Do Your Homework Before Meeting a Contractor

By David Gunn, Gunn Construction and Building

Photo courtesy of Gunn Construction and Building

Whether it is a large home improvement project or a small repair project, most homeowners I work with are interested in getting the best value for their money. Your home is one of the biggest investments you will make, so why not treat your home projects with the same care you might when investing your money? Part of the secret is to do your homework and be organized. This will allow you to save time and money. 

Doing your homework ahead of time will help you to have a better idea of what you want to do with your project and can save you time. If your project is more involved, you may want or need to consider hiring an architect or designer to make drawings and help guide you through the process. For smaller projects a homeowner should be able to do this homework themselves.

As a contractor, when a potential client calls, but is unclear with the work they want to do, it can be difficult to estimate costs. When a client calls and is clear and detailed with the work they would like to do, then I am able to give a much more accurate cost estimate. Gathering as much information ahead of time, such as visiting product showrooms, obtaining samples or product numbers, even saving favorite magazine photos can help explain your desires and streamline the process. Complete documentation of your designs and choices will help to speed along the estimating process and help to ensure accurate numbers.

Staying organized can help to keep your project on budget. Be prepared for your contractor’s initial visit by having all the homework you’ve done organized and able to be handed off. Make a detailed list of the scope of work (items to be completed) and be clear about the work you want done. Keep a copy for yourself so you have record of what you requested and discussed. Remember you’ll get the best price the first time you request pricing. As changes are made, inevitably prices tend to increase. This doesn’t mean things don’t change during the project–that’s part of construction–but spending the time upfront to be clear and organized with your project can help to avoid surprises. 

Think of your home improvement project as a team effort. Every member of the team has their role. As the owner your first role is to clearly define the work you would like to perform. You only have one opportunity to get the project off on the right foot. Having your information complete and being able to clearly explain your desires will go a long way toward a successful project.