4 things to do before hiring a contractor

Probably the most stressful thing you’ll have to do if you choose to renovate your space by yourself instead of asking for professional help is hiring contractors. Everything you don’t know will be up to them and maybe you won’t even realize that they’ve done a bad job.

You can hire a contractor based on a good recommendation, their work you’ve seen elsewhere or their price. Whatever your reasons are, remember those reasons. Hiring someone based on the lowest price is like buying the cheapest boots. There is a chance they’ll last through the winter, but you wouldn’t be surprised if they don’t. 

The best thing you can do is to contact few contractors for the same job and ask about their price. In our experience, there is always one very high and/or one extremely low and all of the other are almost the same. Those are the ones to choose from.

But, there are few things you have to decide on before contacting a contractor.

1. Decide about remodeling process

You want to remodel your bathroom. Do you want to change your fixtures or you also want to change the tiles? If you want to change the tiles, you have to get rid of the old tiles and install new ones. Those are two different jobs which may require two independent contractors. Or you can take down your old tiles by yourself and save some money.

Maybe you also want to have a shower instead of a bathtub. Do you know how to design a shower? Those customized showers need a slope to drain for which you’ll probably need a third contractor.

What to think about when hiring a contractor: PROJECT PLANNER worksheet
PROJECT PLANNER worksheet: front page example

Do you see what we mean? Try to write down every single thing you can think of no matter how meaningless or obvious it may seem. That is how architects do lists of expenses and cost estimates and it is the most important piece of paper for dealing with contractors.

2. Measure the apartment

This is also a part of cost estimates. You have to know how much of what you need. To do that, you’ll need to measure floors you want to redo, walls you want to paint, fixtures you want to remove or change. Again, every single thing you can think of.

What to think about when thinking about hiring a contractor: PROJECT PLANNER worksheet
PROJECT PLANNER worksheet: 1st page example

3. Determine the budget for the remodel

You have to set a budget. And when you do, you have to know that it will probably grow for about 10%.

Once you have your lists of things to do and things to buy, you can try to figure out how much it may cost. Even if you just write down prices of stuff you’ll need to buy, like fixtures or tiles of your choice, you’ll find out if your budget is realistic.

What to think about when hiring a contractor: PROJECT PLANNER worksheet
PROJECT PLANNER worksheet: 3rd page example

4. Discuss necessary work with your contractor

So, it’s time to meet contractors. You’ll have to explain to them what you want, tell them what, in your opinion, needs to be done and ask if they agree with you. Contractors want to get the job, it is highly likely they’ll just tell you what you want to hear and that’s why is so important to write everything down.

The budget, paying options and deadlines must be discussed right away.

The truth is, the contractor is not obligated to make a list of expenses, that’s architect’s job, but some of them may be willing to do that. If you have your own list of expenses, they are obligated to write down unit prices and total prices. Here is an important thing: even though you already measured your rooms, the contractor must do the same, it is his responsibility to make sure that everything will fit. Remember, it is not your fault if he made doors that are too wide or closet that is too deep.

You know you’ll pick your new tiles or basin or kitchen fronts, but there are so much more materials that are used in reconstruction – like cement and pipes and plaster. That kind of material can sometimes be provided by contractors so don’t forget to discuss that.


What to think about when hiring a contractor: PROJECT PLANNER worksheet
There are many phases in apartment reconstruction and you’ll probably need several contractors to do the job. Most of the time, contractors are independent of one another, which is a bad news because they’ll try to shift guilt to somebody else if anything goes wrong.

This is what you need to do: when one phase is being finished, invite the contractor for the next phase to check out if everything is done properly. If it’s not, the first contractor will have a chance to repair what’s wrong, and if it’s fine, the second one will not have an excuse later. Simple as that.

Does this sound overwhelming? Don’t worry! We prepared worksheet to help you out!

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