We recently had a prospective client come back to us after choosing another contractor, only to realize they likely were making the wrong choice.
They said things “took a turn for the weird” and that this basement company “doesn’t pull permits” which immediately was a red flag for the homeowners. Their first question back to us was if we pulled permits and yes, yes we do.
But it may help to understand why some basement contractors don’t pull permits.
“Saves” You on Paying Taxes
Some basement finishing companies will say that by not pulling a permit, you’re saving on the cost of the permit (which actually isn’t much in the grand scheme of things) AND the square footage of your home isn’t updated in the assessor’s listing which will save you in taxes. Why does that feel wrong even typing it?
That’s because it is. Yes, many people have gotten away with finishing their basement and never having to pulled a permit but there are a lot of things wrong with that.
- It’s illegal
- If you get caught, the consequences are hefty for both the homeowner and basement contractor
- It’s ultimately an integrity issue
We talked to the Chief Inspector at the City of Omaha and here’s what he had to say about filing permits.
They Can’t Actually Pull a Permit
There are some pre-requisites to pulling a permit including being a licensed contractor and also being bonded. Without furnishing proof of both of those things, a basement contractor can’t actually pull a permit.
Additionally, you have to be in good standing with the city (AKA no outstanding violations) so if your contractor doesn’t pull a permit, one of these issues may be the case.
They’re Shortcutting The Work to Avoid Inspection
A portion of the cost of a permit pays for the city to release inspectors during the basement finishing process to check that work is being done up to code.
This means the framing, electrician, and plumbing are inspected throughout the process to make sure everything is up to code. (Inadvertently, it means that the electrician and plumber you’re using are also licensed.)
A basement contractor trying to avoid inspection could be an indication that they might cut corners to save on costs or labor. Saving a buck seems appealing, but we all know that cutting corners in the short term often means someone has to pay for it later.
If you decide on a basement contractor that doesn’t pull permits or brushes off the idea of doing so, it’s important to ask them why. And if they can’t give you an answer that makes you feel comfortable, maybe you need to find another basement company.
As the saying goes: If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.
Call Hawthorne Finished Basements if you want things done right and done well- (402) 321-5260.
Finishing your basement can be a really exciting time!
You’ve probably dreamed of what you could do with the space and started looking at Pinterest or Houzz for design inspiration. But before you get going on the work, you need to find a trustworthy basement contractor who can do the job.
We have ALL had terrible experiences with contractors (including both Lindsay and I) so we want to help you avoid the headache if you can. Here are 5 important questions you should ask before hiring a basement finishing company:
1. Are you licensed, insured, and bonded?
Being bonded and insured is often a pre-requisite for a contractor to be licensed and being licensed means you’re able to pull permits. Insured is just as it sounds- a contractor has some sort of insurance against any potential liabilities. Bonded is more for the protection of the homeowner against incomplete work, failure to pay permits, or other financial obligations.
Sure, you can totally use an unlicensed basement contractor (such as your Uncle’s drinking buddy), but there is very little- legally speaking- you can do if the project goes awry.
2. Will you pull a permit?
We’ve all heard stories of contractors not pulling permits and getting away with it, but it helps to understand why we believe it’s important to pull a permit in the first place. The permit ensures that during inspections along the way (framing, plumbing, electrical, etc.) that your basement is up to code and meeting the safety standards governed by the city. This will help in the future if you ever plan to sell your home and get a home inspection and obviously, sets up future homeowners on the right path.
A basement contractor that refuses to pull a permit often does it to “save costs” (which it’s really not that expensive compared to overall finishing cost), but it will allow them to cut corners and for no one to hold them accountable. Want to understand more about permits? Check out this article we wrote.
3. How does payment work?
While our pricing and process model looks completely different than most Basement Contractors in Omaha (because we require very little upfront), we understand that other companies ask for more upfront.
We’re not saying that it’s necessarily wrong, however, we would caution you on someone who requires a very large sum upfront (say 50% or more of overall costs). That’s often a big check to be writing before any work has been done and unfortunately, some homeowners have been taken for a ride.
It helps to understand how payment works and if they do require a large amount (which can be totally legitimate), we encourage you to have them explain the need for so much.
