Hiring A Contractor — Everything You Need To Know


No matter what kind of design work you’re tackling, it’s very likely you’ll be dealing with contractors in some capacity. Over the years, we’ve had countless interactions with contractors. Some were wonderful experiences that exceeded our expectations, and others…not so great. That’s why we’ve created a resource to help you navigate through the process in order to get the best possible outcome!

Keep reading for our top tips to consider the next time you plan to work with a contractor!

1. The Selection Process – Do Your Research!

Get Multiple Estimates & Opinions

When selecting a contractor, make sure to obtain detailed estimates and opinions from at least three contractors! You want to make sure that you’re truly sampling all of the available options in order to find the right fit—the more, the merrier! Different contractors have different processes, styles, pricing, quality of service, and levels of customization. It’s extremely important to find one that aligns with your goals and expectations! 

While you may feel that you love the first one, this may be because you’re simply excited to embark on a new project and not because they’re the best fit. After getting to know a few different companies, you’ll be better able to select the right one for your project. Do not rush this step!

Be Weary of Low-Bid Contractors. Price Shouldn’t be Your Only Guide!

So many times clients want to go with the lowest bid contractor and it is the absolute WORST thing they can do. These low bid contractors do not provide quality work and are dishonest almost every time! Your project is an expensive investment, yes—but there is absolutely nothing worse than sinking money into a project based on the lowest bid contractor to save money, only to find that the workmanship is shotty, incorrect, unfinished or simply poor. It’s just. not. worth it. You’ll end up paying more money in the long run because of this!

East and Gray Interiors - Hiring and Working with a Contractor
Source: East & Gray Interiors

If price is your number one priority, the harsh truth is that you may want to reconsider the project in the first place. Consider waiting a year or so until you have more money set aside to allow you to prioritize a quality contractor. While waiting can be hard, it is always worth it in the long run. 

Review Past Work & Testimonials

Don’t be afraid to ask a contractor for samples of past work or for client testimonials. In fact, obtaining this information should be a priority in the selection process. 

Any contractor (or business for that matter!) can create a beautiful website filled with big promises and exciting ideas. But it’s your job as a potential customer to ensure that the company lives up to these claims. What do past clients have to say about their experience working with this company? Do they rave about the contractor’s attention to detail, level of care and concern, ability to stick to a timeline, and precision with a final estimate? These are all extremely important things to verify with people who have worked with contractors in the past. Remember, anyone can tell you they’re careful and committed to quality, but it’s not until work has been finished that you’ll know if it’s true.

Tip: if a contractor is weary about providing client references or showing past work, this is a warning sign! A good contractor should be excited to provide new clients with this information because they know they’ve provided a quality service to past clients. 

2. Initial Work – Finalizing Details & Expectations

Set Expectations Beforehand

Setting expectations can pertain to safety, privacy, working hours and much more. If you’re working from home and need certain days with no workers around, make sure you communicate this with the contractor beforehand so that they can factor this into their timelines. Additionally, communicate if there are working hours that you would prefer they adhere to (some people don’t want to wake up to the sound of a power saw at 8am—but you have to communicate this or they won’t know!)

For safety, ensure that you’ve signed a liability waiver and that both you and the contractor have proper insurance coverage prior to beginning any work to protect both parties in the event of an incident. If you’re unsure of something or feel uncomfortable, voice your concerns. Nothing is more important than clear communication from both you and the contractor to ensure a smooth and happy process.

Get It All In Writing

All the details of the upcoming work, from start and end dates to pricing, safety and liability information, specific materials and other costs (like taxes or fees), should be included in a contract that is signed by both parties. A contractor is, by definition, a party that performs a service or job as laid out in a signed contract, so this step is essential. These contracts also lay the groundwork for all work that is to be completed. 

East & Gray specializes in walking our clients through this process to ensure that you’re covered in all cases and that the work you’re agreeing to aligns with your vision and expectations.

Anticipate the Possibility of Additional Costs or Delays

Even the best contractors can inevitably run into delays or additional costs. While this is often not the case, it can happen, so it’s vital to have a plan in place if this comes up in your project. Sometimes materials can get delayed for reasons beyond a contractor’s control (hello, COVID pandemic holdups!), so you may have to be flexible and understanding. In addition, as a project is being completed, contractors may make suggestions for changes that could make your project better. Be open to these ideas as they may be worth it in the long run even if there is an additional cost and timeline. 

For example, on one of our recent client projects our contractor knew that we were in phase one of a three phase project that was going to be completed over the course of 2-3 years. In phase one we had all the walls in the basement exposed for plumbing work we were doing related to phase one. Those walls were going to get closed up at the end of phase one, however there was additional plumbing work that would need to be done related to phase two of the project. Instead of having to open up the walls in the basement again during phase two, our contractor suggested to our client that we complete the plumbing work related to phase two now to help save costs in the long run. While it was more money up front for phase one, it actually saved our client time and money in the end because we only had to open up the basement walls once, and only had to bring the plumber out to the project site once. And now all the plumbing is prepped and ready for when we start phase two, giving us a jumpstart on the timeline for that phase.

3. Followthrough to Completion – Stay In-the-Know

Keep In Touch & Maintain All Records

Make sure to stay in touch with the contractor during any warranty periods or guarantees so that you’re covered if something breaks or malfunctions. We also recommend keeping all files, receipts, contracts and documents in one file so that you can easily access any necessary records during or after the project. There’s nothing more frustrating than losing your warranty claim or misplacing an order confirmation because you were disorganized!

Take Time to Submit a Review

Hopefully, you had a wonderful and hiccup-free experience with your contractor. But even if it wasn’t so smooth sailing, we encourage you to provide feedback and/or reviews of the contractor you worked with. This information is extremely beneficial to future clients, and can immensely help the contractor’s own business. It’s a simple courtesy that can go a long way for others in the future, and is likely a big part of your own decision making process! 

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Interior Designer Andrea Durcik Columbus Ohio

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Traveling, animals, and all things design encompass Andrea’s life, fueling her creative energy every step of the way.

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