When I talk to prospective clients, I always tell them to focus on three things while they are in the contactor selection process:
- Make sure you understand exactly what you are going to get.
- Make sure you understand what the project is really going to cost.
- Make sure you understand how long the project is really going to take.
Make sure you understand exactly what you are going to get: At a minimum, the contractor should provide you with a very specific scope of work and specifications. If it is a major project with structural change, drawings and renderings should also be provided. It is your responsibility to understand the presentation from the contractor. Not everyone can—or cares to—understand construction specifications and plans. If that is your case, ask someone you know who would understand these documents to look them over and see if they make sense.
Make sure you understand what the project is really going to cost: Make no assumptions. The contractor should present you with a proposal that has all costs covered. This includes the costs of labor, installation materials, business costs, and realistic budgets for selection items like plumbing and light fixtures. It is your responsibility to make sure everything needed to make the space completely functional are in the budget items. For instance, in a bathroom, this would include paper and towel holders, grab bars, new door knobs, cabinet knobs, mirrors, etc. This stuff can add up in cost, and by having a budget for all these items, you have a solid maximum budget for the overall project. Going 25% over budget on a remodeling project is a serious buzz kill you want to avoid!
Make sure you understand how long your project is going to take: The contractor should provide you with a specific time line that includes design and shopping time, and the time from when demolition starts until the project will be complete. It is your responsibility to understand the time line, and what you need to do to help make the timeline successful.
The very best way you can ensure your contractor can perform as he is promising is to call at least three of his references for whom he did a similar scope of work in the last year or two. Ask those references these three questions about their remodeling project:
- Did you get what you expected to get?
- Did it cost what you thought it was going to cost?
- Did it get finished within the original time line?
The references’ answers will let you know if the contractor delivers what he promises, and this will give you the confidence to hire the right person.