8 Tips on how to work with a contractor.

We are constantly hearing about bad contractors and the horror stories they put homeowners through. Of course there are more good contractors out there than there are bad ones, but they are not always cheap. Those contractors who provide good customer service, quality workmanship and acceptable completion timeframes usually have “reasonable prices” missing from their quotations. There are generally 2 scenarios to consider when dealing with contractors.

  1. When times are good, contractors will always be very busy. Because of this it is more difficult to get a bargain on prices.
  2. When times are bad, contractors tend to cut corners to get your business. By cutting corner they are able to give a cheap price, so don’t get to excited if you get a good bargain.

Now that you understand the potential scenarios you may encounter, how do you deal with a contractor? Here are 8 tips to help you work with a contractor. 

1. Workout what you want

I always advice people to start by making a lists of what you like and don't like in your home. Once you have done this make sure that everyone who lives with you is in total agreement with what's on the lists. Things that you should have on your list are, what activities do you do in each room? How do they relate to features you'd like to add, and so on. All this will help your contractors understand your goals. 

2. Scheduling

There are many inconveniences during the renovation period, such as: privacy, noise and dust. These inconveniences are often unavoidable, so you will need to be prepared to manage them if you and your family are going to live through the process of a renovation. Your will have to make your home accessible to all the workers. Take the time to understand their work schedules. Discuss the schedules before starting the project so that you are both on the same page. Remember that their schedule is just as important as your lifestyle. If is good to plan some dinners out, or a few weekend getaways. This will give you a break from all the craziness happening around your house. 

3. Communication

The communication between you and your contractor is absolutely critical. Make sure that you and your contractor completely understand each other. This means, asking questions, studying drawings and confirming all details with your contractor before you buy any products or start any work. Set up a calendar and message board to help you, your children, the contractor and his workers know what is happening in the house on a day-to-day basis. Make yourself accessible during the day either via mobile or a work number. This will help your contractor make fast, smart and decisive decisions on issues as they arise. 

4. Plan to spend more

There will always be additional cost that you did not account for. Not even the best contractors will know about a hidden problem until they remove a wall and finds a nasty surprise. Factor into your budget an average of 10 to 20 percent more on your renovations than originally planned. If you factor in extra cash, you'll feel more at ease when you add a feature you forgot or indulge in a luxury or two. There is nothing more annoying for a contractor when you tell them to save money on one thing to accommodate another. 

5. Be specific

Establish right from the start a begin and finish date for your project. Make sure that you have discussed provisions for extended completion dates, payment schedules and material specifications. Be very clear on who buys what and who does what. Keep a file of dates of certain installations and what happens each day at the home. This will become your memory bank of the day-to-day goings-on at a chaotic work site. 

6. Contracts

When it comes to the time to sign the contract, the contractor will most likely ask for a deposit. Typically they will ask for 30 percent of the total job. If your contractor insists on something higher, you should consider this as a red flag. Make sure you discuss any concerns you may have with the deposit or contract, it is best to dot the i's and cross the t's before signing. Never do cash deals, and always get any payment in writing. Only pay the full amount when you are totally happy with the end results. Remember communication is key. 

7. Visit suppliers

Confirm that the suppliers you are planning to buy from have stock and can be contacted at anytime. Visit the suppliers with you contractor and make sure they are happy to work with the suppliers. Ask them if they have better alternatives. Nothing is more stressful for a contractor than installing a shower only to find that a part is missing. Remember the contractor will always have contacts and will know the best products for the job. 

8. Be open to ideas

Planning your renovation can be a lot of fun, you can dream, get ideas and be creative, but when you finally start to get quotes, reality will hit. What you thought would work in reality it won't. Take advice from the contractors on what will work in your home and the materials that they feel comfortable working with. Once your project has started you may think everything is going well and you have planned for every possible problem, but inevitably changes will need to be made. Listen to your contractor, because a good contractor will always offer solutions to big or small problems, and they will use their experience from past jobs to recommend what works best. 

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