Help for Flood Victims

May 4, 2010

Harvard to Hardhat was mentioned recently in the Cranston Herald, Johnston Herald, North East Independent, South County Independent and Warwick Beacon. The article follows…

Read the rest of this entry »


A Message for Rhode Island Flood Victims

April 4, 2010
I’ve been there. I lost my home and almost all of my personal belongings to a flood back in 2006. I wanted to share three tips that helped me get through the initial phase of the experience. 1) Take photos of everything. Once clean-up crews arrive, the damage may appear less severe to insurance adjusters. You will want great images to help negotiate your insurance settlement. 2) Network now for contractor referrals. If you choose not to use you insurance company’s contractor, you will need to interview several candidates in order to find someone reliable (more advice on gathering contractor referrals appears below). 3) Call your friends and ask them if they know anyone in the insurance business. Talking to “experts” will give you invaluable insider advice for negotiating your claim. (Also see the “Ten Tips for Managing the Inevitable Insurance Claim” article on this site for more insurance advice).

Read the rest of this entry »

Timing is Everything

February 6, 2010

They say “timing is everything” and your construction project is no different. The most important rule to follow is to refrain from scheduling your project during any major life events. After all, your remodel IS a major life event. To that end, I strongly advise you not to begin your job at that same time as an upcoming wedding, baby arrival or surgical procedure. Not only will the construction require your full and undivided attention, but the stress that ensues is likely to impact anything else going on in your life.  Read the rest of this entry »

Negotiating with your Contractor

November 8, 2009

Do not be afriad to negotiate with your contractor.  Assume that everything is negotiable, but focus on areas in which you can achieve the greatest savings. Questions like “The hauling fees seem high to me. Is there any room in those figures?” can save you hundreds of dollars. Utilizing intelligence from the competing bids you received can also be extremely effective. If the estimate from your second-choice candidate listed a sliding glass door replacement cost that is $1,000 less than your contractor’s price, confidently state that you know it can be done for less. Unless you’ve already signed a contract, your contractor will recognize that you are still free to pursue other alternatives and should be willing to work with you.

The key thing is not to be shy about asking for price breaks. To the contrary, the average contractor has already incorporated some padding into his proposal and is expecting you to ask him questions about his estimates. As long as you are respectful in your discussions, and not squeezing the profit out of every excruciating detail, he should demonstrate a certain level of flexibility. On the rare occasion your contractor is unwilling to negotiate, thank him for his time and move on.

Selecting Materials

October 27, 2009

Once you’ve defined your project, making decisions about flooring materials, colors, hardwood styles and appliance models early on can pay great dividends. There are several reasons for this. First, this preliminary research will familiarize you with not only the decorative and functional options available, but also the expense associated with each of your choices. You will enter into negotiations with your contractor having a much better handle on the true cost of your supplies and materials.  Read the rest of this entry »

Minimizing Home Repair Costs

September 28, 2009

You can minimize contractor costs significantly by carefully reviewing and negotiating your contractor’s initial bid for your home remodel or repair. Having received bids ranging from as little as $50,000 to as high as $144,000 for my home restoration, I know first-hand how liberally contractors can pad their proposals.



Read the rest of this entry »

Hurricane Season is Here!

August 31, 2009

With hurricane season in full swing, the prospect of widespread flooding is top of mind — especially in coastal communities. Following are a few actions you can take to better prepare yourself if you should find yourself the victim of significant water damage.

Read the rest of this entry »

Maximizing Your Insurance Settlement

August 14, 2009

I get a lot of questions about how to maximize insurance settlements. Below are some suggestions on what to do during the early stages of a home disaster.

First and foremost, be sure to save any and all receipts related to the inconvenience of being displaced from your home. This includes hotel (be sure to clear hotel arrangements with the insurance company first), restaurant meals and even the expense of developing your photos. Keep in mind that some insurance companies may have reimbursement caps such as meal per diems and clarify any of these items with the agent up front. In my case, for example, I was reimbursed only for incremental meal expenses above and beyond my regular grocery costs. It is, unfortunately, true that the odds of the insurance company proactively communicating this information to you are low. Read the rest of this entry »

Checking Contractor References

July 26, 2009

When hiring a contractor, I recommend treating every aspect of the “recruiting” process the same way you would if you were hiring an employee at the office. Just as you would at work, never overlook the critical step of checking references.  Following are  Read the rest of this entry »

The Risks of Ignoring the Permitting Process

July 10, 2009

Failing to procure the necessary approvals for your project can cost you dearly down the road. If your municipality official discovers that you are performing construction without a permit, the Building and Safety Division can and will require that you demolish all work and begin from scratch under the watchful eyes of the building inspectors.


Nearly all forms of construction on residential or commercial private property, whether new or remodeled, require building permits. If you plan to move walls, build an addition or remodel an entire room, you will definitely need a permit(s).


Read the rest of this entry »