Don't worry, we've all been there. Home renovation projects can be a real pain in the you-know-what. Your house is a mess, you might have to move out, and you're constantly shelling out money for labor and materials. The best way to keep your stress levels down is to hire a qualified contractor. But don't fret if you're unsure whether or not you're speaking to the right contractors. It's totally normal. After all, with all the horror stories out there of shoddy work, delayed or unfinished projects, and stolen deposits, who could blame you for being a little cautious?
...So if you’re absolutely sure that you’re ready to take on a home renovation project, then great, that's, uhh, exciting...Congratulations! This is a thrilling endeavor that will really test your mettle.
Here are 9 tips to help you get off to a great start with your home remodeling project. These might just help you not go insane…
1. Find 2-3 Verified Contractors; Always Have Options.
Whether you’re looking to renovate your home before putting it on the market or you’ve just been hit with the inspiration to breathe new life into your living space, you’ll need to find some good contractors to get the job done. And we don’t just mean any old contractors, we mean verified, licensed, and insured home renovation contractors.
Now you may be thinking, “I can just Google ‘home renovation contractors near me’ and call the first few that pop up.” and you could do that, but we wouldn’t recommend it. You see, there are a lot of sketchy contractors out there who will take your money and run, or do a subpar job and leave you with a half-renovated home. Yikes.
So how do you find good, verified contractors?
- Get Recommendations from Friends and Family.
- Check out online review sites. The Better Business Bureau, Angi, and Houzz are good options.
- Reach out to your local home builders association as they may have contractor recommendations. Here is the National Association of Home Builders local directory.
Once you've narrowed down your options to a few contractors, get bids from each one so you can compare prices. Make sure you're clear about the scope of work so you can accurately compare estimates, and don't hesitate to negotiate. Most importantly, pick the contractor with the best reviews, and get a reference or two if possible. You're better off paying a premium for better quality service than constantly having to pay for mistakes that delay completion, which can add significant expense.
2. Ask Him/Her To Tell A Joke. If It's Bad, Don't Hire Them. Compatibility Is Everything.
Compatibility is everything when choosing the contractor for your project. If your contractor can’t make you laugh, they’re probably not the right fit for the job.
Seriously though, joking aside, compatibility is key when choosing someone to entrust your home to. Go with your gut but also make sure you’re on the same page in terms of communication, vision, and overall working style. Otherwise, you could be setting yourself up for a lot of frustration (and a crappy renovation).
So when you’re interviewing potential contractors, be sure to ask them plenty of questions about their process, their timeline, and work style. And if they can make you laugh in the process, that’s just a bonus.
3. Have A Clear Line of Communication With Your Contractor
It's important to be able to talk to your contractor and have a back-and-forth relationship - after all, no one wants their house remodeling project to be a communication nightmare! Make sure that you're working with somebody who listens, answers questions openly and honestly, and is always available when you need them. If there are any problems, they should be communicated to you immediately so that you can work together on a solution. To avoid any miscommunication, it’s important to have a clear line of communication with your contractor.
Here are a few tips on how to do just that:
- Make sure you’re both on the same page from the start. Before any work begins, sit down with your contractor and go over your vision for the renovation. This will help ensure that they understand your wants and needs.
- Stay in constant communication. Throughout the renovation process, check-in with your contractor regularly. This will help ensure that the work is progressing according to your plans.
- Be available to answer questions. Your contractor will likely have questions for you during the course of the renovation. Make sure you’re available to answer these questions in a timely manner.
And let’s be honest, communication can be hard in ANY relationship. We all have different ways of communicating, and sometimes it can be difficult to get on the same page. But that’s okay! It’s all part of the process.
4. Agree On Schedule & Deliverables In Detail Up Front. Don't Get Stuck In Contractor Limbo.
It’s important to agree on a schedule and deliverables in detail upfront. Otherwise, you may find yourself in contractor limbo - a scary place where you’re not quite sure what’s being done, when it’s being done, or if it’s even being done at all.
So how do you avoid getting stuck in contractor limbo?
Simple: by being as detailed as possible when you’re setting up the agreement. Make sure you know exactly what you want and when you want it, and then make sure your contractor knows that, too. With a little bit of forethought, you can avoid a lot of headaches down the road.
Here are some tools you can use to understand exactly what you want:
- Houzz is a great website to use for your renovation project. You can use it for inspiration by looking through their design ideas, and you can also shop for home-related products and find vetted contractors. I'm not a sponsor, I swear!
- HGTV is a fantastic place to go when you need some design inspiration. After all, it's much easier to explain your vision to your contractor when you can point to specific examples!
