How to Head Off Remodel Callbacks

Prevent problems before they arise with these seven tips.

Ever feel like the only thing you do all day is deal with dissatisfied customers and their complaints? It doesn't have to be that way. A little preventive medicine can cure your callback headaches.

The following steps can help remodelers head off problems before they result in callbacks—or, worse, unhappy clients:

  1. Check the work done by each trade contractor as soon as it's finished. You'll be able to spot any problems with electrical work, heating ducts or plumbing a lot more easily before the drywall is up. Make sure the work is done as specified in the statement of work and meets your quality expectations.

  2. Do periodic walkthroughs with clients to give them the chance to see what’s been done and ask questions. While it's unrealistic to expect them to spot technical mistakes, they may see differences between what they expected and what’s been done, which you can address right away. And they'll almost certainly feel better about the whole process if they have the chance to provide input.

  3. Post a punch-list sheet, a form where customers can write down any areas they have concerns about as they occur. Be sure the customer knows where the list is and what it's for, and instruct the crew to check the list daily and take care of any problems immediately.

    This proactive approach allows questions to be answered and problems to be solved before they balloon into complaints. Salespeople can also act as customer-care representatives, visiting the job site often when the homeowner is present and helping to answer questions raised on the punch list.

  4. Give each contractor a list of telephone numbers for all the trade contractors on the job. How tradesmen communicate with each other can forestall potential problems.

    "It's nice when the electrician can get in touch with the finish carpenter with a question," says Steve Kunzweiler, president of Cabinets Plus, in Palatine, Ill. "'Can you move that island a few inches? I can't get the lights centered where it is now because of a joist in the ceiling above.'" This also gets each trade thinking about the potential problems faced by the next guy.

  5. Know the products you normally use. Keep track of products that create problems—you may be able to find a pattern of trouble with some of them. Keep a database of product failures and pass the information on to the product representative. Drop products that continually cause problems.

  6. Don't keep product information a secret from the clients. Put all warranty and product information in an envelope and hand it to the homeowners at the end of the job. Remind them to fill out the warranty cards and read all the information relating to use and care.

  7. On your company website, include a page on which you list product information. List as many telephone numbers and links to the manufacturers of those products as possible. That way your customer can go directly to the source and solve a problem without having to call you. And don't underestimate the use of a good frequently-asked-questions section. Keep track of questions that come up often and post them with the answers on the website.

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