1. Always ask for references when hiring a general contractor or subcontractor, then check them out. Be wary if they can only give you one or two. After my wife and I purchased a newly constructed retirement home three years ago, we decided to take the elevated deck on the main level and turn it into two decks, converting the existing one into a screened-in porch and adding an open deck below it outside the basement. The contractor we chose had been active in our development, and our neighbors recommended both the quality of his work and his ability to keep on schedule—or reasonably so.
2. If the renovation is complex and involves multiple projects, add a minimum of 20 percent extra in your budget planning. One, contractors tend to low-ball estimates—it’s genetic. Two, in the middle of renovating, you’re likely to change your mind and want to upgrade or add to the makeover. Three, as Jennifer and Micheal Stillabower of Bethany Beach can attest, when you start stripping away walls and floors, who knows what lurks beneath, especially if it’s an older house? But, cautions the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), “be sure your remodeling contractor creates a written change order if your remodeling project is modified while work is being done. Both parties should sign the amendment.”
3. Plan where your family and pets will be during the remodeling, including what areas might be off-limits. NARI adds you should discuss with the contractor in advance any travel or vacation plans, especially if the contractor will not have access to your property while you’re away.
4. Always use quality products and be sure they are in your contractor’s estimates. If you’re like most people, you’ll want to be stingy when you’re trying to budget the project, but you’ll eventually question your judgment to go cheap—perhaps even before the last nail is hammered.