Design Tips: What to Know When Hiring a Contractor

cindy beyer revised

This is a sponsored post by Reston interior designer Cindy Beyer, a Reston Now Best Reston Business winner.

I have had the pleasure of working with many contractors — big jobs and small, kitchens, basements, baths or just plain painting.

As an interior designer, it is my job to work closely with the contractor to make sure my clients receive the best possible outcome. Each contractor is different and can offer many different aspects of the job.

Here are some tips and things to think about when hiring a contractor.

Project management: Whether it is a large or smaller contracting company, it is important to have good communication between the project manager, the design professional and you. For many years, I have used one contractor as my main contact. This allowed me to effectively communicate my client needs and easily execute any required change orders. The change order was usually a verbal communication.

Most small contractors are less formal about change orders. If you do use a small contractor, please make sure you know each and every charge associated with each change order. You do not want to be surprised at the end of the job.

On the other hand, larger contractors have the luxury of employing a contract estimator who, if using a good software package, can quickly estimate the cost of your changes. If you are a detail-oriented person, this can be a blessing. If you are not, it can be your worst enemy. Too many change orders can confuse and frustrate the client and could derail a perceived good relationship.

As a designer, it is my job to work closely with each party so be sure you get the most perfect fit between contractor and you.

Billing: Each contractor has their own billing methods. Some require one-third down when starting the project, some require more. Most of the time, the contract is between the paying party and the receiving party so the designer never handles the money, which is a plus for us designers.

I believe a one-third down with the contract is fair. Then comes a payment after the rough-ins and cabinet installs, and the final payment at job completion. I advise all clients to hold back the final payment until you are completely satisfied.

Expectations: With all of my projects, we have the highest expectations. Sometimes these are not communicated between the parties and one or the other feels they have to take on a more hands-on role.

It is important to have written expectations, even if they seem trivial. This will make things easier in the end. I guarantee that 99 percent of the projects have overrides unforeseen to both parties.

Your designer can be an important part of the project management and help manage expectations with your contractor.

If you would like more insight into the hiring of a contractor, please contact me at [email protected].

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