You’ve decided! You’re jumping in and hiring a contractor for some much-needed work around your home. As you take the plunge, be sure you don’t get soaked. Unless you’re addicted to renovations, you probably don’t have a lot of experience with the building biz. Though most contractors are upstanding citizens, not con artists, you can still find yourself up the creek because of misunderstandings or insufficient information. Avoid other’s mistakes like:
All contractors are great — but don’t just take their word for it. Dig into the background of each one you’re considering. You’re talking to multiple contractors, right? Right? This renovation will take a significant amount of money. Make sure you hire someone trustworthy. Take time to gather information:
Do not — repeat — do not consider a contractor who shows up at your door unsolicited, even if the deal seems excellent. Remember the saying “Too good to be true.” The bottom line: don’t sign a contract with someone you’re not sure you can trust.
When you find the contracting love of your life, get everything in writing. Admittedly, a contract can be long. Really long. So many big words. Tiny letters. No pictures. None of these are acceptable excuses to avoid reading the full contract. After you’ve read the contract, be sure both you and the contractor sign it. The whole legally binding thing.
Since you’re having work done on your house — how about spelling out the details in the contract? You’d be surprised how often specifics about the job get left out. Is the floor included in the kitchen renovation? Exactly how big is that back porch supposed to be? Is all the roofing material coming off, or are workers just putting down a new layer? Make sure the contract contains absolutely everything you’ve agreed to. No fine point is too fine to include. This avoids the problem of a forgetful — or “forgetful” — builder.
Don’t let that spring roofing job drag into summer — and fall — and end up seeing snowflakes in your living room. Make sure you’ve spelled out the work timeline in the contract.
Occasionally, construction slows down because of unforeseen circumstances: everyone gets the flu or a manufacturer holds up materials. Sometimes homeowners are the culprits, changing their minds: “The blue paint, no, the green, no a nice, neutral beige.” Barring such obstructions, work should be finished by a given date. If not, the contractor has some explaining to do before your wrath descends.
Pat yourself on the back: you’ve ensured that the total price is included in the contract. Don’t be so smug. Did you specify the payment schedule? Include:
This is typically 10 percent of the entire job.
Take care of dealers personally to bypass issues with unpaid orders.
These are paid during the course of the job
This is usually the final 10 percent. Pay it when you’re sure they’ve done everything to your satisfaction. Really sure. One hundred percent certain.
Search the contract for a lien waiver. What’s a lien waiver? Glad you asked — and you might be too. If that dependable contractor you hire neglects to fully pay workers, they can put a lien on your home. Fair? Maybe not. Legal? You bet. After each installment, get a lien waiver. This is a signed document from the contractor stating that they’ve paid their suppliers and crew. If this is false, you’re not on the hook — the contractor is.
During the course of renovations, homeowners sometimes change their minds. Contractors discover new challenges that put them off-course. Whoops — that really was a load-bearing wall. Who knew? Any changes that you or your contractor want must have written confirmation from both parties. Texts or emails are OK too, as long as you’re certain you won’t delete them.
Renovations aren’t easy. They’re expensive, time-consuming, messy and noisy. If successful, they’re also completely worth everything you’ve gone through. Start with a solid contract. All the fuss and bother is a little less annoying when you’re not worried about ending up with an unfinished kitchen — really need that sink! — or a leaky roof. Face it: strategically placed pots during rainstorms are never going to be part of the décor.