If you have the time, money and patience, you can do many things on your own when it comes to remodeling your home. But if you’re pressed for time and have some spare cash, then hiring a professional is absolutely the way to go. With that being said, not all renovation experts are created equal, and the wrong choice can have dramatic repercussions that never really go away. You need to hire smart, and the following eight tips will help ensure that you’re able to do just that.
1. Know What You Want
This one sounds like a no-brainer, but you’d be surprised how many people really have only a basic idea of what they want to do. “I want more room,” or “I’d like to liven things up a little” are common refrains here. You need to know exactly what you want all the way down to the species of wood, the stain color for your new floor, or the material/color you want for your countertops. If you don’t know what you want, no renovation expert will satisfy you. They might come close, but it won’t be exactly right. Plan everything down to the smallest detail, and communicate that information to the person you hire.
2. Ask People You Know
Chances are good that you know at least one or two people who’ve had renovations done to their home. Ask them about their experience with the contractor, and whether they would hire them again. Ask friends, family members and even coworkers. The benefit here over reading online reviews or customer testimonials online is that these are people you know, and you’re much more likely to get the unvarnished truth.
3. Plan for Delays
The contractor you choose is likely going to be too busy to jump right on your project. Plan to wait at least one-three weeks before he or she can get around to starting on your job. Take this as a good sign, though. A busy contractor is in demand.
4. Don’t Expect the Job to Be Perfect
Another important tip is that you shouldn’t expect perfection when the job is done. There will definitely be details here or there that need to be handled after the project is completed. With that being said, you should still expect quality workmanship. If you notice a lack of quality (as opposed to a lack of perfection), it’s important to call attention to the problem during the job. Yes, that means you need to check up on your contractor from time to time. Inspect what’s been done and look at it with a critical eye. This can help you spot problems before fixing them becomes a renovation project in its own right.
5. You Need at Least Three Bids
Never interview just one contractor. You should interview at least three, but five is even better. With that being said, interviewing takes time, and you’d like the project done sometime this year, so three is a good number. Make sure you present each contractor with the same information so that you get quotes on identical amounts of work. In fact, there’s a good argument to be made for interviewing the most expensive contractor you can find first, and then presenting his bid (minus the costs) to the other two you interview.
6. Check Licensing and Insurance
Being licensed isn’t optional. It’s required to work legally in your area, and it proves that the contractor knows what he or she is doing. Insurance is also important as it can make a huge difference if someone’s injured on the job or something goes awry (otherwise, your homeowner’s insurance might have to pick up the tab.)
7. Check Experience with Your Project Type
Some renovation experts excel at kitchen remodels. Others have more bathroom remodels under their belts. Other contractors tend to focus on living room and den makeovers, or turning a garage into a man cave. The point is that while they all have the same basic skills, their individual experience is very different. You want one who has experience with your type of project to guarantee the best results, since the process for different types of projects can include a wide range of very dissimilar variables.
8. Listen to Your Gut
Often, it’s best to just go with your gut when choosing a remodeling expert. You’re going to be seeing this person every day for the next few weeks or even months. Are they personable? Do you just “have a feeling” about them? Are you comfortable with them? Does their personality mesh with or clash with yours? These are important questions to answer, and can make a very big difference in your working relationship.
While you can definitely tackle most renovation projects on your own, that may not be the right way to go, particularly if you’re pressed for time, or lack the skills needed to ensure everything comes out right. The right contractor can take your ideas and transform them into an amazing reality. The wrong contractor can leave you with more than just a bad taste in your mouth – they can drive up costs, and even put you in a bad situation if they fail to pay subcontractors, who can put a mechanic’s lien on your home.
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