How to avoid a Renovation Nightmare: Contractors

by jessica
How to avoid a Renovation Nightmare: Contractors

If you have already decided to renovate your space, you’ve already jumped the biggest hurdle. Now you need to start deciding how to spend your money. I’m going to weigh hiring a contractor, vs. doing the work yourself.

If you are doing a simple renovation, just replacing the flooring, cabinets, counter top and a few light fixtures, without moving any appliance or plumbing locations, and are relatively handy, you can probably do the bulk of the work yourself. If you are not handy, you are still in luck. If your kitchen is in good shape, you can usually sell it to someone on for anywhere from $0.00 to $5000.00. The Habitat for Humanity RE-STORE  will also come in and remove the cabinets (call them to double check individual chapers policy in regards to this) and issue you a tax receipt for your donation. Your flooring supplier has installers who will remove the old flooring and lay the new flooring, and the cabinet company will install their own cabinetry. All that is required of you is a little bit of scheduling and coordination.

If your renovation is more complicated than this, and you are less than handy, or are not in a position to take a great deal of time from your 9-5 job, consider hiring a Renovation Contractor. If you are talking to your friends and colleagues about their renovation exeriences, they likely have a few nightmare stories of their experience. If you have ever watched Holmes on Homes on HGTV, you will no doubt be wary of bringing a contractor into the picture.  Here are some tips for avoiding a nightmare situation.

  1. Ask for referrals from friends/colleagues who have had good experiences with renovating their spaces.
  2. Ask potential contractors for recent references from clients they are not related to
  3. Be specific in your interview of references and referrals. Was the work completed on-time? Was everything documented in writing? Were the sub trades professional? Were there unbudgeted extras that should have been part of the original contract.
  4. Get it in writing. Once you have chosen a contractor, get everything in writing. If it is not confirmed on the contract or written change order, do not assume it is included.
  5. Offer to supply your own flooring, cabinetry and plumbing fixtures. The salespeople for all of these products will have much more time and energy to put into helping you make these selections, and the contractor will not have to deal with tracking them down, and having you approve samples, which may equal a lower price for the job.
  6. Make sure that the sub-trades are qualified. Often flooring surfaces and cabinetry are not fully warrantied unless installed by a professional installer designated and insured by the supplier. Confirm all warranties in writing. Your contractors word is not worth much in way of a warranty if you can’t find him two years from now.
  7. Whenever there is an overage, refer back to your original contract to verify that it is an legitimate extra expense. The only way the cost of the project should go up, is if you make a decision on the fly that impacts the design, or materials, or if something completely unavoidable comes up, such as rotting floor joists, or mold behind walls.
  8. If you are not 100% satisfied, do not pay the full balance owed. Make sure that you have included the right to a hold-back in lieu of work to be completed, or repaired, in your contract. This goes for all suppliers of materials and your contractor. For example if you are missing a cabinet door, your would do a hold back for your kitchen supplier, but your flooring and general contractor would be paid in full. If the contractor didn’t do something on his contract such as  wire for new pot-lights, you would hold back a percentage of the contract price from him until the pot-lights were installed.
  9. If your contractor is doing a good job, let him know. If you see something you don’t like, let him know.
  10. Block the renovated area off from the rest of the house. If there is no doorway to block the space off, use plastic sheeting or canvas to help keep the dust out of the rest of the house, and the prying eyes of sub-trades.