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WAG MAGAZINE | How To Build a Positive Relationship With a Contractor

My first draft of this article included a “how many contractors does it take to screw in a lightbulb?” joke.

My sister told me I was being too negative. Renovations are never easy and they can be made harder still if you are unsure about what to expect. However, it is possible to build trust and avoid some of the pitfalls by getting educated about the process.

Don’t Take Shortcuts

Many, many people think that if they are doing a small project like a bathroom, they can get away with taking shortcuts such as not applying for a permit with the building department in their town. This is probably the most common and biggest mistake people make. Although it is an added expense and could put some constrictions around what you can and can’t do, it is an insurance policy. Faulty work can ultimately cause structural damage that you wouldn’t even know about until it became a new and expensive problem to address. The building and construction inspector will be involved in the process, making sure it is legally and properly done at different stages of completion. They ensure that best practices are followed, providing you with peace of mind. A home that is up to code also adds value when it comes time to resell.

Hire an Architect

Besides providing the plans for what needs to be done, an architect is the perfect person to coordinate the various construction professionals before the work starts. For example, an architect will meet with structural engineers to answer questions and ensure everyone knows their job. Then, if a problem should arise, the plans will act as a record of what should have been done. Together with your interior designer to map out and drive the aesthetics, you’ll have experienced problem solvers on board to coordinate with the contractor and find a solution to everyone’s satisfaction. Additionally, you can ask the architect to act as your construction administrator so that they can monitor the process. This is another method of employing checks and balances. Trust me, everyone does better with some kind of structure.

Get a Recommendation

This is a pretty common-sense suggestion. Ask a trusted friend if they know of a contractor who delivered work for them on time and on budget. Check their references! Your architect and your interior designer will also be good resources for a recommendation. Protect yourself by only hiring people who are licensed and have a current certificate of insurance. Otherwise make sure you have enough liability coverage in your homeowner’s policy in case an uninsured person is injured on your property. Only hire a contractor who is a good communicator, courteous and respectful. “Thrifty, brave and true” wouldn’t be bad either!

Beware of Front-Loaded Contracts

You might think this is getting awfully technical, but you definitely need to make sure that your work contract is written to your advantage. A front-loaded contract means that you give the contractor a large amount of money right in the beginning of the job. Fifty percent of the total cost given up front may seem like a reasonable request, but it is not. There’s a lot that could possibly go downhill before you ever get to finish half the job. It’s all about relationships and you’ll know pretty quickly if there is conflict. Only give money in increments and at the completion of specified phases of the project. If you have to end up replacing your contractor you’ll be able to do so without losing too much money.

Add 20 Percent More to Your Final Budget

I don’t care how great a contractor you’ve hired, there are going to be unforeseen costs. It always happens. Can you spell a-l-w-a-y-s? Adding 20 percent of the estimated total project cost into your budget may feel like the contractor has not been careful. That’s not necessarily true. Many times there’s a lot of scary stuff hiding inside the walls that a contractor would have to take divination classes at Hogwarts to know about.

Stick to Your Plan

Lots of people get halfway through a project and then decide they want something different. A different room configuration, different finishes, different fixtures… the list goes on. They want to add something or take something out. Your contractor will not appreciate this and it really is not in your best interest either. If you took the time to work with a professional to design everything in advance, there was probably a good reason for the decisions you made then. Major changes cost time and money and it can be difficult to parse out where financial responsibility lies.

Finally, Focus on How Happy You Will Be With the End Result! There’s nothing more rewarding than watching a space be transformed into something that truly fits your personal needs and desires.

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