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Everything You Need to Know About Remodeling Your Basement: An Interview with Shawn Kruse of Kruse Home Improvement and the Remodeling Contractors Association of Connecticut

By Shawn Kruse

Tell us a little bit about the Remodeling Contractors Association of Connecticut (RCA/NARI). Can you also tell us a little about your company and the services you offer?

RCA/NARI is a trade association catering specifically to the remodeling market and contractor. We have an extensive screening process to vet the people and companies that we extend membership to in an effort to ensure that they meet all of our standards. Once a member, they have access to market info, vendor discounts, trade publications, networking events, and tons of educational opportunities that are second to none. RCA/NARI's website is a place where homeowners can go to search for a reputable contractor, its an excellent resource for the consumer.

My company, Kruse Home Improvement, LLC, is a full-service remodeling company. We have been around for about 12 years now and almost exclusively work in the residential market, with the exception of a few light commercial projects each year. We specialize in kitchen, bathroom, basements, decks, doors and windows. We also do additions and sunrooms, porches, etc. For the right client there is not much we wouldn't do if I think we can do a great job at it.

What are some of the most popular features or changes for remodeled basements in Connecticut?

Many people are looking for a comfortable place to hang out and get away so basement projects are becoming more and more involved. We are doing home gyms, TV and game rooms, lounges and wet bars, small secondary kitchens, and many times at least a half bath if not 3/4. Most basements are a combination of the these different activity rooms I have mentioned. There are also some great new products that are perfect for basement applications that we have been using a lot, such as the new resilient vinyl floating floor products.

Can you walk us through the general basement remodeling process and the average time it takes from start to finish?

Average is a tough word to apply to remodeling. Nothing is average, but I guess a typical say 700 sq. ft. basement project might take us 4-5 weeks. It all really depends on what the customer wants though. You can have two 700 sq. ft. projects and one is a simple TV room while the other has a kitchenette, bathroom and game room. The second job is going to take probably a good 8 weeks to complete versus maybe 3-4 weeks for the less involved project. Once the design has been determined and the paperwork all completed, we would waterproof, then frame walls, mechanicals would go in, insulation, sheetrock, flooring installation, trim, then paint - in a very simple nutshell.

How should a homeowner prepare for this process?

They should first of all clean out the areas where the work is to take place and any surrounding areas or walkways. A basement is not as invasive a project as a kitchen, so daily life is not so impacted as with other projects on the main living floors but they will have to expect some disruptions to their normal routines. There would be work trucks arriving early every morning, potential parking issues, people would be working and possibly making some noise during the day, things would likely be a little dusty at times. A customer would have to expect and prepare for these things.

What is one of the biggest challenges that a homeowner and/or contractor faces during a basement remodel?

I think the biggest potential challenge for both parties involved is communication and expectations. It can be very difficult for everyone involved to know exactly what the other is expecting or thinking, especially since many times these people may only have met each other a couple of times before starting a major project. It's actually pretty crazy when you think about the level of commitment involved.

It is very important to have a detailed contract or specific scope of work to minimize any areas of confusion. In our case we also present our customers with a Client's Bill of Rights. This is something that explains what they can expect out of us during the process and also outlines what we expect out of the them, this is something totally separate from the work taking place but leans more toward communication and things of that nature.

How do you help solve that challenge for your clients?

The best thing that can be done when an issue of miscommunication or unmet expectations arises is to sit down and have a meeting to discuss the problem, come up with a solution that works for everyone and either implement that solution or make the appropriate change in the way things are happening so that this issue doesn't pop up again. It all comes down to having a good solid relationship, which is always based on good communication, the same as anything else.

What's the best way for people to contact you and your company?

Maybe the easiest and most convenient way to reach either Kruse Home Improvement, LLC or RCA/NARI would be online at our respective websites. Here you can always find an email address or phone number if your inquiry hasn't already been met.

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