There are certain steps all homeowners must go through, and unless you are a trained home improvement professional, chances are, you’re going to have to work with a contractor or two over the course of your home’s lifespan. While we encourage our fans to take the DIY leap of faith, there are certain home projects even the most active DIYers may not be able to handle.
Thus, you end up working with a contractor to design, construct, and budget the bathroom, kitchen or living room of your dreams. While it my sound great, finding such a pro takes hard work and sadly, many homeowners tend to make a few common missteps that can easily be avoided.
The next time you need a pro, make sure you avoid these 10 common mistakes.
1. Try to DIY for Advanced Projects
There are many projects around the house that do not require a pro, such as drywall repair, adding a backsplash or building your own cabinets, but there are others that are better left to the professionals.
Major bathroom or kitchen remodeling, as well as electrical, HVAC, or plumbing projects may seem easy on the surface, but require years of experience to finish right. Many homeowners bite off more than they can chew and attempt these admirable DIY projects, but when push comes to shove, the project takes a turn and the homeowner ends up spending more to fix it than hiring a pro in the first place. Before you try to DIY, make sure it is a project you can handle.
2. Don’t Address Issues When They Come Up
If you were running a marathon on June 5, you wouldn’t start training June 4. You would come up with a running schedule and start training months ahead. The same is true of home improvement.
Homeowners should never put off necessary home improvement repairs. When damaged, certain areas of the home, such as your roof or HVAC system, can only worsen as time goes on. That roof leak can turn into a roof waterfall the next time a storm hits. Instead of small roof repair, you are hit with a large roofing invoice you could have avoided all together.
As soon as issues come up, address them. Do not push them off.
3. Little Research
Back in the day when you had to write a paper, the first obstacle was researching. The same principle applies to finding a home improvement contractor. Whether it’s researching online, asking your friends and family or just talking with your neighbors, finding the right contractor takes time and research.
If your neighbor just completed a similar project and had a great experience with their pro, wouldn’t you want to know? If your sister just hired a contractor and the project went off without a hitch, wouldn’t you trust that professional? Before you hire a contractor, make sure you do your research.
4. Hiring a Pro Over the Phone
There is no contractor in the world that can give you a 100 percent accurate quote over the phone before seeing the project. Contractors need to see what they will be working with. They need to see the status of the objects in play. While you may not know the AFUE rating of your furnace, a pro will. While you may not know the pitch of your roof, a professional roofer will. These are just some of the many questions a contractor can’t answer over the phone.
5. Hiring a Pro Before Interviewing Them
If you were an employer and were looking to fill your open manager position, you would interview the candidate to see if they were qualified. The same holds true for a contractor.
Most professional projects are not quick and take days, if not weeks to complete. Therefore, you want to get to know the person first. What are they like? Can you work with them? Are they qualified for the job? These are just some of the essential answers you need to find.
6. Not Checking References
So you liked your last candidate. They nailed the interview. They said everything you needed to hear. But, before you make the hire, you must check their references. Chances are, friends and family will not be enough and you will have to find your own contractor. As such, you need to hear what past clients are saying. You need to hear a homeowner’s perspective. You need to hear how calm they are under pressure. You need to hear how well they manage timeframes and budgets. You need to hear anything you can think of before hiring this professional. Always check a pro’s references.
7. Hiring the Cheapest Contractor
I understand the temptation. After all, the average kitchen remodel costs $17,226 and that price is only going up. Therefore, just like shopping for clothes, a new phone or even a new house, we tend to choose the cheapest option. Well, unlike these instances, it is imperative that you do not hire the cheapest contractor.
Always be suspicious of bids that are substantially lower than the competition. Make sure they are including everything required for the project. If you have to, go over line by line and compare it to another bid. More often than not, lower bids reflect lower quality of work and when it comes to your brand new kitchen, nothing should be low quality. Always be wary of the contractor with the lowest bid.
8. Poor Communication
The key to an effective and successful relationship with your contractor is clear communication. As long as you always have an open dialogue with your pro, from the first phone conversation through the entire project, many of the common home improvement mishaps can be avoided.
Excellent communication ensures all necessary details are aligned in the contract. All dates, expenses, expectations and tasks should be outlined in the agreement and the only way to ensure you are both on the same page is through excellent communication. If you have poor communication with a pro, chances are, they aren’t the right contractor.
9. Not Getting a Warranty
One gets health insurance in case something goes wrong, and the same can be said of a warranty with home improvement projects.
Before investing $36,000 on a home addition, you should get a written guarantee that everything will be completed in the right timespan, under budget and most importantly, correctly. Many contractors will ensure all this by providing a written warranty. Not only will this protect you if a problem occurs years down the road, but should also show you that this contractor is confident and can complete the job well. Make sure there is a warranty in your home improvement contract.
10. Forgetting About Alternatives
Repairs are not always the best course of action. For example, it would make little sense to put $10,000 into your old car that is only expected to run for another two years. The better investment, while more expensive, would be to buy a new car. The same mindset can be said of home improvement.
There are certain issues where a Band-Aid or surgery is just not enough. If your roof has too much damage, you may need to replace it. The same can be said of your old furnace or garage door. Sometimes, we need to bite the bullet and just buy new. Do not rule out replacement.
Too many homeowners get stuck with the wrong contractor, in the wrong contract or worse, with a poorly finished product. Fortunately, most home improvement nightmares can be prevented before hiring a pro. As long as you avoid these 10 common mistakes, your project will hopefully go off without a hitch.
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