The most important decision, after the decision to remodel your home, is which contractor to hire.

(1) Apart from the obvious considerations to make sure your contractor is licensed and bonded, you want to have a contractor that listens.  Some contractors think you are paying them for their design opinions.  It is important that a contractor pays attention when you talk about your intent, your desires.  I have had more than one occasion where the contractor had his own thoughts of what would look best.  Yeah, I’m not talking about the aspects of the job where they are the experts, some of them weigh in on design.

“Oh, I’d never use ceramic tile.  It must be real stone.”

“You’re going to put a chandelier in the bedroom?”

When I have a contractor come to give me an estimate, if he starts telling me what he would do without asking me what I want I know that he is not the guy for me.  I want the one who says what do you want to do in here?

(2)Ask about the workers who will be coming into your house.  I have always had good luck with the contractors who do not use sub-contractors.  They know their employees and trust them.  And you will want to know their hours.  I like to be showered and dressed when they arrive.

(3)References are important.  But reviews are helpful too.  I have found good contractors on Yelp.  I always read the reviews.  And I write reviews.

(4)Read and understand your contract carefully.  If there is anything you don’t understand, ask about it.  Remember if it isn’t on the contract, it is not included in the project.  If you forget to specify a niche in the shower wall, you won’t be getting one.

(5)Once hired, you will have a variety of workers in your house.  I wondered how to treat them, meaning should I offer them coffee or water, maybe even bake cookies occasionally? Even though you are not a hostess, it is good to have a big container of water and some cups for the workers, particularly when it is hot outside.  And showing a little appreciation with cookies might get you some extra mileage.  ‘Couldn’t hurt.

(6)Inevitably there are delays.  I find it hard to determine what caused the delay.  The contractor likes to blame it on their suppliers and it may be so.  I wonder if I am getting the full story.  I know contracting is an uncertain field and they have several jobs going at once.  They have to do this in order to survive.  So, unless it gets out of hand, I accept this is the way it is.

(7)Remember that you are the boss.  My first time using a contractor I thought of it as a collaborative relationship.  We want the same things right?  While the reputable contractors do want you to be satisfied, they also want to move the project along and get on to other jobs.  If something isn’t going the way you want it to, speak up quickly and decisively.  Stick to your guns. They will say things like, “that’s going to be expensive” (ask “how expensive”) or “that will throw off our deadline”.  Be firm, point to the contract.

(8) How payment is made is usually specified in the contract.  For my recent bathroom remodel I paid half of the total cost when we signed the contract, one fourth halfway through and the rest at the end.   For larger jobs lasting months there is a different structure, but the expectations should be clear for both sides.  And this protects everyone.

Here are some more good tips on renovating from BHG.

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