4. Do you have a contract?
It’s important when you’re dealing with large sums of money and work to have legal contracts in place to protect both parties. Some basement contractors work off of oral agreements or their quote sheet as the legally binding factor. While acceptable, it really doesn’t divulge enough information to protect both parties.
In fact, a bid sheet often protects the interest of the basement company rather than the homeowner. We encourage that if you’re working with someone to ensure they have a contract in place, you’ve read the contract, and you understand all the terms.
5. Do you have references?
If everything else checks out, now it’s time to do the nitty gritty work of interviewing previous clients. Any basement company can show you finished work of a project they’ve worked on, but you never know the process it took to get there.
At Hawthorne, we believe that it’s important to not only build out a great basement but have a great process along the way. Check out references from social media (if they’ve tagged the homeowners) and ask specific questions such as:
- Did you enjoy working with this company?
- Did they stand by their work?
- Did the timeline match your expectations?
- Would you refer them and/or work with them again?
All of these questions will help you understand the type of company you’re working with before you even get started.
If you’ve gone through these questions and feel like Hawthorne Finished Basements would be a good fit then give us a call to get started at (402) 321-5260 or email email@example.com.
When you’re researching basement contractors in Omaha, the first step most people do is gathering quotes.
But unlike other basement companies, we don’t quote it the traditional way. Even stopping by your home and surveying your basement wouldn’t be able to give you an accurate estimate.
(Note: Some basement finishers do it this way and they’re often ball parking on the high end which is disadvantageous for you)
So how does Hawthorne do it?
Step 1- Create the Design
We asked that all serious clients work with our drafting company to create an actual design of their basement remodel. This includes an on-site visit from our partners to take accurate measurements of your space. Within a week, we can have the preliminary design ready for viewing and modifications.
Step 2- Gather the Bid
Once the design is approved, we get the final copy in order to send it out to all of our subs for bidding. As we mentioned in a previous blog post, these are hard bids and actual numbers- not just us guesstimating.
This same plan is what we will use to file a permit with the city if you decide to go forth as well.
Step 3- Review the Bid
We arrange for a homeowners meeting where we go through the estimates and final numbers with the homeowners. No mystery where the numbers are coming from and we simply calculate our management fee on top of the overall costs. (One advantage to your during this time is the contractors pricing and savings we receive is passed on to you- no markup)
Step 4- Start the Project
If there are any modifications at this point, we can make the necessary additions/subtractions from the scope of work and reach a plan that works for you. Once approved, we sign on the dotted line and take the initial deposit. An advantage of working with Hawthorne Finished Basements is you can expect regular communication and you will always have a pulse on the progress of your basement.
During the next few months of working on your basement, there will be several small decisions, questions, and timeline things we would need to communicate and coordinate. Don’t worry, we’re advocating for you and the success of staying on budget (and on time). That’s just one of the many benefits of hiring a basement remodeler instead of doing it yourself.
Looking for a basement contractor in Omaha you can trust? Ready to get started on your project? Give us a call at (402) 321-5260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and be surprised how quickly we get back to you!
Ever start a home project that was supposed to take “3 months” but turned out being much, much longer?
This isn’t unusual and there are reasons for this. Sometimes it’s the fault of the homeowner. Sometimes it’s the fault of outside circumstances. Often it’s the fault of the basement contractor.
Here are the most common reason most projects, including basements, take longer:
Basement Contractor’s Communication (or lack thereof)
The basement finishing industry and construction, in general, has a horrible reputation for communication. Part of this problem is the industry is slow in adopting technology– specifically technology that will aid in communication and project management.
They rely on old school methods such as sticky notes or often, from memory (which fails us all at times).
This not only includes poor customer communication, but poor communication to any subcontractors or tradesmen involved in the project. Inevitably, this delays handoff points in the projects and increases the interruption time in your home.
Homeowner’s Decision Making
This one mostly falls on the shoulders of the homeowner, but it comes to taking more time in decision making. (Note: It may be the basement contractors fault if they don’t give adequate time and notice to homeowners on when to make decisions)
We’ve talked to other basement companies and sometimes the hangup on a project is the homeowners indecision. This could be two spouses not agreeing on finishes, one spouse waiting on another to agree, or simply taking extra time to make important decisions.
