Have you ever done a renovation and it took you 8 months? Have you ever had a contractor go MIA? Have you ever had a contractor quote an insane amount of money?
These are just some questions that leave homeowners less than pleased with the world of contractors. For ten years I have been working in the industry and therefore alongside many contractors. Finding and working with a contractor is not a simple task. Here are my tips and tricks for dealing with and finding the perfect contractor
One thing you may have not considered is the fact that working with a contractor is a VERY personal relationship. You are ultimately putting your house in someone else's hands. That is why I highly recommend meeting with several contractors and finding the one that is right for you.
Rule #1 The Rule of Three: Always get three quotes from three different contractors.
The Quotation Process
Have at least three different contractors provide you with quotes for your project. Make sure that you are very clear with each contractor and provide them all with the same information. When you get your quotes back you should sit down and compare them to one another. Make sure you are doing this throughly by comparing apples to apples. Make sure that "painting" on each quote means the walls, ceiling, mouldings and doors. If one contractor charges you $1,000.00 for painting and one charges you $6,000.00 there is often a reason. Make sure the quotes are equivalent to one another.
Rule #2 Always Apples to Apples
Homestars and Houzz are just not enough. Ask your contractor for the contact information of some of their most recent clients and don't be afraid to contact them. The more investigative work you do the better!
With pricing it differs greatly from contractor to contractor. If you are trying to save money during your reno, make sure to first look at saving with materials. If you attempt to cut down the cost of labour you will directly impact the quality of labour.
Rule #4 You Always Get What You Pay For
Before ANYTHING happens with your contractor of choice it is important to review everything to make sure you are on the same page. Most contractors will request a deposit in order to buy materials required for your project. Make sure that before you pass any money that all your terms are agreed upon. Also discuss add-ons and how they will be dealt with throughout the project.
Rule #4 Get Everything in Writing
Tips to Get Started
- Consider changing your alarm code prior to giving the keys and code to your contractor, when the work is done change your alarm code back
- Confirm with your contractor where they are going to keep their tools and equipment. If you are living through this renovation make it clear you want your house tidied up at the end of every day. I can't tell you how many tool boxes I have tripped over!
- Make sure you get all their contact information and insurance/WSIB information
THE REAL TIP: Because contractor's work multiple jobs at once, if you have all the materials you need for the project on site before they begin-they can go start to finish without pause. As a Designer this is how I run my renovations, I make sure every little piece and detail is pre-thought so the contractor can just whiz through it.
How To Treat Your Contractor
Your contractor is your employee he/she is not your buddy. Avoid offering the them beers or a bbq until after the renovation is complete. This being said I do believe in a few things to keep your contractors and workers happy and ways to just be a good host.
- Keep cold water bottles in the fridge for the workers, most important during summer months. These guys work terribly hard and providing them with water is just nice hospitality.
- If you are going to grab a coffee offer the guys on site one. They will be thankful and won't forget your kindness.
- Feed them. You don't have to feed them everyday for every meal but once in a while ordering them a pizza or picking up donuts will show them that they are appreciated.
You are in no-way obliged to do any of these things but showing some good hospitality will benefit you in the end. My contractors really enjoy working with my clients who are kind, welcoming and attentive.
The Language Barrier
In some cases there may be a language barrier between you and the trades working in your home. Make sure that your contractor can communicate to them your wants/needs. Just make sure that the language barrier isn't going to hinder the job progress.
I know from personal experience that it is crazy stressful to undergo a renovation of any kind. Here are some of my tips to make the process easier.
- If you want to say something, say something! If your contractor is leaving a mess at the front door it is your job to make him aware of it. Many times things are not done purposely but bringing awareness to it will solve the problem
- Whatever timeline your contractor provides you will understand that this is in no way set in stone. I have NEVER had a project finish on time as there are always things that come up throughout that put a hold on progress. There is truly no way to estimate how long the project will take.
- When the hole process is driving you crazy take a deep breath and remember that it isn't the end of the world and the project will be finished
Above all else remember the rules above!