Sunday, July 18, 2010

reno chronicles #2

To bring you up to speed on the project so far, I’d like to tell you about my quest for the perfect contractor.

Many months ago, I knew this project would have to be done late summer. I started asking around and putting out feelers because I know the summer months book early for good contractors.

In fact, last summer I ran into “potential contractor #1”, whom I actually know and mentioned the job to him. He was interested and said he was mostly booked already, but could probably meet my timeline, if I pushed it to early fall. Fine by me. We talked about it at length that day and agreed he would come by in the winter to take a look, talk it out and provide an estimate.

Despite my efforts from January to March, I was not able to get him to come in the winter. He was “too busy” to even give me an estimate.

Next, I talked to “potential contractor #2” that actually did some work on my house two years ago. He did a good job. He gave me a detailed estimate/quote and let me know, in advance, of anything that would put him over that budget before moving forward.

It took him longer than he originally expected to finish the job….partly because he’s a talker and some days he may have talked more than he worked. A couple of times, I had to call him to see where he was because he didn’t show up when he said he would. And I quickly realized that he wasn’t great at the fine details, so he had to redo a couple of small things to meet my satisfaction.

Overall, he’s a nice, honest guy who got the job done. So I got in touch with him again about this reno project. He came over, we talked about the job (at length) but he didn’t take measurements and said he’d come back as we got closer to the project date and get the details. He preferred to wait a bit before providing an estimate because “the cost of materials fluctuates” and he wanted to be accurate. He did pop in once after that…but just to chat.

In early June, I was golfing (I use that term liberally!) at a work/charity event and chatting with another person assigned to be on our team. Turns out her brother is a contractor. She gave me the info on “potential contractor #3” and promised to give him the head’s up that I’d be calling. I did call and left him a message at home and at work explaining that his sister gave me his info. I never did get a call back.

Next, I called “potential contractor #2” again about a month ago and caught him in the middle of something. He said he’d call me right back…but I haven’t heard from him since.

In the meantime, I’ve still been asking EVERYONE I know to get a recommendation. Three weeks ago, a friend popped in for a quick visit with the new baby (so squeezable!). I mentioned it to her. Later, she mentioned it to her husband who has great experience in this industry. He called a few days later with a strong recommendation. I don’t know how I didn’t ask them sooner.

I called “possible contractor #4” and left a message. He called me back 5 minutes later and said he could come by that night (really?!? wow). He showed up exactly when he said he would. We chatted and I liked him instantly.

He’s keen, smart and motivated. He said he’d like to have his designer come back with him to brainstorm some ideas later in the week. They got delayed, but he called to apologize and set up another time.

They were waiting for me to arrive at the rescheduled time (that never happens!). We all talked -- they had excellent questions for me about how I was going to use the space and what my needs were. We talked about permits and timelines. They sketched out the space and took all the measurements. They agreed to go away and draw up a couple of the ideas to present back to me. Very professional, efficient and focused.

That was last Friday and I am confident I’ll hear from him this week. I don’t want to jinx anything, but I think I may have found the perfect contractor for the job…

A few tips for you:
• Start looking early – it may take months to find the right contractor for the project.
• Ask everyone you know for a recommendation. You want to be sure you can be happy with both the experience and the work done.
• If possible, go see what they’ve done in someone else’s’ home. Ask your potential contractor for references if the recommendation doesn’t come from a trusted friend.
• Get everything in writing. Estimates/ quotes…etc.
• Discuss how any changes to the job specs or costs will be handled. Agree on this upfront and get that in writing too.
• Make sure your contractor has insurance. You don’t want to be responsible for anyone getting injured on the job.
• Do your homework and find out what permits you need based on city by-law. Don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t need them.

As I write this, it makes me realize that my quest for the perfect contractor feels a bit like dating. It requires a commitment to the search. It involves asking everyone you know for a possible recommendation. It requires developing a relationship – building trust, honesty, integrity, diligence and common sense. It requires setting and managing expectations. It requires being open to possibilities, being both flexible and adaptable.

Now, finding a contractor that you’d actually like to date…that would really be something, wouldn’t it?!

Fingers crossed for “potential contractor #4”…

For more about rouge, visit or check out past blogs at www.justalittlerouge/

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