Home Renovation: Dealing With Contractors

Home renovations can make your home more beautiful, comfortable and even increase its value. That's why every few years, or in case of life changing events (like when your family starts growing or moving to a new home) many people opt to renovate their homes, whether it means adding a new room, painting a room or simple expanding your home's footprint. Unless you're a Bob Vila-type then most likely, you'll be hiring a contractor to do the work for you. Now, you've probably heard all the horror stories about contractors - they never finish on time, overcharge you, or just do a complete butcher job on the renovations. While there are some unscrupulous contractors out there, a majority of them are good people. If you want to make sure you hire the best contractors, here are some tips.

Shop Around

If you want to get the best deal, then you should look at your options. You'll find dozens, if not hundreds of contractors near you, so you shouldn't be lacking for choices. If you can get a recommendation from someone you know for a contractor they've personally worked with (and happy with) then these companies should be at the top of your list. Make sure you meet with them and get other recommendations from customers and see if you can find some samples of your work. In the end however, you have to make a choice. Don't go by price alone (because you do get what you pay for) but go for value.

Watch Out For These Red Flags

Almost anyone can put on a hard hat and tool belt and call themselves a contractor, so make sure you watch out for these red flags when talking to one:
  • Wants complete payment upfront, or a large deposit to purchase materials (a reputable contractor will have accounts with suppliers)

  • Has no physical address, but rather, gives you a PO Box. Also, if they only have e-mail or an answering service and no real business phone number - run!

  • Pressure you into hiring them.

  • Gives you no written contracts, only verbal agreements.

A Complete Contract

Your contract should have detailed information of every aspect of the work to be performed. The blueprints and other plans and drawings should also be attached to the contract. You should carefully read the entire contract before signing it, and contest any part that seems vague or unreasonable. It should contain all pertinent details, including costs, start and finish times (plus penalties if the project goes over budget or time), plus building permits (and who will pay for them) and statement that the building will be up to code.

These are just the basic things you should know when hiring your contractor. There may be other things along the way you'll learn, but make sure you stick to your agreement in the contract, to ensure that your renovation project goes smoothly.