Highlights » ParentCare » Vol. 38

Aging in Place: Remodeling today for your tomorrow

By Carol DeRienzo

This is the final article in Vitality’s three-part Aging in Place series.

RenovationsAs discussed in our previous articles, the first step to aging in place is to honestly assess your current living situation, taking into account your health and the four vital functions that are required for you and your house to be in sync: Can you enter/exit your home safely? Is your bathroom accessible and useable? Is your kitchen accessible and useable? If you answer yes to 2 and/or 3, then ask is it useable with or without assistance? Once you have determined what is making your home uncomfortable to you, the second article discussed some of the solutions to help mitigate those obstacles.

Now, you are ready to proceed to the actual remodel, but what is the best resource for you and your project? You!

First and foremost, if you did not call the contractor to your home, do not let them in. You are in control of your project, and you want to hire the best contractor for the job you want, not the job someone thinks you need.

Education and communication are the best resources for you to have a successful remodel.

But where to start?

Understanding cost

The first question asked is usually “How much will it cost?” Costs can vary widely depending on the difficulty of the job, contractor’s labor cost, materials chosen, unseen obstacles behind walls and ceilings, etc.  Remodeling Magazine, in its “Cost vs. Value Report” each year, offers a synopsis of costs by region and midrange/upscale project to give consumers a general  idea of the cost of a given project, as well as resale value for the project. The website is costvsvalue.com.

Resources for funding

  • Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for grants or loans to help you fund your project. Listed here are just a few of the funding sources that may be available to you:
  • Home Modification Loan Program: Provides no- and low-interest loans to modify the homes of adults and children with disabilities and elders. (mass.gov/eohhs/consumer/disability-services/housing-disability/home-mod-loan/)
  • Veterans Grants: Adapted Housing (SAH) Grant, Special Housing Adaptation (SHA) Grant.
  • Long-term care insurance.
  • Aging Services Access Points.
  • Specialty organizations: Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson’s, etc.
  • Other resources: Home forward/reverse mortgages, home equity loans, personal loans and specialty rehab loans.

Hiring a contractor

What to do before you hire a contractor:

  • Research how a project like yours is typically done. Talk to people, use the Internet and discover what you like.
  • Learn the vocabulary (e.g. “change order,” “license,” insurance,” “scams,” etc.).
  • Think about design features and the quality of materials you want to use. Look through books, magazines and websites such as Houzz.com to have an idea of what you want your project to accomplish.
  • Talk to your local building department about whether your project needs any building-related permits. Make sure your contractor obtains those permits.

What you need to know about licenses:

  • Under Massachusetts law, anyone contracting to perform more than $1,000 of construction work on a one- to four-family, pre-existing, owner-occupied, residential building must have a Home Improvement Contractor (HIC) Registration issued by the Office of Consumer Affairs and Business Regulation (OCABR).
  • Under Massachusetts law, anyone who performs and supervises most construction projects and applies for building permits must have a Construction Supervisor License.
  • Under Massachusetts law, anyone performing plumbing, electrical or other professional trade work needs a license.
  • Look for companies that have taken the time to get certified over and above their required licenses. These certifications take time, money and require a test and continuing education classes to maintain.
  • Certifications for home modifications companies
  • National Association of Home Builders ~ Certified Aging in Place Specialist.
  • National Association of the Remodeling Industry ~ Universal Design Certified Professional.
  • University of Southern California Andrus Gerontology Center ~ Executive Certification in Home Modification.
  • Accessible Home Improvement of America ~ Certified Environmental Access Consultants.

What to ask a contractor:

  • Interview a few contractors before making your decision. Ask questions such as:
  • How long have you been working as a contractor?
  • Can I see your license?
  • How many jobs like mine have you done?
  • Do you have any projects ongoing now that I can see? If not, do you have references I can contact about work you have performed?
  • Will you be working on my project personally or will you be hiring subcontractors?
  • Will you be working on my project full time? Will you be working on any other projects at the same time?
  • What are some typical hidden conditions that you might discover on a project like this and how much could they cost?
  • Can I see your insurance?

What about the contract?

  • Every contract for home improvement work over $1,000 must be in writing and is required to have certain terms, including:
  • The contractor’s HIC registration number and registered business name.
  • The total price of the project.
  • A detailed description of the work.
  • A detailed payment schedule.
  • Signatures and dates.
  • A contract cannot demand more than one-third of the contract price as a deposit unless the project involves special order or custom-made materials.
  • A contract cannot require the final payment before the project is complete to your satisfaction.

Use Common Sense and Communication

  • Read your contract carefully before signing.
  • To avoid situations where payments exceed the work performed, you should structure payments against performance benchmarks.
  • Obtain all change orders in writing.
  • Be proactive with your contractor on a daily basis ~ review the work, voice concerns and avoid misunderstandings during your project.
  • Don’t go on vacation for an extended period of time unless you’ve setup a communication system such as Skype.

By educating yourself, using common sense and communicating with your contractor, you will be able to enjoy the process of your remodel and stay your home for as long as possible!

The Nurse Carpenter, Carol Marie DeRienzo, RN, BSN, CAPS, CHM, UDCP, is president of Solace RNovations, Inc. The mission of Solace is to use the eye of the carpenter and the heart of the nurse to develop customized solutions for all ages and abilities that fit individual needs and preferences to help clients stay in their homes more safely and comfortably as long as possible. For more information, visit solacern.com.

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