So, you’re ready to remodel your living room, and it is too big of a job to complete yourself. Who do you hire as a contractor, and how will you know what to expect from them? Below, we have listed 5 tips that contractors might not tell you, but are important if you’re looking to get a reliable contractor and affordable work.
- It’s completely appropriate and acceptable to get estimates from multiple contractors, even if you don’t intend to use them. When you “shop around” for different bids on your project, you are doing the homework necessary to get the best value while also being able to vet the contractor in person. And while they are in your home, talk to them—make sure you’re able to get along and that they are knowledgeable with a positive attitude. If you find you like one or two of the contractors you met, ask for references or an example of their work. It is important to know exactly what you’re getting into, especially with larger, costlier projects. Remember: this is your home, and you are the boss! Hiring a contractor is still a hiring process, so don’t feel guilty about reviewing several different options.
- Make sure you are working with a licensed tradesperson, or that work being done is inspected by a licensed tradesperson. Shoddy jobs or inexperienced work can be avoided by making sure that your contractor is a master of the trade, not just a jack-of-all-trades. Sure, your plumber is great and says he knows how to help you with some electrical rewiring, but its best if you request that he have a licensed electrician look over the work just to be safe. While you or your neighbor may be able to tackle smaller projects on your own, it is important to have a licensed contractor for any bigger, more complicated jobs.
- Don’t prepay for work that hasn’t been completed yet—especially if there has been no specified end date or schedule planned with you. If you do, you may end up in a situation where you have paid a lump sum of money to a contractor that, for one reason or another, is not able to complete the job. Most contractors will expect some percentage to be prepaid, however. Our advice is to never pay more than 30% of the total cost, as this should cover all of their material costs.
- Take photos before and after the work is completed. This is a preventative measure in case something goes wrong once the job is finished. Photos can work well as a bargaining tool for any glaring mistakes a contractor and his team may have left behind—including not cleaning up the mess! If negotiations between you and your contractor go south and you need a lawyer, the photos you took will be a great piece of evidence for your case. And if all goes well? Now you have before and after photos to show off to your friends!
- Know the language. Not being familiar with the terminology or having the confidence to talk about it with your contractor makes it easier for them to take advantage of you (both in price and in quality of the work). If you know some of the technical terms and have a basic understanding of how different systems in the home function, you’ll be able to show your contractor that you speak their lingo—and will notice if they do not complete the job properly. When you appear unknowledgeable, it’s a bright flashing signal to the contractor that they can take shortcuts to get the job done quicker, and overcharge you for it.
If you want to learn the terminology, as well as basic to moderate home repairs, consider signing up for We Can Fix It, our women’s home maintenance education course (a course for the not-so-handyman is coming soon!). We Can Fix it provides you with the knowledge and confidence necessary to speak and negotiate with contractors. If you’re interested in more complex home renovations, NeighborWorks of Western Vermont is now additionally offering We Can Improve It, a level 2 course for We Can Fix It graduates who want to take even further control of their home (and save money, too)!
If you’re interested in We Can Fix It and would like to learn more, visit here or call (802) 438-2303 to sign up!