We’ve all heard horror stories about someone having problems with a contractor. Maybe it is a sad tale from a neighbor who paid thousands of dollars for some major roof damage, merely to be rained upon during the next storm because the person he hired didn’t do a good enough job. Or another person you’ve heard of through the grapevine that worked with a contractor who stalled and played the selfish game of making excuses, but never really getting the job done.

The truth is, anyone can have these kinds of issues when doing home renovations, but most of these situations can be avoided with the proper know-how.


Mistakes to Avoid When Hiring a Contractor

1. Don’t know what you want? Guess what. Your contractor is NOT a clairvoyant. If you don’t have a clean idea of what it is you want to accomplish, you’re not going to get very far. Make sure you figure it out before you get started and give your contractor clear direction so you’ll both be happy with the outcome. And seriously, don’t think about changing your mind halfway thought the process. Cha-ching, cha-ching. Yes, that is more money leaving your pocket. Know what you want so you get what you want.

2. Not having a contract. GET IT IN WRITING. This can’t be said loud enough, hence the all caps. You’re hiring a contractor, right. Contract, contractor… get where we’re going with this? The last thing you want is to have the project not completed to spec because it wasn’t clearly stated in a contract.

3. No deadline. When do you want the project done? This year? Hmm… well, what happens when your contractor has a conflict and is juggling more than one job? Make sure that you have dates in your contract. This holds everyone accountable and gives you a manageable time-frame. No one wants to live in a construction zone for an infinite amount of time.

4. Paying too much too soon. While a deposit should be fully expected when the contract is signed, never, never, NEVER pay in full before the job is finished.

5. Hiring unlicensed contractors. We prefer to shy away from this. Hiring a licensed contractor gives you a bit of leverage. In order to retain their license, a contractor has to provide quality service.

6. Which contractor starts with A in the phone book? Yep, hire that one! NO—let’s get serious for a moment. Recommendations and referrals are the bread and butter of contractors. They thrive on delivering quality service because they know that a large portion of their business will come in the form of referrals. Don’t make a random selection. Talk to people, read reviews, do a little digging.

7. Don’t think everything will go without a hitch. There will be snags along the way: snow days, employee issues, waiting for supplies. Having a good contractor means they will handle all the drama for you. Now, go get a massage and relax already.

8. Expecting complete tidiness. Let’s face hard facts people… construction can be a messy business. Yes, workmen need to clean up after themselves, but sometimes it makes the job go more seamlessly to leave equipment and materials where they will be used next. As long as safety guidelines are being followed, this should be expected. You’ll want to cover belongings if it will be a dusty job. And don’t forget to make the contract clear with your expectations on how the jobsite will be left at the end of the project. We assume you want it cleaned up, but you need to have it in writing.

9. Not having a motivational penalty clause written into the contract. If you have a large job especially, you want to make sure you have a deadline for when you want all the work completed by. Make it realistic, but firm. Better yet, add wording into the contract that says something like: “$100 per day to be deducted from the contract price for each day the job is unfinished beyond August 3rd.” You can bet the job will be a priority that will get finished on time.

10. Thinking that everything will run smoothly because you have a contract. Realistically, that is idealistic. Contracts can help prevent problems, but they don’t ensure they won’t happen. It helps to keep an open line of communication and be able to talk things out. Find someone you can work with, and keep your eyes open.