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How To: Conducting a Home Remodel with Lucy T. Katz of Katz Builders, Inc.

By Lucy T. Katz

Tell us a little bit about your company and its foundation.

As a boy, growing up in Philadelphia, Joel Katz spent many Sunday afternoons with his parents touring new homes. He grew to love new residential construction and in 1984, founded Katz Builders, Inc. This year, the company is celebrating building and remodeling homes, in Austin, for 30 years. As a CPA, Joel's vision for the company was all about providing outstanding value for the investment, durability of the home, and creating well performing homes before it became a popular term such as "green, energy efficient, sustainable". The company's core values are all about service starting with design through warranty and years later with its "Home Asset Management Program", taking care of homes after the warranty period has expired. Katz understands that communications between the team is a critical element to the success of any business. By using state of the art tools for improved communications between team members, Builder, Trade Contractors, Suppliers and Clients, Katz can guide the company's clients to make sound choices that would marry function and form.

Recognized by its peers in the Home Building Industry both local, state and nationally, Katz Builders and their team have received National Pacesetter Award for Customer Service, Builder of the Year and Remodeler of the Year by the Texas Association of Builders and locally, "The Distinguished Excellence Award". Just recently, Katz Received the Houzz 2014 award for customer satisfaction.

What are some important questions to ask a contractor before beginning the remodeling process?

Will I be able to live in the house during the remodel?
What do I need to do to get my home ready for you to start your work?
How will you control the dust and debris?
What lengths will you go to secure the project?
Who will supervise the work?
Who do I contact in case of an after hour emergency?
How often will the remodeler be out to check the job site/work?
Who inspects the completed work?
What are the work hours of your crews or contractors?
Do you work on weekends?
How do you communicate the work schedule and what work is to be done with your client?
Where should you set up a place for the contractor to post messages for you in case you aren't at home when he closes up the job?
Who will be responsible to open the home for the workers and lock it at the end of the day?
Do you have liability and workers compensation insurance and if you do, how much?
When you are finished with the project, how clean will it be and who will be responsible for the cleaning?
What is your draw schedule?
How do you charge for extras?
Will you provide a porta potty for your workers?
How will they monitor their crews so that the neighbors aren't inconvenienced by noise or parked vehicles?
Will contractor provide a dumpster on your property and if so where?
Does the remodeler anticipate any interruptions of utilities during the project? If so, when and for how long?
What is the Remodelers policy of smoking on the job site?

How do you suggest clients prepare for a home remodel?

Prepare for inconvenience. A remodeling project can turn your home and on some days (if you are living there) your life upside down. Kitchen remodels will of course, affect meal planning. A little ingenuity and some culinary shortcuts can lessen the impact. Set up a temporary cooking station by moving the refrigerator, toaster oven and microwave to another room. Arrange a dishwashing station in your laundry room or bathroom. If weather permits, fire up the grill and eat outside.

Designate a safe haven in in your home to which you can escape. Guard against dust because it will rear it's ugly head everywhere from lampshades to items inside your kitchen cabinets. Cover lampshades, china cabinet (if it doesn't require being emptied and moved), pack up all items that are loose around your home that you don't want broken or dusty. Remove anything on walls that might get damaged by the banging on the walls. Items that can get damaged by the dust cover with plastic drop cloths that are taped shut.

Turn off central air or heat when workers are sanding in your home and keep an extra supply of filters, changing them often. Also, seal off doorways and stairs. Other common questions to keep in mind; what plants need to be moved, what trees need to be protected, and where can workers park?

What are some common issues you face when it comes to remodeling homes?

Unrealistic expectations for budget, perfection of work, work schedule. Also, the client's ability to make decisions before the project is started as well as sticking to those decisions helps minimize the stress level as well. Changes are costly because they can impact the budget and hinder completion schedule.

As a contractor, please describe your ideal relationship with the homeowner for whom you are working.

Makes timely decisions.
Pays draws on time.
Has realistic expectations.
Is respectful to all those working on the job.

What advice do you have for the homeowner during this strenuous process?

We all want things to be perfect but sometimes, especially in a remodel, perfection might not be possible. You are inheriting conditions that might not allow things to be done exactly the way we would like it to be. Setting realistic expectations up front with your remodeler is very important. Respond to contractor in a timely manner. Don't give instructions to the people working at your home. Provide all comments (best in writing) to the individual that has been designated to supervise the remodel. Also, cookies, cakes, donuts, and breakfast tacos go a long way. Try to maintain a sense of humor and remember that certain things are out of your control and it's best to laugh rather than upset yourself about things like the weather or delayed delivery of materials.

With so many counter options out there, how do I choose the right one for my kitchen? Are there benefits associated with different materials?

Your lifestyle should determine whether you are a candidate for granite, marble or an engineered composite. Both are beautiful but maintaining that beauty varies depending on the product.

Natural stone such as granite (very hard), marble (very porous), onyx (brittle and porous). All natural stone color and pattern is non-uniform, porous and require fastidious cleaning and sealing on a regular basis. Price differs on these based on the quarry from which it was mined (determining the color and abundance). The appearance of color and movement is not uniform nor can the seams become invisible.

There are numerous engineered composites made of quartz and resin with color added, such as Caesar Stone, Silestone, and Cambria. These products are stain resistant and non-porous requiring no sealing and virtually require little to no maintenance. Spilling a glass of wine requires only a quick wipe up. A draw back on these products is that they are affected by UV Rays from sun and can discolor over time when exposed to direct sunlight. Like granite and marble, you can expect to see seams.

Marble, although very beautiful, is much softer then granite or engineered composites. It's classic, timeless beauty and white brightness is not available in granite although some of the composites do have the bright white color. Marble, even with meticulous cleaning and sealing is still prone to staining.

Will I have a bigger return on investment if I purchase custom-made cabinets?

There are pros and cons to both factory built/ finished cabinets vs custom designed cabinets. Depending on the company that builds and finishes each determines the quality of the cabinets.

In factory built cabinets there can be a number of dead filler spaces as the manufacturer's cabinet sizes are pretty standard. A custom cabinet manufacturer has better control of size and can custom build each cabinet to fit the space and desire of the owners. Of course, that doesn't mean there won't be any filler dead spaces. Factory built cabinets no longer mean we have to sacrifice quality, functionality and beauty.

Is it cost-effective for home builders and renovators to select wood flooring instead of less-costly materials?

As more material resources are available, what should determine what materials are used is the life style of the owners and how committed they are to the maintenance of the material selected. Hardwood flooring doesn't always come up as the most costly. There are so many options available such as, tile planks that look like hardwood flooring and scored and stained concrete as well. Each has it's pros and cons. When engineered flooring first became available it was a poorly made product. Today, the engineered flooring, with it's hard factory applied finishes is beautiful, durable and can come in many price ranges. Another option is the vinyl flooring that looks like hard wood. Great for heavily used and traveled areas. Staying with the lighter colors on this product helps reduce seeing the wear and tear such as big dog scratch marks.

What is the best way for people to get in contact with you or your company?

Lucy Katz
Katz Builders, Inc.
512-301-6000 office

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