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Avoid conflict with your general contractor with these what NOT to dos

Melissa Davis has been working in the home renovation industry long enough to know that it’s common for tension to arise between homeowners and general contractors. But rather than those tensions put the project to a halt, there’s a way to avoid them altogether, which ensures a smooth renovation process. The expert tells us how. 

The construction industry has a reputation that leaves many less than excited to jump into their own renovation. After designing and managing construction sites for 18 years, the last 5 as the lead designer alongside Scott McGillivray on HGTV’s Income Property, I’ve learned that many budget and general tensions that arise between general contractors and homeowners could be avoided.

In my experience, the contractor may be more than capable of executing the physical aspects of the job, but might not have the smoothest and most concise voice when it comes to explaining how and why a project will be successful.

What you need to knowmelissa davis (2) edited

There are typically two types of contractors:

  • The articulate salesman: They say everything right, drive a fancy car and has likely never picked up a hammer. He charges a premium to manage those that actually execute the physical work. You pay a fee for ease in communication.
  • The tradesman: He or she is on site and understands how a house is built from firsthand experience. He will be engaged in the project as both the general contractor and a laborer, resulting in lower fees. However, he is a builder, not a salesman, so you may need to be more accountable for having asked the right questions to begin with.

Side note: how do you find the right general contractor? Easy! Consult our directory of general contractors. Scroll through the latest customer reviews. Find out what other people have to say about their work and look through image galleries. This will help you make an informed decision!

Bridging design, construction and homeowners’ points of view, here are my top 5 renovation DON’Ts that will save you time and money. They’ll also make the home renovation process that much smoother.

Don’t change your mind

Of course, feel comfortable discussing new ideas that may alter the project for the better, but know from the onset that every change even seemingly minor results in a Change Order. Research and plan before you begin to avoid these extras. Work ahead with your general contractor to get as much done before construction begins to avoid delays.

Make too many changes on the fly and your home reno site could be put to a halt.

Make too many changes on the fly and your home reno site could be put to a halt.

Don’t be a distraction

I know it’s tempting to visit the site everyday and stop the trades to question their approach, but every minute you spend chatting with them, they are not working on your house. Instead, book weekly site meetings with the general contractor where you both have opportunity to table questions and review progress.

Your home renovation is important, but give your contractor space to conduct the work so it's completed safely and efficiently!

Your home renovation is important, but give your contractor space to conduct the work so it’s completed safely and efficiently!

Don’t procrastinate on decisions

The most costly and avoidable extras in renos are delays due to materials not being accessible the day the site is ready for them. Select and purchase all materials and fixtures in advance. Picking the perfect faucet will not be easier when you get a panic call that the plumber had to move on to another site, which causes the tiling to be delayed. This pushes the completion date and drives up the budget.

Fixtures, colours, patterns. It's easy to get confused, but being indecisive delays the progress of your project.

Fixtures, colours, patterns. It’s easy to get confused, but being indecisive delays the progress of your project.

Don’t live in the house!

This one is tough logistically and financially for many, but if possible, plan to be out of the house for as much of the renovation as you can. Having to keep utility services on to accommodate and paying a laborer to make the site safe for family will cost you time and money.

living during reno

Don’t start without a plan

Putting your design on paper will reveal issues in advance. Having to undo work once underway forces compromises and results in a completed project that may not be the ideal or the most cost effective. Hiring a designer or architect can help set you up for success from the start.

have a plan

About the Author: Toronto-based celebrity designer and contractor Melissa Davis is known for her appearances, creative design and reno work produced for various HGTV shows. Her work has been profiled nationally in print publications. With almost two decades of reno & design experience, her firm continues to service clientele throughout Ontario & GTA, specializing in value-adding ROI and resale consultations.

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