As I was sharing post last week on Revisiting the Bradford Street House, I came across this older post from the first experience of renovating the house that still has a very good message to share.
The message in this post was inspired by the work we had contractor out at our rental house, The Bradford Street House back in 2017. 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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This is a post for those who are ever considering hiring a general contractor for your home renovations.
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 back in 2017 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 when we had to install custom windows in our front room.
Our experience with them that time fabulous and we couldn’t have been happier with the outcome, so of course we called them for the rental house renovations. Unfortunately, we received a very different experience that 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 crazy woman. Hate when things like that happen.
The point of this post is not to bash a company or deter you from hiring a builder or contractor for your home. Instead, I want to educate others on what to do so they don’t end up being the crazy, yelling woman on the other end of a phone conversation.
I am going to cover a list of steps to follow that I learned while working in the design industry. Guidelines I should have followed more closely myself that time around.
21 Guidelines for Working with a Contractor for Your Home Renovation Projects
- Know what you want done and have it written down 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 before they can start working.
- Be available when they can work OR only schedule the work around YOUR schedule. If you can’t be there in person, then be available to them by phone.
- If you are present during the work and installation, communicate immediately any issues that concern you with the person in charge of the project.
- 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 and budget estimates 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 take away from following these guidelines? Both you and the contractor you hire benefit from a chaos free work environment.
So, are you wondering what we failed to follow in these guidelines for that 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 in charge of our entire job, we couldn’t get a clear answer as to when we were on their schedule.
Somehow along the way, the installation crew thought they had to give me a week’s notice before coming out to the job site, when in fact I was calling the office at the first of each week to give them my availability, which unfortunately didn’t get communicated to the installation crew at all.
If I had been calling just one project manager, the yelling between me and the installation crew probably wouldn’t have happened.
Weather delays were understandable, but the lack of communication and frustration caught up with us all 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 at the time, but a valuable lesson going forward.
2023 Update: We have used this contractor again since then and did not have any bad experiences. Lesson learned from a bad one definitely changed how we communicated better in the future. I am still sharing this list because the guidelines are still important today.
In the end we are thrilled with the quality and workmanship of the windows, but were hesitant about using the builder again in the future because of some unprofessional behavior by a few employees on their part.
We received several apology phone calls since then so hopefully they will learn to put customer satisfaction higher on their list of priorities.
2023: If you would like to how the house came together in 2017, and some of the latest updates, then follow along as I share, Revisiting the Bradford Street House series.
“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