The words “Match Existing” appear in the plans or specs for many remodeling jobs, in which the owner or designer wants the new work to blend in with the existing structure. The phrase may be applied to the color or texture of roofing, stucco, siding, plaster, flooring, or just about any material. Or it may refer to the shape of a molding or other piece of woodwork.
If you’ve ever tried to “match existing” yourself, then you know how difficult this can be. Modern, computerized paint matching systems, available at almost any paint store today, have solved the problem pretty well for paint. However, all materials fade (or darken) over time, and some materials are simply no longer available, so an exact match is impossible – or very expensive as it would involve custom fabrication of that molding, door, or whatever it is you are trying to match. And even if the exact same material is available, it will probably not match until it has weathered or faded over time.
Contractors try to deal with this by putting various disclaimers in their contracts, or procedures for having the owner or architect approve the match. The disclaimers usually state that the contractor will make his best effort to match, but that an exact match is often not possible. It may go on to state that there will be an extra charge for special-order or custom work if stock materials are not acceptable. Some contracts include a procedure for submitting the matching material to the owner or architect for approval, giving the contractor final say if nothing is approved after a good-faith effort on his part.
As an owner, I would like the contract to state that “Contractor is to match the existing roofing, as approved by the owner [or architect].” However, as a former contractor, I wouldn’t expect a perfect match, so I’m a pretty easy customer in this regard.
This is an area that requires a reasonable attitude and give-and-take on both sides. For renovations, hire a contractor with a lot of experience in remodeling, as this involves a different skill set than new construction. Discuss your expectations up front, look at some samples, and work out a mutually acceptable solution. In many cases, a perfect match is not possible, but a skilled craftsman can get pretty close.
Square and level. This is a special type of matching required in remodeling work, especially on older homes. In general, it’s a bad idea to connect something square and level to an old building that has sagged and sloped. You’ll end up with an awkward place to trip on the floor or an unsightly seam on the wall. A skilled remodeler will do his best to fudge the connection and blend things together. The contract may call this out in the contract with a disclaimer that the new work may need to be out of level to match the existing. Again, hire an experienced contractor with a good track record on similar jobs and you’ll probably be happy with the results.
Bottom line. In remodeling, a perfect match to existing materials is not always possible. Find a good contractor with extensive experience in renovations and work out an acceptable match. The contract should require that matches be approved by the owner (or architect).