6 Important Tips for Working With Contractors
No matter how big or small your remodeling project, achieving your dream space requires an investment of time, money, and energy. If you’re hiring a contractor, choosing the right one and knowing how to work with them throughout the process is key. These six tips can help ensure a successful outcome for your project.
1. Design your space first.
You may have an idea of how you want your home to look, but can you clearly convey those details to the contractor? Consider hiring a design firm or architect to create blueprints for your project and translate your vision for the remodel.
2. Get at least three contractor bids.
Request an itemized bid that breaks down the costs for materials, labor, markups, and other fees, but don’t just make your selection based on the lowest bid. Meet face-to-face with different contractors to get a feel for their communication style and whether you’re a good fit. Find out how (and how often) they’ll communicate with you throughout the project. Ask to see a portfolio of previous work, obtain references from past customers, and check that the contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured.
Tip: Avoid “allowances” by selecting your project materials before requesting bids. Allowances are simply cost estimates, and if your materials end up costing more, you could go over budget.
3. Review the contract carefully.
The contract should define every detail of the project, including the payment schedule, project timeline and end date, and job specifications and materials. It’s common for contractors to request a deposit of 10%-25% up front, but make sure this amount is reasonable. Some states, like California and Nevada, cap the amount a contractor can request before work begins. Before signing, have an attorney review your contract to ensure you’re comfortable with the terms.
Tip: To avoid potential liens against your property, ask the contractor to provide you with signed lien waivers from subcontractors every time a payment is made.
4. Schedule daily check-ins.
Once the work begins, communicate regularly with the contractor. Talk to the foreman or project lead every day (be sure to set this expectation up front, before signing your contract), whether onsite or via phone, to get progress updates and ask questions. At the end of each day (or periodically), inspect the work that was done, and address any quality issues right away.
5. Get all change orders in writing.
Things rarely go according to plan when you’re renovating. Unforeseen structural issues might increase your costs, or materials could end up on backorder, causing delays. For your own sanity, try to remain flexible. And when circumstances require changes to the scope of work, be sure those changes and costs are documented in writing and signed by both parties.
6. Be easy to work with.
A good working relationship is built on communication and mutual respect. You can protect your financial and legal interests while being fair and professional. Make your payments on time (as long as the work is progressing as agreed upon). Be responsive. And it doesn’t hurt to build rapport with the crew, either. Accommodating their needs (like providing a designated spot for bathroom breaks) and thanking them for a job well done can motivate them to do their best work.
Tip: Once the project is complete, do a walk-through before submitting final payment to make sure you’re happy with the work and that the project specifications have been fulfilled.