It's not just contractors who shoulder a burden of preparation before starting a home improvement job for a customer.
Homeowners have considerable, if not more, pre-project work to do especially when it comes to readying contractors for the task ahead.
According to an expert at The Home Service Store, very few homeowners truly prepare themselves and the contractor for the home-improvement process.
The result: frustration, anxiety and misunderstanding, or, worse yet, laying blame where it might not belong -- on contractor shoulders.
How homeowners should prepare for home improvement projects:
* Have a complete list of materials ready to ensure accurate bids from multiple contractors.
* Write a list of expectations for the project to share with your contractor.
* Schedule one-hour meetings to be held at least weekly with your contractor.
* Tell your contractor the level of involvement you want with the project.
* Set work hours, establish parking spaces, and designate a bathroom for workers.
* Inspect the job daily. Tell the contractor immediately of any problems.
* Spend $50 on a lock-box to limit access to the job site.
"Clear-cut homeowner-contractor expectations should be the norm, but it's the exception," says Mark Gordon of The Home Service Store. "Owners need to supply as much detail as they can for the contractor in terms of the end result, materials, timetables, everything. The more detail, the better. That's what the contractor wants."
Goal No. 1 for homeowners: a list of specific goals for the project. It's a red flag to Gordon when homeowners say they don't know what they want, simply tell the contractor to call when the project is done or don't clue the contractor in on the level of participation the homeowner wants. That's where problems start.
"Whether they want to or not, the homeowner must bring as much information as possible to the first pre-construction meeting, or the contractor won't know enough to accurately bid on the job let alone do the work," says Gordon. "If the homeowner doesn't want a lot of involvement, that's OK, but the contractor should insist on at least minimal homeowner involvement on budget and selection of materials so the contractor isn't left holding the bag."
Both sides should insist on frequent meetings of at least one hour once the job starts. If the parties go one week without meeting, that's too long for Gordon. "And the meeting should include everyone involved, the husband and wife or partner," advises Gordon, who's seen his share of predicaments "that could've been dealt with right away but weren't."
Homeowners typically limit their involvement to design and materials but the process goes well beyond that. In Gordon's estimation, homeowners need to set ground rules for what might seem to be trivial pursuits, but have profound impact on satisfaction with the end product. His list includes work hours, smoking and eating on the premises, access to the job site, loudness of music, where to park, which bathroom or phone to use, etc. "The customer is really inviting the contractor to be a part of the family as long as the work goes on," says Gordon. "Questions and concerns are going to come up and it's all about how you deal with those day-to-day issues."
Chief among those issues is what Gordon calls a punch list. This is a daily log the homeowner keeps of correctable items. Such imperfections include indentations on drywall or a gap between mitered corners. Gordon is quick to point out that design elements such as wall placement or materials that were the homeowner's responsibility should not be on this quick-fix list.
"A lot of the time, homeowners don't recognize the role they play in the entire process," says Gordon. Quality of the work is important, but so is the homeowner's role in keeping things moving smoothly."
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