The Right Legwork Before You Renovate

We're hoping to renovate our basement, so we've been learning a lot about how to get the job done right. Here's what we've learned so far from the advice of those who have been through the process:

1. Work out as many details of what you want before you call anybody! Otherwise, estimates can change (dramatically) and quotes might not be comparable (as each contractor has their own idea of what would work best in your space.) This could mean pictures that show the kind of room you want, drawings of your own (even if you aren't an artist) or brochures from local home renovation places. This "homework" should also help you pick the right contractor, depending on what you want done and the contractor's expertise.

2. Check out any zoning approvals or permits required. What's your maximum budget? Do you need financing? Now's the time to get the administrivia out of the way as much as possible.

3. Investigate contractors. Talk to family, friends, acquaintances. Get referrals. A good contractor is mostly found by word of mouth and not by flashy advertisements.

4. Get more than one quote. Generally, you should look at getting at least 3 quotes. It will help in the final negotiation with whatever contractor you choose, and it also ensures that if one contractor backs out or isn't living up to what you expect, you have other contractors who are familiar with you and your job. (Unfortunately, it's still a bit of a challenge to get a really good contractor; many operators can be "fly by night" and we know of more than one horror story. Just this week we heard about a renovation for a small business in our area where the business owner has had to take over the contractor position. So, it's best to be prepared.)

So, as we continue through our renovation experience, I'll share what we learn on the way. With any luck, I won't be sharing another horror story.


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