5 Steps to Choosing The Right Contractor

We’ve all watched the HGTV horror shows right? Whether it’s because you somehow ended up with with a pink floor, when you actually said ‘not that door’ or if you find yourself on the hook for 5K worth of flooring and a contractor that’s gone AWOL. The process can be nightmare-inducing. But fear not! With a decade of design experience, I’ve created this list to help you through the process:

1.  Know what you want – If you already have the product in-hand, I would suggest having it on site, or if the contractor is purchasing the product, know the exact specifications of what you’re looking for. Don’t leave this open-ended. Be clear, use pictures and make sure any ‘decor terminology’ is understood and accurate.  Pretend you’re talking to a three year old, just not in a condescending way! If you are doing a major renovation, work with an Interior Designer to help you come up with the concept. They are an excellent investment (I know, I’m biased), but they can end up saving you money in several ways. In terms of choosing the right materials, they should also have a lot of experience with contractors, so communication issues can be minimized (avoiding costly do-overs), and they will frequently be able to offer professional discounts on materials. The bottom line? Being well prepared will help the job run smoothly and avoid delays in construction.

2. Get more than one quote – In order to get a fair price for the job, have at least three general contractors quote the project. This way, you can ensure you are not getting scammed and you can get a fairly specific idea what the renovation should actually cost. Make sure the scope of work is clear in order to avoid any any additional costs. Ask for quotes in an email, not just a conversation and a hand shake. Be wary of contractors that are much cheaper than the others pricing the job. This may mean they are misinterpreting the scope of work, or they are hiding fees, only to charge you more in unforeseen site issues. In this case the saying is true, ‘you get what you pay for.’


3. Get someone with previous experience – Always look at past jobs the contractor has completed. If you have a project installing tile flooring and the contractor has never done this before, you don’t want to be the trial guinea pig. He or she should have references you can contact, or a portfolio of previous work you can see. If they have no proof or evidence of previous job experience, proceed with caution. You don’t wanna be calling Mike Holmes.


4. Have a contract – In order to protect yourself, make sure you have a contract in place that discusses the scope of work, the cost of the project and scheduled time line. There are quite a few you can download online that will assist you with this process. Make sure the agreement discusses what happens if the project is not completed on time or to the quality desired. Also, once you’re in the renovation, follow up via email with an outline of any verbal conversations, what you discussed, any changes in the original plan, any adjustments to costs, etc. I know it takes more time, but trust me, it can be invaluable if disputes arise and, God forbid, law suits are threatened. We call this your CYA file, or ‘cover your ass’, if you’re not familiar with the term.

5. Always hold back at least 10% – Never ever pay the contractor the full amount upfront, even if you’re sure the project will be on time, on budget and in good form. It’s up to you how to divide up the payment, however, I would recommend holding back at least 10% . This amount can be used in the event the job is not completed and a new contractor needs to be hired.



Good luck fellow homeowner. Happy renovating!

Written by: Michelle Amore, ARIDO, IDC, NCIDQ


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