Hiring a Contractor? Here’s What You Need to Know

There are many things that homeowners will want to consider when hiring professional contractors. Is the job a smaller project that would be ideal for testing your DIY skills? Or are you looking for the full-blown remodel from top to bottom that needs tradespeople and skills in specific areas?

Join us as we walk through some of the key considerations to keep in mind when determining whether you can go it alone or if you should call in the professional reinforcements and, if these outside professionals are needed, how to sidestep some of the risks that can go along with hiring them.

Know Your Limitations

You could always take a trip to The Office of Building and Safety to discover the best way forward with a project. These guys will give you only a few minutes of their time, but their insights can be invaluable as they can tell you exactly what you can and can’t do.

What they won’t offer, though, is to complete your job for you. There comes the point when you’ve taken the task as far as it can go. It’s at this point that you will need to hire someone.

Who to Hire and Why

The easiest way of finding a contractor is by word of mouth. Nothing beats a recommendation from a satisfied customer. As David pointed out in episode 1 of the How to Home Podcast, “99 percent of my business comes from referrals.”

It’s worth remembering that if you have started a job and it’s not gone according to plan, hiring a contractor might prove to be more expensive if they need to correct any mistakes you’ve made. In this instance, it’s a bit like starting a race 10 feet behind the starting line, because the contractor will need to strip away your errors so that they can make sure the project is done correctly from the start.

If you want to try and save costs by doing the prep work before the contractor arrives, you have to make sure that the standard of your prep work is adequate. Knowing how the contractor works will be challenging at this stage, and one person’s standard can differ from another. Moreover, you’ll have to be mindful of scheduling, as you don’t want to risk getting in the way the of tradespeople that the contractor has called in.

Communication Between Homeowners and Contractors

The key to an effective relationship between a homeowner and a contractor is clear communication. Begin by establishing with your contractor your desires and budget so that the contractor knows what you want and can honestly tell you if it is possible given your price point. It is also important that spouses or partners are on the same page so that the contractor isn’t confused by mixed messages.

Be Prepared to Compromise

With a clear plan in place, it is then essential that you manage your expectations for progress and completion. Remodeling projects can take a lot of time and can also face hiccups that result in unexpected expenses. It might be that the contractor asks for decisions along the way that require compromise, or maybe that expensive light fixture that was going to be the focal point of your space has doubled in price or is out of stock.

This is where communication is again key, and it’s here that a good contractor can make your life easier. If your contractor knows your budget and overall vision, he or she can recommend modifications in light of these setbacks that can keep you in budget while still coming close to what you want your space to achieve. Nothing is ever perfect, and mistakes happen, but you can learn to love the result just as much.

The DIY Costs and Benefits

If you decide to skip the contractor and dive into the DIY route, just keep in mind that this option might not always be the cheapest. Ask yourself the question: How much is your time worth? Can you afford to spend from here to eternity laying that concrete patio when a professional could do it in a week? As Aaron pointed out when referring to his backyard project, it was easier to get the professionals to do the block columns rather than him doing it because it was going to be quicker as they were already on site.

Contractors Can Save You Money

Remember that professionals have contacts. They have tradespeople on speed dial, and they have built relationships with suppliers of materials over a long period that might be able to provide bulk discounts (if your project is large).

You might also find that working with contractors can result in work that is done to a higher standard, at a quicker pace (giving you more time to enjoy the fruits of your efforts), and with less disruption, especially if you are having the full-blown remodel done.

Final Thoughts

Hiring a contractor may not be for everyone or every budget, but if you do decide to go that route remember to respect everyone’s time. Contractors and their crew have to schedule trades dependent on the renovation plan. Communicate your vision and budget and be realistic as to the time it will take: patience is a virtue, particularly when it results in your freshly renovated space. It’s no good trying to cut corners or save time by opting to do some of the basic elements of the preparation work only to not be ready on time or delay your contractor’s progress.

Successfully completed DIY projects can give you a great sense of accomplishment, but they too can take a lot of time to complete. There can also be a higher risk of pitfalls or mistakes as you navigate new tools and techniques to bring your renovation vision into reality. In addition, you can rack up even more expenses if the end result requires a contractor to step in to save the day.

We’re not saying you shouldn’t give DIY a try, or that contractors are perfect. All we are suggesting is that it is best to know your limitations, because there’s a reason why we have experts in different fields of construction: We can’t all know everything about everything now, can we?

Further Reading