Home Renovation


Managing Contractors

Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff

Delays are inevitable. Material shipments are late; workers are ill. Weather blows in at the worst possible time. Grin and bear it.

Mistakes will happen, too. Yours, and your contractor’s. Just point them out, and get them addressed. Don’t sweat the little things – mistakes often lead to creative opportunities – the missed wall dimension that makes a perfect nook for stacked shelves, the detail trim work that varies a little from the rest of the house, but you love it anyway.  

Survival Tips from Seasoned Remodelers

- Living through a renovation is exhausting and miserable. Accept it.

- Living through a renovation is also fascinating, and an opportunity. Watch what is being built. See how it’s done. You’ll appreciate the “prize” more at the end.

- Set aside a part of the house that is “construction free.”

- Make sure kids and pets stay out of the yard where you may have roofer’s nails or bits of glass and metal shavings. It only takes one missed piece to send you packing to the emergency room for stitches and a tetanus shot.

- Plan time away. Eat out. See friends. Get away from the dust and disorder as much as you can.

Managing Expectations

The best advice in any kind of project management is to set expectations appropriately.

Consider this: your refuge at the end of a long work day is being invaded by strangers with tool belts, and they aren’t as clever as Tim Allen, or as buoyant as Pamela Anderson.

You will be inconvenienced, stressed, and interrupted. The longer and more intrusive the project, the dirtier, noisier, and more taxing it will be. You’ll lose your keys, your phone, and critical folders from the office. You’ll lose your patience, and possibly your sense of humor.

You’ll wish, fervently, for those cold showers and the kitchen collisions that started you on this path – oh, just to have a kitchen again!

Overseeing the Progress

Whether you move out of your house, or stay during the renovation, make sure to:

  • Walk the site daily, if possible
  • Check everything (make sure it's to spec)
  • Keep change requests to a minimum (ripple effects are costly, in dolars and delays!)
  • Get change requests in writing and include costs
  • Keep paper work for everything (it will help with future tax deductions)

Communicate as much as you'd like. Ask questions. Email. Make sure that you get responses. Make sure you listen to the responses. There may be good reasons why something is slightly off spec and it may be in your best interest.

Contractors are people too.Offer some snacks
while the work is underway. A little consideration
goes a long way.


Cookies and Consideration

Contractors are people, too. As hard as it is on the homeowner to be living with strangers, commotion, dirt, and disorder, it can also be hard on those working for you. Remember that they have bad days, sick kids, birthdays, and feelings.

If you lose your temper over something silly, apologize. They’ve seen it before. They know that renovation is stressful. They’ll appreciate the apology.

If you’re getting yourself a cold drink on a hot day, or a hot drink on a cold one, offer one to the electrician, the HVAC technician, the framers. Did you just make cookies? Offer some to the plumber, and the painter. Just don’t climb scaffolding to do it!

No – you don’t have to feed the entire construction crew, but it’s amazing how far cookies and consideration will go to making a difficult situation more pleasant, and more relaxed.

Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best

It’s an old adage, but keep it in mind. And remember – eventually, it will all be done.

If the worst does happen – a dispute, an injury, a major obstacle in your progress – turn to your contract and its arbitration provisions. Stick to your guns if you know you’re right. But if you’re tired and stressed, and if you’re fighting over a detail or a day, consider compromising.

Put things back in perspective. If no one’s hurt, if you haven’t been ripped off, if things are otherwise moving along, keep your eye on the prize and balance the problems with everything that is going well.

Not Perfect, But Pretty Great

There is no perfect renovation. But if you keep your eye on things, communicate regularly, and if you’ve done a good job of specifying your project and picking a contractor, it will all end up well.

Pretty great is really pretty great.

And soon you’ll be moving your furniture back, taking luxurious showers, and chatting with family members in a kitchen that needs no traffic signals. With the right team, the right information, and the right attitude, it is possible to get it right.

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