- Homeowners, rejoice! There's finally a software being built that understands you and your home. With Chloe, you can get personalized insights into your home's value, equity, and best renovation projects to invest in. So stop Googling things like "What's my home's value?" and "What's the average return on investment for a kitchen renovation?" and start using Chloe to make your home work for you. Additionally, our new home equity line of credit (HELOC) credit card comes with all the benefits of a regular credit card, plus cash back rewards, faster approval, and easier transactions. Plus, it's a great way to build your credit. We can't wait to launch in your market! In the meantime, feel free to join our waitlist and get updates on our progress. (Yes, we're definitely biased on this recommendation)
What is a HELOC (Home Equity Line of Credit)? We wrote an article about it on another blog post of ours.
My apologies for barfing up a bunch of seemingly spammy content on you. We're working hard to bring value to homeowners across the country, and we're just really excited about it.
5. Mutually Agree On Miscellaneous Details Before Starting
We all know that smooth home renovations start with a well-written contract. But did you know that you should also mutually agree on miscellaneous details with your home renovation contractor before starting? Things like cleanup, start time, how they will access your house when you’re not home and even the all-important bathroom breaks should be negotiated before any work begins.
Now look… you don’t have to get crazy but it’s better to be crystal clear upfront on every minute detail to avoid the inevitable costly back and forth down the line. Failure to do so could result in some, well, uncomfortable situations. So before you sign that contract, be sure to talk to your contractor about all the little details that could make or break your home renovation project.
6. Be Like Water. The Bruce Lee Mindset Will Help With Inevitable Surprises & Interruptions
We all know that feeling. You're in the middle of a big project and everything is going according to plan. And then, all of a sudden, something goes wrong. A pipe bursts, a wall needs to be torn down, or your contractor runs into some unexpected delays.
It's all part of the renovation process, but it can be frustrating nonetheless. That's why it's important to have the right mindset when undertaking a renovation project. And who better to look to for inspiration than the one and only Bruce Lee?
“Empty your mind, be formless. Shapeless, like water. If you put water into a cup, it becomes the cup. You put water into a bottle and it becomes the bottle. You put it in a teapot, it becomes the teapot. Now, water can flow or it can crash. Be water, my friend.”
So if you want to successfully renovate your home without any surprises or interruptions, take a page out of Bruce Lee's playbook and “be like water”. Water is adaptable and always finds a way to flow around obstacles. This is the mindset you need to have when faced with unexpected challenges during your renovation project.
You can't always control what happens, but you can control how you react.
7. Have A Back-Up Plan In The Event The Project Scope Needs To Change Midway
When planning a renovation, you'll need to discuss how change orders will be handled with your contractor. After all, materials might change during the course of the project, and you'll need to agree on how those changes will be handled.
Here are a few things to keep in mind when discussing change orders with your contractor:
- Make sure you understand the contractor's policy on change orders. Some contractors will charge a fee for change orders, while others will absorb the cost themselves.
- Be clear about what types of changes are covered under the change order policy. For example, will the contractor charge a fee for changes to the original scope of work, or only for changes to material selections? Be prepared to pay more as change orders usually come with extra costs.
- Be sure to get the contractor's approval in writing before making any changes to the scope of work. This will help avoid any confusion later on.
- Communicate any changes as soon as possible.
Change orders can be a bit of a pain to deal with, but it’s important to have a plan for how you’ll handle them. Otherwise, you could end up spending a lot more money than you originally budgeted for.
8. Get Everything In Writing To Avoid The "But you promised!" Back And Forth.
Your contractor might be the nicest person in the world, but at the end of the day, they're a business person. And business people often make promises they can't keep. So to avoid the dreaded "But you promised!" back and forth, get everything in writing.
Make sure your contract includes a detailed list of the work that will be done, the materials that will be used, the timelines for each stage of the project, and the total cost. And if there are any unusual circumstances that could come up during the project, make sure those are detailed in the contract as well.
Once you have that, review it with your contractor and make sure you're both on the same page. This way, when the job is done and the bill comes due, there won't be any surprises.
9. Request A Lien Waiver From The Contractor Upon Project Completion
Once the final coat of paint has dried and the last piece of trim has been installed, it's time to ask your contractor for a lien waiver. This document indicates that the contractor has been paid in full and releases you from any responsibility for payment if they should default on their obligations to their subcontractors or suppliers. Asking for a lien waiver can sometimes be awkward, but it's important to protect yourself from being on the hook for payment if something goes wrong.
Here's a quick script you can use to request a lien waiver from your contractor:
"Hi, [Contractor Name]. I just wanted to confirm that you have received full payment for the work you completed at [Property Address]. Can you please provide me with a lien waiver so that I can be sure I'm not liable for any additional payments? Thanks, [Your Name]."
It's always a good idea to get a lien waiver from your contractor when your renovation project is complete. This simple document can protect you from any legal claims that your contractor may make against you in the future. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
There’s no doubt about it, home renovations can be a nightmare. But with a little bit of planning and preparation, you can avoid a total renovation disaster.
Thank you for reading! We hope you found this article helpful. If you know anyone who is considering a home renovation, please share this article with them. And don't forget to join our waitlist to get updated on when Chloe will launch in your market!