Either way, it’s the job of the contractor to let homeowners know that any delays in decision making will ultimately cause delays in the project. This help recalibrate expectations to minimize disappointment.
External or Uncontrolled Factors
Lastly, there are sometimes issues that revolve around factors neither party can control. This includes:
- Delays in permitting and inspections
- Severe weather delays (albeit less likely with basements)
- Unavailability of Subcontractors
These are factors often our of the control of both parties that will affect the timeline. Again, it’s the responsibility of the basement contractor to communicate this delays and adjust timelines.
We recognize that there are tons of Basement Contractors in Omaha that you can choose from. We believe that our communication, organization, and competitive pricing model set us apart.
If you’d like to get started on a basement project, call us at (402) 321-5260 or email email@example.com.
There’s someone in every industry that ruins it for the rest. Basement finishing and remodeling is no different.
There have been countless stories in the news about Omaha Basement Contractors who talk a good talk, but then fail to deliver on any work.
In this story, a basement contractor had a couple wire him $17,000 upfront to finish their Bellevue rental home. He never performed the work.
In another recent story involving the same contractor, he changed his name and business name to yet again scam homeowners.
The underlining message is even if you use such services as HomeAdvisor, Angie’s List, Porch, or Thumbtack- that doesn’t ensure that you won’t become a victim. While most of these sites are legitimate (as are the reviews) we encourage homeowners to look more towards suspicious behavior.
Here are 3 ways to spot a potentially fraudulent basement contractor:
Requiring a Large Upfront Payment
Let’s say that the total cost of a basement finish is around $40k. If the contractor requires half of that amount before any work is done, it could be suspect. They may be totally legitimate, but it is risky to give that much amount of money without having any work to show for it.
We encourage homeowners in this instance to ask “why.” If they fail to answer a believable story then you may want to pass on working with them. Any basement company that requires that much amount to even start a project may have unforeseen financial troubles.
No Contract in Place
In the construction industry, we realize that many contractors work off of verbal agreements or even use estimates as binding contracts, which aren’t the same. The purpose of a contract is to protect the mutual interest of both parties in the event things go awry.
If a basement contractor never presents a contract, we would encourage you to ask them why. Basement finishing projects are usually a large financial investment so why would you avoid a contract? It’s a sign of professionalism and accountability to have a contract in place. Consider avoiding basement companies that “don’t believe in that sort of thing”.
Look for Personal Recommendations
Finding reviews off sites such as Angie’s List, Google, or HomeAdvisor can be helpful, but it can be hard to determine if those reviews are legitimate. This is where your personal social network comes into hand.
Ask for recommendations on Facebook, with your neighbors or even through NextDoor. It helps to talk to people who have personally worked with these basement companies and can give you an honest opinion.
Choosing someone to finish your basement, come into your home, and ultimately receive your money is a big deal. Be wary of suspicious behavior and don’t be afraid to ask to see documentation (such as license and insurance).
Even still, they may have all those things in place and have a good standing with the BBB and still be fraudulent. Look towards personal recommendations (or companies to avoid).
If you’re ready to get started on your basement, give us a call at (402) 321-5260!
The best time to finish a basement is when you have financing for it.
I’m kidding. Mostly.
You’re probably looking for a season where it would make the most sense to finish your basement, right? Well, I’m going to answer your question with some questions and explain the different reasons.
What Do You Need the Basement For?
There’s usually a reason for completing your basement. Whether it’s in preparation for Husker Football in the Fall, March Madness, your kids entering middle school, or your mother-in-law moving in soon- there’s a reason.
Therefore, try to allocate about 3-5 months if you plan on using a basement contractor or 1-2 years if you plan on doing it yourself. You think we’re kidding about that last part, we’re not.
Another important consideration is when attempting to sell your home. If the market is in favor of the buyers and all the surrounding homes have completed basements then you may need to complete your basement.
Obviously, it looks good on your listing to increase the finished square feet and many people love turnkey homes.
When Are Basement Contractors Most Available To Work?
The construction industry is most thriving during the Spring and Summer with favorable conditions. This prompts much of the workforce to concentrate on exterior projects.
Your basement, however, can be started and finished at any point in the year. This past Winter, many Omaha basement companies had slight delays because of blizzard-like whether that made roads impassable. While minor in the grand scheme of things, weather delays are more prone in these seasons.
