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Want to make your home improvement project go easier?  Regardless of who you hire, here are some simple Do's and Don'ts to make your construction effort a seamless, comfortable experience and allow you to work in close and effective partnership with your contractor.


Plan, Plan, Plan

  • Do as much research about building materials and the building process prior to talking to a contractor so that you become an educated consumer and feel comfortable as construction progresses on your home.

  • Have a clear idea of what you want by keeping a journal of ideas you like, samples of things you see, and house plans you want to consider. A good contractor will incorporate all the ideas and work with you to finalize a definitive plan of your dream home.  Time you spend planning up front could save weeks of time (and money in labor) later.

  • Do visit your home builder, before buying land or hiring an architect. The builder may have ideas on the placement of the home on the lot (or impediments to doing so) or have a home plan that will work with your design, with just a few changes.  In general, the lower the budget of the home, the less likely you will need architectural support. 

  • Carefully consider the location of your home lot, if you are building your home.  The availability of building materials and contracted talent will be far more challenging in remote locations, and will potentially result in higher labor and materials costs.  Things that urban clients take for granted become real and costly issues elsewhere: the location of lumber yards or other supply houses (e.g., we've heard of carpenters having to drive 2 hours  each way to pick up nails), ability and willingness of delivery drivers to traverse over rough terrain or use private roads that have by-laws that prevent deliveries during mud season, etc.

Participate Actively

  • Do take an active role in the building of your home. Hiring a contractor to manage every detail of your construction effort is vital, but it is a good idea to visit your construction site to ensure your wishes are understood and the quality of the craftsmanship meets your expectations. Most of the horror stories of disgruntled home owners can be averted if they do these few simple things.

Remember Less Considered Design Elements

  • Invest in storage - closet systems, basement areas, linen areas, outdoor sheds, etc.  No one ever regretted incorporating more space for the treasures that inevitably accumulate over the years.  A good contractor will also find little nooks and corners that optimize storage spaces.

  • Consider ceiling and door heights when designing your home.  It can have a big impact on the look and perceived size of your rooms.

  • Research lighting options to achieve the desired mood in the room.  Recessed lighting, for example, may be appropriate in the kitchen, but sconces offer a more soothing and less costly option for a bedroom.  Vintage lighting fixtures add character to new or older homes.


You HIred an Expert

  • Don't assume.  Make sure you actually get the expert you hired. Research reviews on your contractor and speak to others that have used him or her to ensure a high level of craftsmanship and integrity.  Agree to a fair and equitable payment schedule that rewards the completion of the job, and ensures your satisfaction.


  • Don’t be completely inflexible about your wish list or specifications. You hired someone who has expertise you may not have.  When speaking with a contractor, he may see a way to get the most of what you want for a lot cheaper or considering optimal building methods, have an even better idea that you may not have considered. Listen to what he suggests, but if something is important to you, and it is structurally feasible, politely tell him you want to stick with your plans.  It's your house.

Penny Wise, Dollar Foolish

  • Don't rule out alternative green options.  Consider salvaged materials, incorporating shipping containers,  using concrete panels, or factoring in other green architecture to save money and the environment.  

  • Don’t cut corners on the quality of materials on stuff that matters. The time and money you save with be your own.  When remodeling a bathroom, for example, opt for strong Kerdi board around the shower.  It is more expensive but will prevent water leaks, rot, and mold - and the headache of another remodel - months or years from now.

  • If possible financially, choose modern choices to ensure a current look of your home.  Radiant heat, for example, keeps floors the perfect temperature so you don't need to turn on the heat as much.

  • Don't forget to allow at least a 10 - 15% overage in your renovation or building budget.  Ideas pop up along the way or issues get uncovered when walls are opened for the first time in years.

  • Don't always rely on your contractor to purchase some, selective materials.  For those who prefer to take an active role in design, you can purchase such things as tiles, kitchen and bath fixtures, lights, etc. online, avoid contractor markups, while enjoying direct delivery to the job site.  (Just know that purchasing such items directly could result in negating warranties or additional labor costs, if delivery or other issues arise so check your contract.)


  • Don't forget the importance of communication.  Everyone changes their mind or wants to add on something they may not have planned for originally.  Remember that your contractor is managing all of the aspects of your projects, so keep surprises, which lead to inevitable costs, to a minimum.  

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