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Renovating? Here’s What You Need to Know for a Successful Contractor Relationship.

Unless you’re a die-hard DIY enthusiast, when it’s time to redo a room in your home, you’re probably going to hire the work out to a contractor. Getting everything properly laid out for a renovation is a huge endeavor, not to mention finding the right person or team. Keep this advice in mind to increase the chances that your project will run smoothly.

Know What You Want

No matter who you hire, the more you plan things out ahead of time, the better the job will turn out. Spend time outlining everything you’d like to accomplish, and research the project and materials as if you were going to do it yourself. Do you know the difference between linoleum and vinyl — and which do you prefer?

Naturally, when you put together a contract, you’ll need flexibility on specifics: a contractor will tell you, based on experience, what is and isn’t possible within the bounds of your budget (and physics). However, they will want their work to reflect your vision as closely as possible, which will be impossible if you don’t have a vision in the first place.

What’s a Contractor?

The word “contractor” is used very broadly. It can refer to specialists such as carpenters or plumbers that are hired to complete a particular task. It may also refer to a general contractor, who oversees and manages an entire project, hiring specialists (sub-contractors) as necessary and ensuring all parties work together toward your vision. You can hire specialists yourself, but you’ll soon find out that project management is a full-time job.

A good general contractor will also help you find a design professional to work out a plan (unless you’re just replacing a sink or some cabinets). A plan is necessary to anchor the project to your vision. Some contractors will claim that their design chops are as good as any architect or interior designer, but the truth is that they usually don’t spend enough time designing for this to be true. You’ll have to decide for yourself how much aesthetic expertise the renovation requires.

Finding a Reputable Contractor

Choosing a contractor to trust is difficult, especially if you don’t have any experience. Ask around for recommendations, focusing on those from people who have hired the contractor for work. Don’t ever hire the friend of a friend just because “he’s a great guy, you can definitely trust him.” In addition to recommendations, check for any online reviews. Another helpful indicator is the length of a contractor’s history in the area. Someone whose work is subpar won’t last long.

A good contractor will be licensed, bonded and insured. They’ll also obtain any permits your project needs. If a contractor claims one of these isn’t necessary, or that you’re responsible for getting the permits, move on.

Once you’ve found three or four candidates, solicit bids from all of them. Make sure the line items are all the same, or you’ll have a hard time making a comparison. Be sure to ask about any price differences. Their answers will reveal how well they can communicate with you, which should be a top priority in your decision. Paying a little more for a good communicator is always worthwhile.

Hashing Out the Contract

Once you’ve chosen a contractor, make sure everything is detailed in the contract, including materials, plans, change order procedure, clean up, payment goals and which bathroom should be used. Don’t forget to outline payment goals! A general rule is half up front and half upon completion. A thorough contract puts you in control.

Last but not least, once everything is in place, listen to your contractor! Trust in their experience and ability to achieve your vision.

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