Get the Most From Your Contractor
From the first phone call and meeting and continuing on throughout your kitchen remodel project, you are creating a relationship with your contractor. What he (or she) will value most is open communication.
Your contractor knows what he has to do. Your job is to remain unobtrusively available to him and his team while they are working. If you are unhappy with something along the way or you need to make changes to the project, speak up. Be straightforward and respectful.
There are no rules to the contractor-homeowner relationship. Having a contractor and crew in your home can be a nerve-wracking experience. But a few ground rules will help ensure a positive experience from start to finish.
1. Keep a Project Journal
A journal provides a record of who said what when — which could help you iron out disputes later. During the project, keep records to make sure the job is proceeding according to the contract. It doesn’t have to be the Great American novel, but use your project journal to:
- Record progress.
- Note things you want to ask your contractor.
- Write down ideas.
- Record product order numbers.
- Note upcoming delivery dates.
Take lots of photographs of the work in progress, in case you need evidence of poor workmanship.
2. Avoid Allowances
An allowance is a line item in the contractor’s quote for something that’s yet to be determined. For example, if you haven’t chosen the plumbing hardware for your new kitchen, the contractor will put an allowance number in the budget as a placeholder.
But with such a wide range of price points for these types of products, his estimate may be far lower than what you end up spending.
Try to eliminate allowances by figuring out your material and product selections before the contractor gives you an itemized quote for the job. Do enough research and shopping to give the contractor an accurate estimate for the materials you’re considering.
Your Kitchen Design Partner-selected kitchen designer will help with this important part of your kitchen remodel project.
3. Track All Changes in Writing
Your contractor may encounter unforeseen structural issues, or you may decide to include additional work as the project goes forward. Any good contractor can handle these changes — just make sure that he quotes them in writing before beginning work.
Specify in your remodeling contract that you want change orders in writing for anything that’s going to add to the bottom line of the job. That means the contractor must give you a description of the change and a fixed price for what it’ll cost. You both must sign the change order before the work is done.
4. Check the Work
Be proactive about checking your contractor’s work. A good time to check is when the crew has left for the day. Make notes in your journal and bring up anything you’re wondering about during your daily check-in with your contractor.
You’re the customer; you have the right to expect and receive good work.
5. Be a Good Customer
One of the best ways to get quality work from your contractor and construction crew is to make them enjoy working for you. That means, among other things, giving him a check promptly at the agreed-to points in the project.
Being friendly and accommodating of the workers is a great way to motivate them to do their best for you. You can:
- Designate a bathroom they can use (if the contractor hasn’t provided an on-site porta-potty)
- Greet them by name each morning.
- Offer cold drinks on hot days.
- Compliment their work.
6. Communicate, Communicate, Communicate
Ask the contractor how he prefers to communicate with you. Good options include:
- Being on-site and talking with your contractor every morning before work begins
- Having your contractor’s cell phone number and the OK to call or text.
- Talking with the job foreman every day at a pre-determined time to hear progress reports and find out what work is scheduled for the coming day, to ask your questions and share any concerns you have.
Let the contractor and the work crew know:
- what your family schedule is
- whether you have pets somewhere.
- how you wish to be contacted —phone, in-person, e-mail, text
- how often you want to talk with your contractor about your project.
Don’t engage in lengthy conversations. Most contractors would rather keep interactions short so they can remain on schedule.
7. Clear Away Obstacles
The job will go easier if you have prepared the area for the crew.
- Remove fragile or in-the-way items from the space where the crew will be working.
- Make it possible for them to access your driveway or the road in front of your house.
- Keep pets away from the project area to limit distractions and keep your animals safe.
8. Let Them Work
In addition to keeping your conversations short, you should also keep visits to the job site short. Don’t hover over the crew or try make a meal during a kitchen remodel.
9. Show Appreciation.
Your contractor’s business relies on reviews from past customers–isn’t that how you found him in the first place? A positive referral or review is the best way you can show your appreciation for his good work.
Reputation and references are the most credible marketing assets a contractor can have. Offer to have your new kitchen photographed or showcased in a tour.
10. When Work Is Done
Before sign-off, here are a few things to do:
- Make a list of things you see that you want corrected, known as a punch list. If you’re unsure about something, ask your contractor about it.
- Make sure you have all receipts, change orders, lien waivers, warranties and manufacturers’ guides to your products.
- Ask your contractor if there are any maintenance schedules you should know about for new appliances or systems.
- Understand your contractor’s guarantees. Often, contractors will provide free repairs up to a certain point—be clear that you know exactly what those guarantees cover and the length of time they are covered.
Having a contractor and his crew in your home every day for weeks is a disruptive and nerve-wracking experience. The noise and dirt and having no working kitchen all create havoc; there’s no way around it. Your attitude and your willingness to communicate with the contractor and allow his team to work without interfering can keep the project on track.
Although there is no guidebook to consult concerning how to work with your contractor, we at Kitchen Design Partner believe the suggestions outlined in this article will help ease the pain of the remodeling process.
And just think, when it’s all over, you’ll have a beautiful new kitchen, the one you’ve always wanted.
KDP exists to offer insight and advice about all things related to kitchen remodeling. Our goal is to connect homeowners with talented, experienced kitchen designers who live and work in their communities. We are a serious resource for anyone preparing to remodel their kitchen so they can make the best possible choices about designers, contractors and products.