Working with General Contractors During Home Renovation

Home renovation is often just as stressful as it is exciting. An unstructured relationship with a general contractor could take all the fun out of the process. If you want to avoid extra expenses, botched deadlines, and disappointment, it’s worth taking a minute to plan this important collaboration.

Working with a general contractor is similar to getting a haircut. You’ll get your hair cut eventually. But how happy will you be with the result? Let’s take a closer look at how to structure your client-contractor relationship.

  1. Ensure Crystal Clear Communication

    At the selection stage, make sure you are choosing a contractor who understands you. Easy communication is the key to worry-free home renovations. Even if the general contractor comes highly recommended, you two may not “click”.

    During the interview, watch the communication carefully. If you notice that the person is tough to talk to, move on. You don’t want to be getting a buzz cut instead of a bob because the hairdresser doesn’t understand your needs.

  2. Act Professionally

    Even if the contractor seems to act as your best friend, don’t give in. Maintain a professional relationship. Buddying up may seem like an excellent way to communicate. However, if something goes wrong, you’ll have a tougher time speaking up.

  3. Monitor Every Step of the Home Renovation

    Catching the hairdresser when they grab a hair trimmer instead of scissors could save your haircut. The same works with subcontractors. You have to oversee their work. Your general contractor may not appear on site every day, but you should.

    No matter how clear your instructions are, workers are human. They could make the wrong call. And you better be there to stop them.

  4. Check How Much Materials Cost

    In case you want the general contractor to purchase the materials, don’t trust their word blindly. Take the time to check how much these materials truly cost. More often than not, contractors use your lack of knowledge to their advantage and charge up to 50% extra for materials.

  5. Set Home Renovation Working Hours

    If you live in the house while it’s being renovated, you need to discuss working hours carefully. You don’t want noisy work to be done when your baby is sleeping or have workers show up at your doorstep at 6 am.

  6. Hold on to the Money

    Money is a huge incentive. And it should stay this way until the renovations are finished. If you pay upfront, don’t expect the contractor to get the job done the way you like it.

    You may need to pay for certain materials in advance in case you want the general contractor to arrange the purchase. However, you should only pay for work AFTER it’s complete.

  7. Negotiate Additional Work

    No matter how carefully you plan the renovation, something extra always comes up. Make sure to mention this in the contract.

    Set a fixed “per hour” pay for all additional work. Otherwise, the contractor is free to charge any amount, and you’ll be forced to agree because finding someone else for a small additional job will be tough.

  8. Discuss the Home Renovation Clean-up

    A home renovation generates tons of garbage. Who will be responsible for removing it and cleaning up afterward? Make sure you have that point worked out with the contractor before any work starts.

    Generally, it’s a good idea to have workers responsible for garbage removal, even if you have to pay extra. It’s a time-consuming and messy job.

  9. Be in a Rush

    Unless you tell the contractor that you are in a big hurry to complete the project, you may face an unsatisfactory speed of work. Always appear to be in a rush. Make sure to communicate the timeline and deadlines clearly. Discuss penalties for not meeting the deadline and bonuses for completing the work ahead of time.

Do you want to learn more about interviewing and hiring the best contractor for your home renovation project? Please call us for actionable advice today.

About Cheryl Bower

Cheryl has been a Lyon Hoag (Burlingame, CA) resident since 2004. She was raised in the Richmond District (San Francisco, CA). Licensed as a Realtor since 2005, she represents buyers & sellers in the San Francisco & San Mateo County real estate markets.