So again, Fall or Winter is a great season to start a basement project since the demand for construction decreases. But truly, any time of the year would be ideal for a basement project.
I’m Ready to Finish My Basement, What Next?
Much like other basement contractors in Omaha, we usually need an onsite visit to your home to understand your needs.
Once there, we need our drafting team to create a rendering of your basement that we can use to pull a permit and bid out each piece. To understand our pricing model and how we’re different than other Omaha basement companies, see here.
When all parties agree on the numbers, then we can sign on your project and begin work. Give us a call at (402) 321-5260 to get started to email firstname.lastname@example.org.
**These are current as of 3/2019.**
As basement contractors, one of the questions we’re often asked regards filing permits. Instead of going from our experience, we went straight to Omaha’s Chief Inspector, Mike Wilwerding, for these answers.
Below are his responses and what is listed on the Omaha Planning Department’s website so you’re hearing it straight from the horse’s mouth.
What is a Permit?
A permit is an official approval by the City of Omaha Planning Department allowing contractors or homeowners to proceed with a construction project- such as a basement finishing.
Why Do I Need a Permit?
A permit is a way of providing reasonable controls for the design, construction, use, occupancy, and maintenance of buildings, their facilities, and various components. The permit document shows that a building project is being constructed under processes for insuring code compliance and public safety.
In other words, the permit is the well-being of the community in a broader sense (and not because the government wants a reason to charge us).
Do I Need a Permit for Finishing My Basement?
In short, yes. The list provided by the City of Omaha for work that needs a permit includes anything structural such a room additions, new dwellings, roofing or siding, decks, fences, basement finishing (or basement remodeling), garages, antennas or towers, sheds over 75 square feet, window replacements, retaining walls over 6 feet high, front yard parking, fireplaces, and wood stoves.
Do People Finish Basements Without Filing a Permit?
Mike said it happens all the time, but it’s illegal. The consequences of getting caught after the fact aren’t worth it.
For instance, he said that if they find out you finished a basement without a permit, they can charge you 4x the amount you would have paid otherwise. Additionally, you’ll have to tear out all the finishes (flooring, appliances, walls, etc.) so that the city can see the structure (plumbing, electrical, etc.) and properly inspect it.
The monetary penalty and the huge inconvenience of tearing out a newly finished basement simply aren’t worth it.
What Happens if My Basement Contractor Doesn’t File a Permit?
How Are People Caught If They Didn’t File a Permit?
How Much does it Cost to File a Permit?
The cost of a permit is directly proportional to the cost of the project. For instance, the fee for the first $2,000 cost of a project is $44.28. Then it’s an additional $10 for every $1,000 in estimated project cost.
Additionally, there is a (fairly negligible) tech fee of $1.60 upon online registration.
Who Files a Permit?
When filing a permit for remodeling or finishing a basement, it’s often the basement contractor who files a permit on behalf of a homeowner. In many other instances, however, the homeowner who is doing the work themselves will file it as well.
How Do I File a Permit?
You can file a permit for finishing your basement either in person at 1819 Farnam St. Omaha NE, 68183 (room 1110 on the 11th floor) or online by clicking here.
At Hawthorne Finished Basements, we simply like to do things by the book. This includes doing all the things required by the City of Omaha for basement finishing. Integrity is one of our core values and obviously, this will serve to protect the interest of homeowners.
If you want to work with us, shoot us an email at email@example.com or give us a call at (402) 321-5260.
If you’re considering finishing your basement, you may be wondering what are some ways to pay for finishing a basement.
It’s good to have some sort of an idea before you call any basement contractors to start gathering some quotes.
Here are some popular options to pay for finishing your basement:
Pay for a Basement with Cash
Maybe you’ve been listening to some Dave Ramsey and love paying for things outright. Or you possibly came upon a small inheritance unknowingly (I know of people this has happened to).
Paying for your basement with cash (or check) is the best option if you can swing it. Nothing stands in the way of getting started and you have complete control over how the money is allocated.
Plus, you may have some bargaining power with your basement company if they know that to be the case.
Pay for a Basement with a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)
A HELOC is a line of credit approved by a bank that is secured by your home. These types of loans are often used for larger expenses such a basement remodeling or basement finishing.
