The message in this post was inspired by the work we are currently doing at our rental house, The Bradford Street House. After a very frustrating six week delay to get the windows installed, I decided to share some basic guidelines to help you to keep your sanity while working with a contractor.
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Good news! The windows have been installed! Bad news, we have fired the company we used for the project from working on any future projects we have planned.
Every home renovation has it’s ups and downs and lots of decisions to make. One of the decisions we made for our rental house was to have new and more energy efficient windows installed. It wasn’t a hard decision or a bad decision. But we did make some bad decisions along the way when it came to working with our contractor.
We decided to use the same contractor we had used for our own house last year when we had to install custom windows in our front room. Our experience with them was fabulous and we couldn’t have been happier with the outcome, so of course we called them this time for the rental house. We got a very different experience this time around. I have to be honest and tell you that I lost my cool and did some yelling on the phone. My husband had to take over all of the communication with the company because honestly, he got more attention than a yelling woman. Hate when things like that happen.
I’m not going to go in to the details of what went wrong, because that is not the point of this whole post. Instead, I want educate others on what to do so they don’t end up being the yelling woman on the other end of the phone conversation. I am going to cover a list of steps to follow that I learned while working in the design industry with lots of contractors. Guidelines I should have followed more closely myself this time around.
21 Guidelines for Working with a Contractor for Your Home Renovation Projects
- Know what you want done and have it written in detail, before hiring a contractor.
- Take pictures before the project gets started.
- Interview at least three contractors for prices and estimates.
- Ask for a copy of their licenses.
- Call their references. This is very important.
- Take notes during the interview process.
- Get written estimates on the money, materials, and time frame.
- Communication before, during, and after the work is very important.
- Try to have only one contact person with the company for the job.
- Take more pictures before the job starts.
- Make the job site ready for them. You didn’t hire them to clear out your clutter or mess before they can start working.
- Be available when they can work OR only schedule the work around YOUR schedule.
- Be present but not pushy during the work and installation. Be available to them by phone or in person.
- Perform periodic walk-throughs of the job site alone and take notes.
- Take lots of notes for every phone call you make, every time you talk to a worker, who you spoke to and when, and the outcome of each conversation.
- Expect professional behavior from the workers. Never put up with rudeness, bad language, unsafe conditions, or trash littered job sites. Know who to call if this happens.
- Take more pictures during the whole process.
- Do a walk-through with the contractor and create a punch list of items that need attention before you consider the job finished.
- Review the payment options again before the job is finished. No last minute surprises.
- Take the final project pictures and do a final walk through with the contractor.
- Pay the invoice on time as promised and start planning the next project.
These are guidelines I have used for years on job sites of many different kinds and levels of budgets. The most important part – good communication and take lots of notes. That way both of you are covered.
So, are you wondering what we failed to follow in these guidelines for this job?
First, we didn’t have that one contact person in the company that we could call at any time. This created several levels of miscommunication and misunderstandings on everyone’s part. We had the time estimate in writing, but because we didn’t have a contact person on the installation side of things, we couldn’t get a clear answer as to when we were on their schedule, and they thought they had to give me a week’s notice when in fact I was giving them a week’s notice of my availability which didn’t get communicated to the installation crew that way. Weather delays were understandable, but the lack of communication and frustration caught up with us in the end.
Second, I didn’t take better notes of every phone call and conversation. Yes I took notes, but I could have saved myself a lot of headache if I had been more thorough. Hard lesson to learn again.
In the end we are thrilled with the quality and workmanship of the windows, but will not be using this contracting company again in the future because of some unprofessional behavior by a few employees on their part. We have received several apology phone calls since then so hopefully they will learn to put customer satisfaction higher on their list of priorities.
Bradford Street House renovations and what we have done so far.
In case you are curious as to what else we have completed at the Bradford Street House, I have included a bullet list below.
- New windows have been installed!!!
- New fuse box installed and electric updated in the kitchen for the new layout.
- Old appliances have been removed and donated to charity.
- Kitchen cabinets were ordered and arrived several weeks ago and are waiting to be installed asap.
- Kitchen walls have been repaired with new sheet rock boards.
- All ceilings have been painted.
- New LED light fixtures installed.
- Overgrown landscaping has been cut down.
- Painting of the entire inside has begun.
I was very excited to inherit the old windows from the house and the contractor was nice enough to save them for me. But the picture below is the only time you will see these fabulous old windows on my blog. Someone else must have loved them just as much and stole most of them from the garage of the house this week. They only left me with three broken ones. How rude!
We have only six weeks until our renters move in so I will be posting more updates very soon.
“We all know that all things work together for the good of those who love God who are called according to His purpose.” Romans 8:28