What to expect while working with a contractor
For tips on choosing the best contractor for your home improvement project, check out our post on what you can expect when hiring a contractor.
So you’ve hired a reputable, licensed, professional contractor for your home improvement project. You’ve gotten a contract in writing and your contractor is ready to start work. Now what?
Be realistic about the process
As great as it would be, It’s unrealistic to sign up for contracting work and expect someone in and working on your home the next day. It takes time for contractors to ensure some crucial aspects of your project--approved financing, necessary materials, rebate applications, required permits if needed, etc.--are in place before jumping in to work. Having patience at the beginning of the process will pay major dividends, since rushing the preliminaries can compromise the legality of the work and the ease with which it can be financed. Bear in mind that post-installation inspections are also sometimes necessary, so discuss this with your contractor and be prepared for it.
Reiterate your expectations
Be clear on work hours
Plan the work hours with your contractor before work begins to avoid any scheduling conflicts in the future. Now is the time to bring up upcoming events (appointments, work meetings, etc.) that will come up during the duration of the project. Workers, including undisclosed subcontractors, should not just “show up” to your home, and setting expectations around this early will make it easier for both parties.
Reestablish cleanup responsibilities
Make sure your contractor is clear on who’s responsible for keeping the job site tidy throughout the project. Ideally, your contractors should clean up each day and keep your home as free of debris as possible. Their job is a work in progress, though, so you should expect a tidy, but not necessarily immaculately clean, house at the end of each day. Once the work is done, however, the workers should leave your home in stellar condition.
Keep permits and inspections in mind
Getting a permit or inspection for certain home projects is required by law. Your contractor should be able to pull these permits for you; having your contractor on the permit means he or she is responsible for getting the project done and getting the notice of completion, if your project requires one. Obtaining these permits can take some time, but it’s an important step. It’s also a good idea to schedule a “permit inspection” to have your work looked at by someone in the field other than your contractor. Permit inspections are carried out once work is complete and are a good way to ensure the project has been completed properly (and safely).
Closely monitor progress
While it’s not always possible to be home during the entire duration of your contractor’s work, keeping an eagle eye on progress is a must. Mitigate timeline extensions by checking in on the project daily, asking your contractor for regular progress reports, and taking pictures for physical evidence of progress. Doing so will help ensure the project is adhering to the schedule outlined in your contract. When possible, monitor the job site during work so you can flag any issues early and answer any questions.
Oversee the supply buying process
Even if you’ve followed our tips for hiring a reputable contractor, it’s still a good idea to be a part of the supply buying process for your project to make sure you’re getting quality items that you want used. If you haven’t specifically outlined which products they’ll be using in your written agreement, either buy the products yourself or accompany the contractor to the store to ensure he or she is picking out the materials you want to be used in your home.
Do a final walk-through with the contractor
It’s a great feeling when the job is done, but don’t get carried away with excitement about having the house to yourself again! Stay focused on the details and vigilant about finding any issues in the work you see. Be as nitpicky as you need to be to make sure the job is done right; you’ll end up paying down the line for overlooking imperfections. If possible, schedule the last job payment for after you’ve completed a final walk-through and given your seal of approval on the contractor’s work.