It probably goes without saying but I never knew the true value of it until our ordeal. Take pictures if you’re in the process of or about to begin a renovation/building/remodeling project – lots of them. Pictures can be extremely helpful if there is ever a dispute about the quality of work that was performed. I imagine most people generally take a few “before and after” pictures as well as when their project reaches certain milestones. However I would strongly recommend taking pictures more frequently, possibly everyday if there is a lot of work being done – and make sure that you take them covering all aspects and phases of the project.
These pictures can potentially save you thousands of dollars in the future by showing proof of inferior workmanship. Unlike our first experience, and quite fortunately, the vast majority of General Contractors are admirable, trustworthy and competent professionals, but they’re humans. Everyone makes mistakes and some of these mistakes could end up costing YOU a tremendous amount of money in the future, especially if it’s critical to the structural integrity of your home. Also, it would be great if we could all depend upon our local municipality’s building inspector to catch these mistakes but that doesn’t always happen and in most areas they’re indemnified and can’t be held financially liable. All of the more reason to do everything you can to protect yourself.
Of course you want to be mindful of those working on your project and not get in their way. And you don’t want to be viewed as a homeowner that is just trying to find a mistake and looking to build a case – sure fire way to destroy a contractor/homeowner relationship. At the beginning of your project start with an open and trusting mind while giving the professionals you hired the benefit of the doubt since they do this a lot more frequently than most of us – we hope. These pictures should just be viewed as insurance, same as we have for our cars and house.
Now, if you do find a mistake make sure you take detailed pictures of it along with the surrounding area. Keep in mind that if these pictures are ever presented to a third-party in order to make a judgment you want there to be undeniable proof of your claim– remember that the burden of proof is always on the homeowner.
From the beginning of our project I took a lot of pictures out of pure excitement, not even thinking that I might need them one day. Every day I would stop by the house and take pictures of the progress. A few of them I’ve posted on this site and Flickr however that is a small percentage of all of the pictures which I’ve taken. When I started finding mistakes I made sure to take a lot of pictures from all angles and views. For instance, after the initial framing was completed and we discovered that the ceiling height in the basement was going to be at least 6” shorter than what was on the plans I made sure to document this by taking pictures and videos showing the error and I even used a tape measure which gave more accurate proof of our claim.
Keep in mind that any litigation will be an uphill battle for a homeowner. Unfortunately when going before an arbitrator or a judge homeowners are often at a disadvantage and at times prematurely viewed in a negative light before a hearing even begins. The contractor has more knowledge about construction(most of the time), knows the jargon and depending if your contract includes arbitration language with an arbitrator already identified, they could possibly already have a relationship established with those determining the outcome. While not a guarantee of victory, pictures can certainly help to even the playing field and take away some of your contractor’s argument. They say pictures are worth a thousand words and in these instances it couldn’t be truer.
Thankfully most people won’t have a similar situation as we experienced however these pictures can still come in handy years from now by serving as an x-ray of what’s behind all of the sheet rock and finishes. This alone could save you hundreds of dollars. One too many times a contractor has probably said to a homeowner “we have no idea what’s behind those walls until we open it up”, your pictures will eliminate some of the guess/exploratory work and expense.
There it is and pretty simple, take pictures and lots of them – before, during and after your project. If you have a video camera it’s not a bad idea to utilize it as well. Download the pictures and/or video to a disk or external hard drive and keep them someplace safe. Hopefully you’ll never need them but if you do they can prove to be invaluable.