Talk to a Contractor

How to talk to a contractor

Whether you’re building from scratch or remodeling an existing home, choosing a
contractor is probably the most important step in the construction process.

Your contractor will be involved in your life for weeks or even months at a time, so it’s
important to establish a good relationship right off the bat. How do you do that? Where
do you start your search for a contractor? How will you know when you’ve found the right
person for the job? And how can you keep the lines of communication open as your job
progresses?

We’ve all heard horror stories about contractors who don’t show up, who do shoddy
work, and who present the poor hapless homeowner with an inflated bill when the project
is complete. Fortunately, these contractors are few and far between, but you certainly
want to avoid them at all costs.

As in so many other areas of life, communication is key here. Knowing how to talk to a
contractor — before, during and after your project — will help keep your relationship (and
the work) on course and your blood pressure under control. Keep the following
communication tips in mind.

Do:

Ask for referrals, and then check them out. Call the Better Business Bureau and your
state licensing board and ask about the contractor’s status. Call homeowners who have
used the contractor and ask if you can see the finished product. If a homeowner is
pleased with the work that’s been done, they will generally be proud to show it off.
Ask lots of questions. You need to know exactly what is included in a price, what the
contractor’s timetable is, and how much experience he has with similar projects.
Remember there’s no such thing as a foolish question. If something pops into your mind,
ask it. Better to be safe than sorry.
Tell the contractor what you want, and how much you want to spend. He can’t read your
mind. If you say you want your kitchen remodeled, he will probably imagine all kinds of
possibilities. If all you want is new flooring and cabinets, you’ll need to say that.
Trust your instincts. If you just don’t seem to connect with a contractor, or you’re not
satisfied with his answers to your questions, keep looking.

Don’t:

Be “helpful” without talking it over first. Your intentions may be good, but your contractor
will probably not appreciate having you hovering over their shoulder, handing them nails.
If you want to be involved, discuss that ahead of time. And if your offer is politely
declined, step aside and let your contractor do his thing. After all, that’s what you’re
paying for.
Expect something for nothing. If you make changes or upgrade materials, you will pay
more. There’s no getting around it.
Be rigid and inflexible. Your contractor cannot work on your roof during a typhoon and
cannot help it if the lumber store delivers the wrong cabinets. Delays and mix-ups
happen, and sometimes you have to just roll with the punches.
Keep in mind that you and your contractor are on the same team. You both want your
project to go well. Do your homework, keep your expectations realistic, and communicate
openly and honestly, and the end result will be a project you can both

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