The HELOC borrows money against the equity of your home which means your home’s worth is the collateral. Much like a credit card, the money can be replenished when you re-pay back the funds.
This is a popular option for lots of homeowners because the interest rate is often lower than other loans and in many cases, the interest is tax deductible. Here are some conditions for tax deductions, though:
- You have to itemize. This would mean that you have greater than 24K in itemized deductions for 2018 (with only 10K max towards state taxes paid — property and income tax).
- You are limited to 750K of qualified residence loans. So if your mortgage and your HELOC are greater than 750K, the amount you can deduct will be limited.
- The HELOC cannot be used to pay for personal expenses (ex. To pay off student loans or credit cards).
Once the project is complete, you’ll start making payments back on the line of credit- usually 20 years.
Pay for a Basement with a Credit Card
This is probably one of the least recommended ways to pay for a basement for a couple of reasons:
- The interest is really high on a credit card negating any “points” benefit you may receive in return.
- Many basement contractors in Omaha (or in general) don’t accept credit cards.
Listen, we know you want the points and you’re so used to putting most of your transactions on plastic.
When it comes to high-dollar items such as a basement finishing project, very few contractors will want to eat the cost of the credit card fees. As such, many won’t accept it. If you intend to pay this way, make sure your basement contractors gives you the thumbs up before proceeding.
Have some cash stashed away in a shoe box buried in your backyard? This may work!
Or perhaps you have a generous family member that will loan you money for the project? That may work, too!
Have a few high asset items that you can sell? That’s an option!
There are plenty of ways to personally finance finishing your basement or remodeling your basement.
At Hawthorne Finished Basements, we can help work with homeowners to understand the costs of basement finishing or remodeling.
Additionally, we have preferred partnerships with area Omaha banks to help homeowners our clients get the best deal.
To get started on your basement remodeling project, give us a call at (402) 321-5260 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
You have many choices when it comes to Omaha Basement Contractors. But what many homeowners need to realize is that there is more going on behind the scenes.
Very few (if any) of these companies can fulfill the entire basement finishing on their own. Thus, they rely on subcontractors who are specifically licensed to do that very kind of work- such as electricians or plumbers.
Furthermore, there are other trades that don’t require licensing including framers, drywallers, tilers, cabinet makers, and carpet layers.
Here’s the important thing.
Your basement contractor should be discerning enough to know how to select the best ones to work on your basement.
Here’s how Hawthorne Finished Basements screens our crew
Knowledge and Expertise
This may be the most important factor we use to screen which subcontractors we choose for your basement. The company must be experienced and knowledgeable about their trade.
What this means is that they are able to do the job well, efficiently, and often consequently for the best price.
We often cross-check with other people within the industry about their reputation, especially when it comes to knowledge about the trade.
For the homeowner, this translates into a subcontractor that can understand long-term implications of the work they do on your home and code requirements (so we don’t encounter a violation during inspection).
Have you ever known anyone who’s remodeling project took way longer than expected?
Nothing can ruin a basement finishing timeline quite like an unreliable sub. The timeline of the project is often structured with contingencies so if subcontractor A doesn’t do his job then subcontractor B can’t do his/hers.
Part of this falls on the project manager to diligently communicate with all parties so everyone is working as efficiently as possible.
As a homeowner, this means your project will often get delayed. And often times, with very little reason or understanding why. We have selectively picked subcontractors that we know are reliable.
This means they show up when they say they will, respond to our messages (often urgent matters), and do the work that’s required of them. And this is exactly what all homeowners want.
This often is the first factor that many basement contractors use to select a subcontractor.
While price is important to consider, it’s not the end all, be all. At least we don’t think it should be.
When we are bidding out your basement remodeling, we’re looking for the best value. This means they are able to justify the cost- either way.
If they’re significantly cheaper than other subcontractors, we want to understand why. If there is any indication that they are cutting corners (inexperienced workers, cheaper products, shortcut methods) then we won’t use them.
On the other hand, if they are significantly more expensive than other subcontractors we will ask why. It may be that they’re shorthanded and need to “overprice” work in order not to get it or that they are inefficient and therefore need to charge more. Either way, this also doesn’t work for us.
