By Edie Mann
If you’re like me, the extent of your construction experience is hammering a nail into the wall to hang a picture that then refuses to stay level; if you’re lucky, you didn’t smash your thumb. There’s a reason (or several) you’re considering hiring professionals. For starters: They have experience, and they can deliver the results of which you can only dream of completing yourself. But, a remodel is a shared responsibility, and your role as the cabin owner is as important as that of the people you hire.
Follow these simple steps, and you can be enjoying your new-and-improved cabin in no time.
1. Do your research.
Finding an experienced, trustworthy contractor is the #1 thing you can do in your favor. Ask friends for recommendations; check Angie’s list. Use only contractors certified by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). Meet the entire team in person – more than once – before you sign anything.
2. Get a detailed, written estimate.
Never hire a company unwilling to put its promises on paper.
Remember, the contractor and team are the professionals. This gives them two distinct advantages: experience and emotional objectivity. A good contractor will be (sometimes brutally) honest with you as to which of your wish-list items are feasible, which are not, and which will be unwelcomed budget-busters. Take heed. When they suggest lower-cost alternatives that will deliver comparable results without breaking the bank, seriously consider them.
4. Be heard.
Knowing what you want is one thing; explaining it to someone else is something else altogether. Even the best contractor and design team in the world have one inherent flaw: They are not mind readers. Be specific.
5. Use pictures.
Try as you may to describe the visions in your head, nothing is going to deliver a clearer message than pictures.
6. Ask questions.
If there is something you do not understand, immediately ask for clarification.
7. Stick to your end of the schedule.
Be on time for meetings. Choose finishing products in a timely manner. You expect the contractor team to respect your time, so respect theirs.
8. Be available.
Especially if your project is on the larger side, questions will arise during the day. Be available to answer them. This, as much as anything, will help keep your project on schedule. Let the project manager know the best way to reach you each day, be it by email or phone.
9. Stick to your budget.
If you didn’t have the money when the project started, you’re not going to magically have it halfway through the project and certainly not at the end.
10. Keep your eye on the finish line.
Inevitably, as the project progresses, your wish list is going to evolve. Don’t get hung up on the chandelier with the most bling or the massaging showerhead. The most important thing is that you are able to finish your project. Focus on the structural construction and let go of the minutia.
11. Compromise – with yourself.
For every item you add to your must-have list, you must drop an item. Keep in mind you can always swap out the simple chandelier for the glittery one a few years from now.
12. Pay on time.
The construction company relies on your payments to buy materials for the next phase of the project. Paying on time is not optional; it is a must.
13. Be realistic.
No construction project is without complications. But as long as you and your contractor communicate openly and honestly through every phase of the project, together you can avoid disastrous “uh-ohs.”
14. Trust the professionals.
They’ve done this many times before; likely, this is your first time. Enough said.
15. Trust yourself.
Sometimes – professional or not – the contractor can be wrong. Ultimately, this is your project. If something feels wrong, it likely is. Politely, but firmly, express your concerns. Hear their response. If you’re still not satisfied, contact a higher-up in the company. With an open, honest line of communication, a solution will be found.
16. Give praise where it’s due.
If this were easy, you’d be doing it yourself. Regularly compliment the people transforming your cabin. If nothing else, it will make them want to do an even better job. Inform supervisors when workers are doing a good job – or if they’re not.
17. Check the progress daily.
If something doesn’t look right, say something. The earlier a problem is detected, the faster – and more economically – it can be fixed.
18. Accept that finishing on time is unlikely.
All remodels share a common theme: The work is being done to homes/cabins built during different eras using different materials and methods when different codes were in effect. Surprises are inevitable. Be patient and do your part to keep the project on track. Trust me, the contractor wants the project completed as much – if not more so – than you do.
19. Know when it’s time to let go.
When 99% of the project is complete, it’s time for you to get your cabin back and the contractor to move on to the next project. Any reputable company will give you a one-year warranty. With fresh eyes over the next 365 days, you can nit-pick the details and trust in your contractor to come back and make it all right.
20. Give the contractor the best feedback of all.
If you are happy, refer them to friends. And when you’re ready for your next remodel project, be a repeat customer.