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Managing Your Contractors

Handled the right way, your general contractor could become like a member of the family. See more home construction pictures.
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Diving into the world of renovation is unchartered territory for a lot of homeowners. Many first time remodelers end up spending a lot more money than they need to because of a lack of knowledge about construction and materials costs. Unscrupulous contractors may fly under the radar of a renovation rookie as well. It's important to have an understanding of the process so you can keep an eye on your general contractor. They're working for you, and you don't want to get railroaded into decisions you aren't comfortable with because of your lack of experience. Here are a few tips on how you can manage the work of your general contractor.

Get it in Writing

Before you begin any working relationship with your general contractor, you should ask for a very detailed estimate for the work being performed. Starting out with this kind of information will make the rest of the job much easier to manage. After you sign off on an estimate you both agree on, make sure you cover yourself with an independent contractor agreement. You may think this is overkill, but it's important to establish that the contractor and his or her employees aren't your employees. If a day laborer falls off a ladder onto your driveway, you don't want to be liable for his medical bills. The document can also include details about the scope of work and a payment plan you settle on. Many a newbie homeowner has been met with sudden demands for payment in full if it's not all in writing beforehand. If your general contractor refuses to sign something, then pick up the phone and call someone else.

Be Present

One of the easiest ways you can manage your contractor is by hanging around and keeping an eye on the work being done. You don't want to micromanage, but checking in on progress on a regular basis is a good idea. Some homeowners plan vacations around their renovation jobs and then come home to a wall that's in the wrong place or a window you weren't counting on. It's also good to be around for any questions they might have for you. If you have to be at work all day, make sure you check the work in progress each evening and plan a regular weekly meeting with the contractor to make sure everything is running on schedule.

Manage Your Expectations

You should never expect anything less than quality work, but you might need to bend a little on your timeframe and budget. Many construction jobs end up taking a little longer and cost a bit more than originally anticipated. Keep this in mind when you prepare your budget in the beginning, and allow for about 20 percent in cost overruns. The same goes with time. Delays frequently happen in this line of work -- it's simply a part of the business. For this reason, don't schedule a job right up against an important date. If you're hosting a wedding rehearsal dinner or you have a work trip on the books, you'll want to allow for a couple of months padding in your schedule.