When you hire for a home project, keep these points—from unrealistic expectations to fluctuating costs—in mind.

A good contractor can do more than help manage a home renovation project, they'll save you money and a lot of headaches, too. "Hiring a licensed, insured contractor is imperative to performing any significant construction project or repair around your home that can't be handled by the homeowner or a handyman," explains Paul Dashevsky, co-founder of GreatBuildz, a service that connects homeowners with vetted general contractors. "This includes making sure the client is realistic about their project, timing, and budget."

contractor standing in home under construction
Credit: Jetta Productions Inc. / Getty Images

Unfortunately, a homeowner's expectations can often exceed the reality of what a contractor can actually accomplish. "There are lots of potential issues facing the contractor on your job, many of which are largely out of their control," Dashevsky explains. "Workers not showing up, truck breakdowns, traffic delays, material quality issues, subcontractor problems, equipment malfunctions, surprises hidden in the walls of the home, architect mistakes, worker injuries… the list goes on and on."

Curious what other things a contractor wishes you could understand before you hire them? We asked Dashevsky for his insight and here's what he had to share.

Contractors can't see behind the walls either.

When bidding a job, Dashevsky says contractors will have to make some experienced assumptions about what they will likely find inside and behind the walls, but there is no way to know for certain. "There could be utilities behind a wall that need to be relocated, structural issues, or even termite damage or dry rot," he explains. "The best, most honest contractors usually integrate some of these 'surprises' into their estimate to the client, while others choose to give a client the lowest bid upfront but ask for 'change orders' (extra charges) during the project to resolve these issues."

Your expectations of communication with your contractor aren't realistic.

If you expect your contractor to be able to respond to your calls and emails in a matter of minutes, Dashevsky says you've got the wrong mindset. "Contractors and their staffs are rarely planted at a computer or even in front of their phones," he explains. "They spend most of their time on job sites, buying materials, et cetera, and are much less likely to respond quickly. If your expectation is that your contractor responds to you within a specific timeframe, you should make that clear to them before you begin your project."

You are going to be responsible for some of the delays.

If you're relying on Pinterest and other online images for inspiration for your home renovation project, Dashevsky warns that you might wind up slowing down the process. "Most of the time, pretty pictures online include items that are either custom-made or only available at small boutiques and uber-expensive online retailers," he says. "By the time you locate an item or find a similar replacement, order the materials, and have them delivered, it's quite likely the project will suffer delays."

You should prepare a written scope before you meet contractors.

When you meet with general contractors, Dashevsky says you'll want to be as prepared as possible with your list of needs and requirements for the project. "You will likely be meeting with multiple contractors to collect a few bids for your project, so you want to make sure each of them bids on the identical scope of work," he explains. "If you don't do this, different contractors will hear different things, and your bids will be very different and hard to compare."

Your house is not perfect.

The older the house is, Dashevsky says, the more likely it is to have major structural issues. "These imperfections make it more difficult and costly to renovate, even if your renovation has nothing to do with these areas of the home," he explains. "An example is replacing a kitchen. When a contractor goes to install upper cabinets, they often find that older ceilings are not perfectly square anymore. The solution is to 'float' the ceiling to make it totally level again, but most people don't think about that as a cost of a kitchen renovation."


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