4 Things Your Remodeling Contractor Wants You to Know

Remodeling contractors are crucial allies in your quest to improve your home. Few homeowners have the time, experience, or ability to do it all themselves. That’s where the remodeling contractor steps in: to organize your home remodel and see it to successful completion.

Remodeling contractors bear more than their share of complaints on online contractor referral sites. Sometimes, these complaints are legitimate. Yet the majority of remodeling contractors are honest, competent, and diplomatic—and they feel that the process could only be improved if clients knew a few important things before signing the contract.

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They Would Rather Not Work With Your People
Male and female construction workers discuss the building plans inside the building site
You’ve hired the contractor for a full-scale kitchen remodel. The contractor is fully on-board. Then you spring the news that you want your cousin, who is a plumber, to handle the plumbing. And you have an uncle who will handle the electrical work.

The contractor is a facilitator at the center of a vast group of subcontractors (subs). The contractor has go-to people, and has others in mind as back-ups. Almost as important, the remodeling contractor has a blacklist of problem sub-contractors, a list forged from years of hard knocks.

By using your uncle to install HVAC, the contractor would be working with someone with whom he or she has no established relationship. Second, the contractor is depriving work from a group of subs who may depend on the contractor for steady work. Third, you’re doing yourself a disservice by not taking advantage of a group of workers who are pre-screened to get the job done.

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They Don’t Like Reusing Your Old Stuff
Home Renovations – Tear Out
You just love those knotty pine kitchen cabinets from 1952. So vintage, so romantic, and evocative of a mountain cabin, right? You ask your contractor to pull, refurbish, and reuse them with the remodel.

One problem with old things, and cabinets in particular, is that they may hold up while in place but fall apart upon removal. Old things have that tendency. Wood flooring cannot be easily removed and reused. Old leaded-glass windows look great but are impractical in the long-term, both from an energy standpoint and for functionality.

If you do want to reuse an item, factor in the added time and cost (to you) that it will take to shop it out to a qualified professional.

Contractors only want homeowners to understand the full implication of reusing old, pre-used items. Rather than being a money-saver, it can add more cost than the homeowner expected.

Keep in mind that some reused old items will not meet modern building codes and will not be approved for use upon inspection. Your contractor will know what can and can’t be reused legally.

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They Have a Greater Allegiance to Their People Than You
Foreman discussing plan on laptop with tradesmen at construction site
As a client, you’re valuable to the contractor, not just as a source of immediate revenue but for that all-important thing called word-of-mouth. No contractor referral site or advertisement can remotely come close to the value of positive word-of-mouth.

While that’s true, it’s also true that you’re only a ship in the night compared to their relationships with the trades. Contractors might know you for two months, but often they know their people for years, decades even.

Should you have a problem with a certain person in the trades, the contractor might go so far as to pull the person from the project, if only to smooth things over with you and keep the project running. But that’s a rarity. Generally, you should have little or no issues with the trades if the contractor feels good enough to work with that person.

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They’re Not Trying to Make Extra Work
Construction worker examining blueprints while working at construction site.
Suspicious homeowners are sometimes convinced that contractors underbid remodel projects, all the while planning to load up the projects with extra tasks after the contract is signed.

While some unsavory contractors may do this, it does not represent the norm. In the book Avoiding the Con in Construction, Kia Ricchi reminds us that “change orders can be costly and disruptive.” Really, who wants another change order?

In a perfect world, contractors would love to have all of the intended work itemized on the contract. Because this is not a perfect world—walls are found to be crumbly when thought to be solid, foundations worse than expected, etc.—change orders exist. Change orders are not to be feared; they are part of normal business when remodeling a house.

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