally range up to .050 thickness with most remodelers using a .044 to .046 panel. A thicker panel is more rigid and less likely to warp, bubble or blow off. Another key component of a properly installed siding job is preparation for the siding, removal of rotten wood is critical before installation, door and window trim is also another component that needs to be factored in before siding so that the profile remains the same as before. A proper house wrap such as Tyvec is needed since vinyl siding does not completely prevent water penetration (it has weep holes on bottom to allow water to escape). If new windows are installed taping of the window flanges and seams in the Tyvec is also recommended. Another option for wrapping the house is ¼” foam board that allows the siding to have smooth surface if substrate has slight uneven surface and provides some nominal insulation value. Another option that I prefer as former installer is the siding panels with the insulation applied directly to the back of the panel, which makes the panel very rigid with no warping and provides and good amount of R values of 2.0 to 3.5 depending on the panel selected. These panels also provide a noise dampening effect as well.
vinyl siding profiles.jpg


  • james-hardie-lap-siding.jpgFIBER CEMENT BOARD
    Fiber Cement Board is another commonly used siding product. Most people recognize Hardie Plank as most visible manufacturer of this product but there are several others. The advantage of fiber cement board is its durability and rigidity. Fiber cement board is nailed tightly to the existing house plywood which prevents any chance of panels blowing off which can occur with vinyl siding applications. Fiber Cement siding should be installed over an existing siding creating a moisture trap. Fiber Cement boards also more closely resemble wood products which is architecturally more pleasing and some HOA’s will allow this product in lieu of wood creating less maintenance for the homeowner. This product is routinely used in coastal applications due to its ability to withstand high winds. Hardie Board also has factory applied colors with 15 year color warranty and 50 year limited warranty on the product itself.   Hardie can also come unfinished and can be painted to match any color if the pre-finished color options are not a match for your needs. The cost to install Fiber cement panels is a bit more and typically costs 50 percent more than vinyl in overall cost. The siding panels are significantly heavier than vinyl siding weighing up to 6 times more than vinyl. Fiber Cement is much more durable than wood and required less maintenance but it is not as maintenance free as vinyl siding with the need to paint every 15 years or so but resembles a wood application more accurately than vinyl.
    Crane insulated siding on house.jpg

TongueandGroove3-3LARGE.jpgWOOD SIDING
Wood Siding is the original siding application and is still a great looking and naturally insulating product. Cedar shakes and Lap siding are the more common applications and if installed correctly and properly maintained can last the entire life of the home. The lap siding gives a more seamless or classic look whereas the shakes give a more rustic appearance. The preparation for the wood siding is the same as Fiber Cement board. The lap siding is generally considered more durable than the shake siding in windy conditions and is considered the more durable of the two. The most common wood used for wood shakes is cedar and the thickness of the cedar shakes also drives the cost and durability of the wood siding. The difference between cedar shakes and shingles is less clear now than it was many years ago. Initially, cedar shingles were sawed from a block, while cedar shakes were split off using a mallet cedar shingles are more precisely milled than shakes, and provide a more refined classic appearance, which is well suited to a wide range of styles. Cedar shake installations provide a more irregular, rustic appearance. They make a less sophisticated, more charming statement that works well for some smaller cottage styles. Most cedar shakes today are made by machines, and are sawn on at least one side. Shakes are sometimes machine grooved to appear more like authentic hand split shakes. Although cedar shakes today are seldom hand split, they still are the same sizes that was used when carpenters used mallets to split off the shakes. Shakes are thicker than shingles. Cedar shingles are cut more accurately than shakes. Cedar shakes are more irregular, and don’t lay as flat when installed. This creates gaps which can be penetrated by windblown rain. The major issue with wood siding is the maintenance requirements of caulking, staining or painting every few years, but the beauty to some homeowners is well worth that cost. Prior to installation of shakes and layer of felt paper or house wrap should be installed as well.
cedar siding.jpg






If you would like to talk about ideas for remodeling or renovating your home in Fairfax, Mclean, Springfield, Woodbridge, Alexandria, Arlington, and Falls Church VA, reach out to us at Foster Remodeling. Call now for a free consultation!

Written by Jeff Weeks, Home Improvement Sales – Foster Remodeling Solutions, Inc.