We gauge price as a factor when ultimately choosing who works on your basement, but it comes with a lot of thoughtful consideration on value.
Selecting the right basement contractor means trusting that they are select the right subcontractors. We hope you’ll take the time to diligently screen and understand how your basement company chooses subs.
The construction industry is riddled with horror stories. Our goal at Hawthorne is simply to give you the best experience and change your perceptions on how basement remodeling can be.
Give us a call at (402) 321-5260, email email@example.com, or fill out our contact form to get started!
If you’ve recently embarked on finishing your basement, you may be wondering what basement flooring would be your best option.
You’re looking at function, pricing, durability, and aesthetics. Above all, it helps to understand the lifestyle of the homeowner to make a good suggestion.
Here are some basement flooring options to consider and the purposes they each serve.
Is Tile a good basement flooring option?
Tile is a great option that many homeowners will use in their basement. It looks good, has durability, and is cheap.
But here’s the thing to consider with tile.
It absorbs the temperature of the floor beneath it and oftentimes, basements in Omaha are colder than the rest of the house. This means that tile will often feel colder in basements, especially if your HVAC system has issue regulating the temperature.
Tile is also a cheaper material, however, the installation and labor costs of tile can make the same overall costs as other materials.
Tile has some redeeming qualities too! It does hold up against moisture well compared to some products (wood, engineered hardwood, etc.) and some people prefer the aesthetics of tile.
If you plan on using tile for your basement flooring, it’s great around wet bar areas or for bathrooms.
Is Luxury Vinyl Tile (LVT) a good basement flooring option?
LVT has been around for almost a decade, but within the last 2-3 years, it has been increasing in popularity.
If you think about “vinyl flooring” your mind immediately goes to your Grandma’s outdated kitchen flooring. This is not the case with LVT.
With the advances if printing technology and imaging, vinyl tile has come a long way. Whereas in the past it was one large sheet of vinyl, manufacturers are now printing them in planks. They’re created to mimic wood and marble while being much more affordable and durable in composition.
In fact, to an untrained eye, you may look at LVT and mistake it for the real thing. This is why it’s now such a popular option for flooring, especially in basements. Additionally, many LVT products can be installed directly onto cement flooring making even the labor costs significantly cheaper.
We recommend homeowners use LVT for the bar areas or bathrooms. You’ll be impressed with the looks, durability, and pricing. To learn more, check out Adura Vinyl Planks.
Is Carpet a good basement flooring option?
Carpet has long been a popular choice for many homes. In basements, especially, since you’re going from hard, cold cement to soft, cushy, and warm carpet.
We all know that carpet is great for basement flooring, so here are really the things you should consider (besides color).
Nylon or Polyester carpet? All carpets are composed of either one of these two products. To understand which you would want to choose for your basement, it helps to know how they differ.
Nylon is a more durable product and easily will last 20 years in a home. The way it’s threaded leaves it retaining the “new” form for much longer period of time. Accordingly, you pay for the price difference.
Polyester is a more commonly used product because of the price point. It shares many of the positive attributes of Nylon, but a much cheaper price. The downfall is that over time it will get matted down with heavy traffic. Vacuuming and carpet cleaning will “fluff” it up again, however, only for a short period of time.
To choose between the two, it might help to understand what you want out of your basement carpet. Do you think that you may want to change it in a few years after wear? Stains from kids or pet (or adults if we’re being totally honest)? To update the interior look of your home?
In that case, polyester carpet may fit the bill. However, if you like durability and expect to stay in the home for a long time with little change to design then nylon carpet might be the better option.
Is wood a good basement flooring option?
Wood, unfortunately, is probably not a good option for basement flooring. Solid would is susceptible to moisture and will often warp or buckle under enough exposure. (This is especially a concern for basements since cement is porous)
Engineered hardwood, on the other hand, is a good option. It’s moisture-resistance and far more durable than real wood.
The only real downside is the cost. It’s about double the cost of LVT in both raw materials and labor. The differences are so subtle that we often recommend LVT to homeowners, especially for basement floors.
There are several types of basement flooring options that homeowners can choose from. We suggest you pick a knowledgeable basement contractor that can walk you through your options based on your lifestyle and future plans.
If you want to work with Hawthorne, give us a call at (402) 321-5260 to get started!