Your Role During a Remodel
Last updated December 2021
You can do a lot to help the job run smoothly, finish on time, and produce the best possible results.
Clear the work area.
You’re paying contractors to remodel, not move furniture, pack up your pots and pans, or bubble wrap your collectibles. If you want their help with the moving, include it in the contract.
Give them space.
Provide convenient places to park trucks and deposit equipment, supplies, and incoming materials. Also, for the length of the job, stay out of their way.
Make sure materials you supply arrive on time.
Delays can create additional scheduling snafus.
Ask for daily schedules.
Your contract should stipulate start and end times, but timing often changes. Check and discuss the schedule daily.
Discussing the job daily is not too often. A brief meeting is the best way to prevent mistakes and avoid misunderstandings.
Be at home some of the time.
You’ll be able to detect any misunderstandings about plans and materials, and spot gross flaws in workmanship.
Although it’s tempting to leave town and head as far away as possible from your wrecked house, things will go more smoothly if your contractor can reach you quickly to ask questions and resolve problems.
Avoid calls after work hours.
Reviewing potential problems is a lot easier when you’re both on-site. Once you’re home from work and eating dinner, you wouldn’t want your boss to call and review your day at work. Contractors feel the same way.
Deal with delays.
No contractor can anticipate every possibility. Materials and fixtures may be unavailable. Cabinet or appliance suppliers might miss delivery deadlines. Steady rain may halt exterior jobs. Work with your contractor to adjust schedules as needed.
Promptly resolve surprises.
Once old finishes come down, problems often arise: dry rot, leaks, old water damage, asbestos tile lurking beneath layers of flooring. Some contractors will eat unexpected costs, but most won’t. Be mindful that no contractor can foresee every problem. When a questionable extra pops up, look for a middle ground.
Feel free to change your mind—but expect to pay for it.
If you want to add trim, upgrade to a more expensive tile, change your mind about a color after the wall was painted, add a window, or otherwise amend your plan, you’ll need to work out a change order that covers the original contents of the contract and what’s replacing it, and establishes a new price for the work.
Check inspection reports.
Treat failed building inspections as red flags. Find out why the work flunked inspection and what the contractor must do to correct problems; follow up to make sure proper action is taken. It’s a good idea to call the building inspector and ask for a frank opinion on whether the problem is a sign of incompetence—or a common mistake.
Pay for work only after you receive evidence that subcontractors and suppliers have been paid.
The general contractor should supply you with lien releases and acknowledgments of payment as the work progresses.
Don’t take advantage.
When you’re forking over big bucks, asking a worker to toss some of your old stuff in the dumpster or unstop a gutter while he’s up on a ladder may not seem like a big deal. These favors rightly drive some contractors crazy.
Give workers access to a toilet.
Either make a bathroom in the house available or rent a portable toilet.
Keep pets away.
If many workers will be on-site your contractor can’t warn each of them that your furry friend makes a break for freedom every time someone opens a door.
Work with your contractor to minimize disruptions, but resign yourself to some unpleasantness. Parts of your home will be in disarray, your stuff may sit in storage, and your privacy may be invaded.
Before making a final payment or turning over the retainage, make sure of the following:
- You have written warranties for materials and workmanship.
- You have lien waivers or releases and acknowledgments proving the remodeler has paid subcontractors and suppliers.
- Your home is move-back-in ready; clean; and clear of all materials, tools, and equipment.
- The job was completed as agreed and you’ve approved the finished work.
Inspect all aspects of the work—if you’ve hired an architect or designer, this visit is part of the service. Note anything that still needs attention, creating a “punch list” for the contractor and, if necessary, the contractor’s subs to work through before you sign off on the work, agree the project is complete, and make the final payment. Use a strip of blue painter’s tape to mark each item worth noting.
If something goes wrong, complain. Start by discussing problems with your contractor. If the company won’t work things out to your satisfaction, file a complaint with your local contractor licensing authority. If it can’t resolve the problem, you’ll probably have to sue.