10 Tips for a No Stress Home Renovation

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Your home renovation will stress you out – because things rarely go smoothly. So, take a deep breath and use these 10 tips for dealing with contractors – to find a little zen in the middle of the chaos.


The home renovation process is painful – but you hope the result is worth it.

Our home was built in the 70's so we've gone through a few projects of our own.

I have done the general contracting on a few projects and have hired a general contractor on others.

As a result, we have had to deal with a lot of weird contractor situations. Things like getting the wrong columns to complete work stoppage.

Here are a few things that I learned.

1. Take advantage of your contractor's strengths

Every person has their strengths. Remember these on the days that you are questioning whether you hired the best person for the job.

Some people are good at planning, some at doing, and some at selling.

On my kitchen renovation, I realized that the person I hired didn't know that much about construction.


He was actually a good people person and wonderful at client relationships.

Thankfully the job foreman knew exactly what he was doing and our project came out beautifully.

2. Even if you love them all – they might not like each other.

On another home remodeling project, I hired two of my favorite contractors to do different things.

Individually they were amazing but together they were like oil and water.

It was definitely not something that I expected.

Everything worked out well in the end and the job got done – but there were some dicey moments along the way.

3. A great contractor may not be a good coordinator/administrator

Not everyone is good at planning. Even when they should be.

You might end up doing more of the logistics than you originally planned for.

I recognized this on one of my home improvement projects right away – and it was very frustrating.

It was only the anticipation of the end product that kept me from going over the edge.

4. No compromises – no regrets, within reason

Sometimes your contractor may try to sway you to change your mind on some aspect of your project.

Some reasons are valid, like unexpected structural issues – but others not so much, like contractor convenience.

For our powder room project, I wanted tile wainscoting around the entire room (it's a small room).

My contractor, on the other hand did not want to delay the project until the tile was complete – so, I give him credit for trying to sway me out of my original decision – saying that tile was more expensive than just painting.

But I am glad I stuck to my original plan on this one – because I so love the way the powder room looks now.

I know I would have regretted making a different decision.

5. Stick to the “blueprint”

Before your project begins, make sure that your contractor is 100 percent clear on what you want him to do and vice versa.

You don't want to get half way through and then hear – “well, I thought you wanted it this way”

6. Check References!

It's a pain to do.

And I know – if the contractor is going to give you references, obviously the references are going to be good ones. Duh!

So why bother calling?

You would be surprised the things that you can learn in a conversation.

Another person might be happy with a service that might not make YOU happy.

As you speak to the reference, you might learn that the crew was not careful about taping off the construction site, or maybe they left tools lying around.

The reference may not have had an issue with this. But maybe you have allergies or small children.

Even good references are good sources of useful information.

7. Make sure you know what is going on

Be there for your contractor without being a pain in the butt – it will be beneficial to both of you.

During a home renovation, there are micro decisions that need to be made daily.

If you are not around, they can't ask you for your preference – so they will do what they think is best.

When my contractor installed the island in our kitchen remodel, there were 3 flat panels to be installed on the back – two narrow and one wide.

These panels actually mimicked the cabinet doors on the other side of the island – one cabinet had two narrow doors and the other had a wide door.

My contractor was going to install these panels on the back in a similar pattern – narrow, narrow, wide.

Thank goodness I was there that day because I felt that the island would look much more symmetrical with the panels in a narrow, wide, narrow pattern.

It was just a matter of personal preference – but you have to be there to communicate what you want.

8. Do not be afraid to ask questions

Sometimes, out of politeness, you might be afraid to ask a question.

Um – why are you installing this that way?

You could either come off as sounding really stupid (shouldn't everybody know the answer to that?), or offensive (doesn't she trust what I am doing?).

But the reality is that this is your home renovation project.

YOU are paying to make this happen and you have to live with the results long after the contractors are done with the job.

So, ask away and make sure you are getting exactly what you want.

9. Do you have a general contractor? You still need to be aware of the subcontractor's work.

If you go the “all inclusive” route – you may feel like you can sit back because the project is being taken care of.

However, you should still be very involved.

Subcontractor's might cut corners to meet the budget of the GC.

Or they might misunderstand what it is that you want.

10. Review your contract

Review your contract carefully – unexpected costs can crop up.

To keep your construction budget under control, make sure you are in agreement as to who is paying for what up front.

Communication Is Key to a Smooth Home Renovation

A home renovation can become YOUR full time job even if you hire a general contractor.

My advice is to expect that it is so.

Engage with your contractors so you understand exactly what is happening each step of the way.

This communication will keep everyone's stress levels down.

Your Home Remodeling Project Stories

Share your home remodeling project successes and disasters with me in the comments below.

kitchen under construction

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