Tips on how to work with renovation contractors
Be a good communicator. You must completely understand what you are getting into before you purchase any products or start any work. This means always asking questions, studying drawings and confirming all details with your contractor. Being accessible during the day (via cellphone or a work number) can help your contractor making fast and smart decisions as issues arise.
Define what you want. Start by making a list of what you like and don’t like in your home. Make sure that everyone who lives with you agrees with what’s on the list. What do you use that space for? How would that relate to features you’d like to add? All this will help your contractors understand your goals.
Be an informed homeowner. Personal intrusion, noise, distractions, dust, and inconveniences are often unavoidable, but they can be managed if you prepare yourself and your family for the process of renovation. Make your home accessible to workers, and take time to understand their schedule. Some contractors may want to work from 7 am to 3 pm, others from 10 am to 6 pm. Discuss this with them so that their schedule accommodates your lifestyle. Plan some dinners out and a few weekend getaways to give you a break from the craziness around your house.
Check your contractor’s references when hiring someone you don’t know. Most of us find contractors through recommendations. A good contractor pays attention to details, such as placing drop cloths and cleaning the site each day, and follows up with your questions and bills on a regular basis.
Give the contractor guidelines for working in or around your home. If you don’t want the workers showing up before a certain time, staying past a certain hour, using your bathroom, or if you need to have the project finished by a specific date, tell the contractor before you hire them. The contractor may not want or be able to accept the job based on your requirements. The contractor has to know what your limits and expectations are. If you want the workers only to start after 9:30 am and want them out by 4 pm, your project might take 45 days, instead of 30. That means it might cost additional money.
Plan to spend more than you thought. On average, people spend 10 to 20 percent more on their renovation than what they had originally planned. If you expect this at the outset, you’ll feel more at ease when you add a feature you forgot or indulge in a luxury item.
Always have a contract, and be specific. Is there a starting and finishing date to this project? Are there provisions for extended completion dates, payment schedules and material specifications? Who buys what and who does what? Upon signing, the contractor will probably ask for a deposit – typically 20 to 40 percent of the total job. If they insist on something higher, you should consider it a red flag.
Plan to visit showrooms alone and with your contractor. When you go on your own, you can dream, get ideas, and be creative. When you take your contractor, reality will hit. The contractor can advise you on what will work in your home and the materials that they feel comfortable working with.
Be accessible during installation times. Confirm that the showrooms you have purchased from have a contact person available. You should also be accessible by phone during the installation dates of the products you have chosen. Nothing is more stressful for a contractor than installing a bathtub only to find that a part is missing or wondering how high to hang your wall sconce.
Be open to new ideas and changes from your original plan. You may think everything is well thought out and planned, but inevitably, changes will need to be made. A good contractor will offer solutions to small problems and use their experience from past jobs to recommend what works best.