Home improvement projects can quickly become overwhelming. That’s when it helps to hire a general contractor to help progress the project along in a safe and efficient way.
Your contractor is your partner in getting the task completed, so make the best use of their time, and yours.
1. Understand What Contractors Do
General contractors are the puppeteers of the project.
They work to make sure supplies arrive on time, subcontractors are scheduled, work is completed in an efficient way, permits are filed, inspections are completed, and the project meets the client’s goals.
2. Bring Design Ideas
The number one way you can make the best use of your contractor's time is to have a working plan before you arrive. You may not know all the technical aspects or have a professional architectural design, but you should have a very good idea of exactly what you want.
Spend time on Pinterest, look through books and magazines, make photocopies or print out pictures, and meet with a designer if it helps.
3. Dig Into Specifics
More than just a general idea of how you want the room laid out, you’ll need to anticipate every question the contractor might ask. What type of flooring do you want? Countertop material? Light fixtures? Appliances?
Be ready to share how you plan to use the space and the size you need. To do this, really picture yourself there.
What furniture will go into the space? Where will the outlets and lights need to be located? For a bathroom, where do you want the showerhead and will you need a half wall between the toilet and another part of the room?
The more specific you are from the very first moment, the more efficiently the project will go.
4. Be Flexible
Having said that, the project will not go as planned 99% of the time. There will be unexpected delays. Some of your desired design elements may not work in the space.
Materials may be discontinued or held up in manufacturing. It’s impossible to plan for every contingency so be aware, and be flexible as the project gets underway.
5. Get to the Point and Keep the Dialogue Going
You’ll make the best use of both your time by being direct. State what’s on your mind so your contractor can address it. Also plan to be available when they have questions. Keep the dialogue open and constructive with a continued focus on reaching the same end goal.
Also let your contractor know how much room they have to make decisions and when you’d prefer to get the call instead, but know that the more decisions they can make, the better the project will flow.
Your contractor is dealing with myriad other people involved in the project and likely has other projects going, so don’t expect him or her to be at your beck and call, but do ask how long is a realistic response time.
6. Be Decisive
Although you might think you came to the initial meeting with an answer to every question, you’ll be bombarded with decisions as the project progresses. Your contractor will explain challenges and provide options. You’ll need to make decisions based on budget, timelines, and preferences.
Do what you need to do to make the best decision for you, but be aware the crew is standing by waiting for that decision so delays in decision making literally equate to delays in the entire project and can boost labor costs.
7. Talk About Money
Speaking of money, plan to discuss it—a lot. Contractors realize you are paying them and are on a budget so don’t shy away from the numbers. At your initial meeting, your contractor will provide a bid based on the information you provide.
There will be subcontractor options with differing rates. There will be material choices with different costs. There will also be estimates for areas where you haven’t made a decision yet.
Know that the project bid isn’t the final bill and it will change based on upgrades or other changes you make along the way.
8. Talk About Timelines
Homeowners are often very surprised by the length of projects. Talk about it upfront. Ask when the contractor is available to start work.
Ask how long he or she expects it to take. Then add in extra days, weeks, or months (depending on the project) for the contingencies that will arise.
9. Be Respectful
Remember your contractor is your partner. Yes, they work for you, but it’s a mutual relationship in the spirit of completing the project in a way that meets your goals.
It’s in your best interest to be respectful and put trust in the fact that they’ve likely managed dozens or hundreds of projects—which is why you hired them!