Your First Call Needs to Be a Contractor

What is the very first step a customer should take when planning a renovation? 

This is a question I get often. A lot of customers often feel they have enough information to start the process in their homes prior to calling the contractor. But your first step always needs to be finding the right contractor for your job. You can read my other blogs about what to look for when looking for a contractor.  

Finding the person that will complete your job is the first thing you need to do. Start working with them. And follow the process

– design/plan

– do the work

– enjoy. 

Here is a quick story about a recent client who demolished their entire basement. While this seemed like a good idea and it seemed like it would make the contractors job easier, it actually added a significant cost to the project. 

How could doing this work yourself add to the cost of the project? 

When we do a renovation, we are expected to bring anything we uncover up to the current code. The home in question was close to 40 years old and was built with 2×4 exterior wall construction and old 2mm vapor barrier, has plumbing in the exterior walls, and several other issues.  

Now I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t address those issues. The code is designed to ensure your home works as intended and everyone remains safe and comfortable. But when it was built it was built to the approved code meaning that home should work well as a unit. So if you don’t interact with it – it should continue to work well. There is a significant amount of renovating that can happen while leaving many of the original portions of the home intact.  

Now that it had been opened, we had some serious issues we need to address. We need to build 7” frost walls in front of all concrete walls, with hundreds of square feet of 2×6 insulation and redo the vapor barrier in the entire basement with 6mm poly. All joist ends need to be brought up to code and the plumbing in exterior walls now needed to be addressed. All of this work was going to add thousands to the overall cost of the project. 

This is why finding the person you want to work with when you are committed to a renovation is the most important first step. If you want to do some of the work yourself, work with the contractor to decide what aspects those are going to be. But keep in mind that if you do some of the work, those won’t be covered by your contractor’s insurance or warranties. And while your offer to help him work may be well intended it can be a big liability the contractor may not be willing to take on.