What to Expect When You’re Remodeling

By Dan Bawden, CGR, GMB, CAPS, of Legal Eagle Contractors, Co in Houston

NAHB "Funk Chart" for remodeling

Understanding and managing expectations during a remodeling project

I could tell it was an exciting kitchen addition project just from glancing at the plans, and I wanted this job. I knocked on Mrs. Anton’s door. “Nice to meet you, Dan,” she said, then immediately blurted out “I am scared to death do this project. My best friend is totally stressed out about the kitchen re-do she’s in the middle of at her house. I may not even do this”.

“What are you fearful of, exactly?” I asked. “I know it will be noisy and dusty at times,” she said calming down a bit, “but I just don’t know what to expect going through the process. What if I hate it so much I just want to quit midway through?”

This scenario frames a universal dilemma for professional remodelers: how do we prepare clients realistically for the remodeling process without scaring the dickens out of them?  How can you comfort them when you are about to tear their home asunder, often while they are living there? You are already well aware of the kinds of horror stories our client’s hear from their friends and family. If you tell them too many “Well, the following bad things could happen while we have your roof off during framing…” stories and they’ll decide to move instead of improve. So what can you do?

“I think I can help you!” I said reassuringly. Let me show you my “Funk Chart.”  In my presentation materials I carry letter-sized copies of a cartoony chart that lays out the emotional states of the various players in a project as they pass through the remodeling process, from design to the last doorknob party. The players who’s joy and pain are depicted include: the homeowners, you the contractor, the architect or designer, the children and even the family dog (could be a cat). It shows when they will be thrilled (framing stage ~ real progress -yeah!), and when they will be depressed (real cost of the project is revealed). When the kids will be excited (Demo! ~ Cool! Can we help?), and when things will seem to slow to a crawl (why do drywall paint and finish work take sooooo long?). Look over the Funk Chart yourself and see how you might use in your sales presentation.

“By the way”, I tell her, “you can’t quit a remodeling project half-way along – you have to see it through. It’s like the childbirth process.” (A pregnant pause ensues).  Mrs. Anton, who has spent the day dealing with her twin-toddler tirades, gives me a glowering “How dare you” look. “No really!”, I insist.

“At the start of the process, you are very excited.  A beautiful creation is underway!  You are filled with ‘happy endorphins’ and feel certain things will be rosy throughout the process.  As things progress, a few hickies occur (let me rephrase that)…few bumps crop up (that’s not much better), but you work through them, knowing the final result will be worth it. Dealing with the tough spots is easier with an experienced and understanding partner. In the last 20 percent of the process, things get more uncomfortable. Everyone just wants it to be over and done.”  She nods, clearly getting the picture.

“In the final days, things are pretty stressful, and you swear to God you will never, ever do this again. Then, suddenly… you have this beautiful creation.  You show it off to all of your friends and family. As you share your new creation, you eventually forget the unpleasant parts of the process, and will even consider doing it (remodeling) again!  The setting of client expectations has begun… 

The Funk Chart is funny but full of truth about the roller-coaster ride of remodeling one’s home.  It is a modified version of a chart done many years ago in one of our trade magazines. The Funk Chart is a great way to set client expectations in an entertaining way, without scaring clients to death. Have fun with it.