9 Steps for Using a Contractor to Remodel Your Home
Written by Dave Yasvinski

Tuesday, November 13th, 2018

There are few things as exciting – and panic-inducing – as renovating your home.

When a project goes well, it can upgrade your living space and potentially increase the value of your home. When it goes poorly, it can leave your finances and emotional well-being in shambles.

There are no guarantees that your next renovation will go smoothly, but here are 9 steps you can take when searching for and using a contractor for your next big project.

1. Conduct a Thorough Contractor Search

Ideally you're looking for a strong recommendation from a trusted source, but in the absence of that, be sure to do your due diligence.

Check out the highest-rated people on Homestars and similar sites, and read the reviews fully. Survey your friends and followers on social media: everyone has a horror story, but plenty of people can point you in the direction of a job done right.

2. Meet Them in Person

Once you've narrowed your search down to a handful of contenders, meet with them in person at your home to explain what you want done. That way, when you get your quote and project timeline, you'll also get a sense of the person you'll be sharing your home with for the next few weeks or months.

3. Confirm Whether your Contractor will Hire Subcontractors

If subcontractors will be used, find out who they are and look into their track record. It may seem like a lot of legwork, but you won't regret it later. Good contractors rely on reputable people, and the quality of work will shine through.

4. Ask For a List of References (and Be Sure to Call Them)

Make sure they've tackled a project of your size before. If they have, they should be able to show you photos of past work or even take you to see what they've done.

You're putting a lot of trust in the person you hire. You'll want to look for someone who has the time and expertise to devote to your project. In the end, you have to trust your gut.

5. Get Everything in Writing

Once you've settled on a contractor, be sure to document everything. Detail what you expect to be done, and work out a timeline for completion of each portion of work and for the associated payments. You might want to include the brand names you expect to be used and even the hours when work will take place.

6. Work Out Payment

For a big project, it's reasonable to put down 10% at the start. You can pay another 70% as you see fit, depending on the completion of certain parts of the job, but you probably want to hold back 20% until work is completed. I wouldn't hand over my entire budget before the work is done.

Make multiple copies of the paperwork – you'd be surprised how quickly things can be lost when your house is turned upside down during renos.

7. Save by Getting Your Home Ready

Clear furniture out of work zones, take pictures off the walls and even get rid of old fixtures if you can. Habitat for Humanity will come to your home, free of charge, and take away old appliances, furniture and even doors and windows for resale to fund their work.

The Salvation Army and other thrift shops will also accept your possessions, but most don't offer a pick-up service. The Furniture Bank and 1-800-Got-Junk? are also on standby for a small fee.

8. Stay on Top of Things

You don't want to hover over your contractor's shoulder, but keep an eye on the work as it progresses. Write down any concerns you have and make time to address them. Consider sharing a Google Doc with your contractor where you can detail and discuss anything you might be unsure about.

9. Don't Feel Bad about Holding Your Contractor to Account

You're the one paying the bills, and you're the one who needs to be happy when everything's done.

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