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How to choose a contractor for your home renovation

Truthfully, finding a contractor is a minefield. A quagmire of misfortune we’ve all waded through. But if you know what to look for and how to ask the right questions, you can avoid a few frogs on the way to finding your prince.

Someone standing on a dusty floor during a home renovation

Ask any designer about their experience with contractors. The ones that tell you they have it nailed and only work with the best where nothing ever goes wrong, are the ones to be wary of IMHO.

"Rejoice, the designer that tells you they've been burned, too."

From shoddy quality to not even turning up to site, every designer I know (and believe me, it forms the mainstay of many of our conversations) has had their fair share of struggles. There is no secret club we have access to where only the good guys hang out and nothing ever goes wrong.

We get asked for recommendations a lot, and here's the thing - we build up our little black book the same way you do; through trial and error. We just have more opportunity to 'trial'.

But by asking the right questions and doing your due diligence, you’ll reduce the number of frogs you have to meet before finding your contractor prince.

Here’s my rundown of what to look for when choosing a contractor:

1.      Beware the yes man

Are you just being told what you want to hear, or are you getting advice and guidance that’s rooted in reality? If a contractor is telling you they can gut and fit out your whole villa before your mother-in-law arrives in 6 weeks, it’s probably the former…

2.      Communication

Good, open, honest communication is 50% of the job in my opinion. Renovating your home ranks up there in there list of most stressful life events (source: me) so you want to make sure you can work as a team with your GC. Because stuff goes wrong, and when it does, you want to be batting for the same side. Can you communicate easily? What are their channels of communication? How often will you meet/ speak across the process? How do you think they’ll respond if there’s an issue?

3.      References

Can they provide previous client references or case studies?

4.      Snagging & workmanship issues

De-snagging at the end of the project should be a given but what about after the dust has settled (which by the way takes a while). What workmanship guarantee period do they offer?

5.      Site inspection

The good ones will often invite you to a current or past site to see their work in action… the bad ones will avoid this request like the plague.

6.      Meet the PM

This will be your go-to person throughout the process and is not necessarily the person that will come to your house for the initial walk-through and quotation. Make sure you know who your PM will be and ask to meet them.

7.      Subcontracting vs. in-house expertise

There’s no right answer to this, but it’s worth asking which parts of the scope might be outsourced or subcontracted. It’s OK to outsource, but it’s preferable if they are outsourcing to trusted suppliers they work regularly with. Who are their suppliers? What contact will you have with them? Are they a regular partner or do they just throw work out to whoever is available? If joinery is a major part of your scope, do you want to find someone that offers joinery in house? Glass & steel works are often outsourced, and GCs also typically work with a third party to manage more complex approval processes.

8.      Size matters

The fact is, the bigger your scope, the more likely you are to able to secure a more experienced contractor. Note that ‘more experienced’ does not necessarily mean better, but bigger contractors with a regular and longstanding workforce are not likely to take on a single-bathroom renovation project, for example. The point here is, the more you can include in your scope, the more access you will have to a wider range of contractors so it may just be worth waiting a little until you can tackle a few project areas at the same time.


Is this the year your dream home will become a reality? Get in touch with us and find out how we can help take the overwhelm out of the renovation process.



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