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Seven Things to do Before Calling a Contractor

by Roger

To make any project progress smoothly there are certain things you can do to be prepared before you even call a contractor.

1) Make a list.

Write down the scope of your project and what you want to accomplish. Try to cover all aspects you can think of. If you are having your bathroom tiled, will you be replacing the fixtures? Who will be removing and replacing the toilet? Are you replacing the cabinets? Do you want the tile under or up to the new cabinets? Will it be necessary to move plumbing fixtures or will they remain in the same spot? Who will be responsible for that? In your kitchen who will be moving the appliances? Do you have a gas stove or electric?

Start broadly such as “remodel bathroom”. You can then make sub-headings such as “tear-out”,¬† “plumbing”, and “cabinetry”. Then make lists under these along with who will be responsible for each. Most tile contractors will remove and replace toilets, baseboards, and be responsible for any tear-out needed. Some can take care of items such as new cabinets, replacing fixtures, etc. Items such as wiring or moving plumbing oftentimes require an electrician or plumber due to code requirements, insurance reasons, or simply skill comfort level of any given job. Many times it is a combination of these.

If another trade contractor will be required, if you do not know anyone, ask your tile contractor if there is someone he works with regularly. Any of us that have been in business for a significant amount of time usually have specific people we work with which makes everyone’s job easier.

2) Have an idea about which products you want.

Have you already purchased the tile? Do you know what type of tile or stone you want? Do you know the advantages or disadvantages of the different types? If you have not yet purchased tile or stone and aren’t sure which type you want feel free to ask that. Depending upon the application, certain types of tile or stone may be the best idea or the worst. The best plan is to be informed. Know what you want, or at least the look you want, and discuss with your contractor what the best product would be to accomplish that.

3) Have a budget in mind.

All contractors know you have an idea of what you want to spend. While it is very difficult to give you a ratio of material to labor you must understand that most reputable contractors will rarely give you the lowest price – but we will give you a fair price. There are many factors that come into play when bidding a tile installation. Ceramic tile will be cheaper to install than natural stone. Stone (granite, marble, travertine, etc.) requires more exacting standards, more expensive setting products, and a higher skill level than ceramic or porcelain. A floor will be cheaper to install than a shower wall.

We don’t expect you to understand all the different factors that are involved in pricing an installation but if you think of it as a time issue it will be easier to understand. Some installers charge by the hour – I don’t. It takes two minutes to install three feet of floor tile and could take up to four hours to install three square feet of tile in a shower niche. If you have any questions about why something is priced as it is just ask, I have no problem explaining it.

4) Look through magazines and online for ideas.

Once you have an idea of the type of tile or stone you would like look for design ideas. If you see something you like hold on to it or print it out. Just because it’s in a magazine in a million dollar home doesn’t mean it can’t be in your kitchen! Most design aspects can be transferred to different applications. Find what you really like. There is no reason you can’t have a certain design simply because you aren’t using forty dollar a foot Italian marble tiles. If you like it give me a picture of it. While it may not look exactly the same we will discuss it and see how close we can get with your chosen product.

You can also do the reverse. Find the design you like and we can discuss what products we can get to try and match it as closely as possible.

5) Be prepared for a disruption.

While we try very hard not to disrupt your home more than absolutely necessary please understand there will be a certain amount of inconvenience. The larger your project the more it will impact your normal routine. Have a plan. If I install your kitchen floor tile you will not be able to walk on it until the next day, you’ll need a contingency plan. Do you have a second bathroom? Do you have another shower?¬† Where will your refrigerator be placed overnight while you floor tile sets? If you are tiling your entryway, how will you get in and out of the house while it sets?

Plan on having whatever room you are having installed out of commission for at least the day, maybe longer. I know it sounds very basic but you may be surprised at some of the things people do. We try our hardest not to be too much of a burden but given the nature of remodeling certain things cannot be helped. Just be prepared for that.

6) Have a time frame in mind.

While the length of a given project will mostly be dictated by the scope of it, the start date is not (provided your material does not have to be specially ordered). Have an idea of when you would like it to start. If you need to get it done by the end of next week that is definitely something your contractor needs to be aware of before he shows up to look at it. While we may be able to complete it in that time frame, our previously scheduled jobs may not allow for it. It would be a waste of your time, as well as the contractor’s, if this is not known up-front.

Additionally  try not to have unrealistic expectations. Your contractor should be able to give you a fairly reasonable timeline for your project, he does it every day. While we would like to be able to complete your entire master bathroom in three days before your family arrives in town for the week, your tile does not care. If it is not realistic we will tell you. It may be better to push your start date to a time that more reasonably fits your schedule.

7) Write down any questions you may have.

If there is something you are unsure about or have questions about write them down. When you do interview contractors it is easier to have the list ready than it is to try and remember everything. Also write down your wish list. It never hurts to ask how much more something may be if it is something you are interested in having. Things such as a shower niche (a built-in shelving area) rather than a corner shelf or tile base rather than replacing the wood base. It’s always better to ask rather than wanting it later and not having it.

A bit of preparation before calling contractors for a bid will not only ensure you don’t forget anything, it also makes the process go more smoothly. By ensuring that nothing is left out you greatly limit the chance of any surprises or work stoppage during your remodeling process. Following these steps also gets your project off to a great start. The more preparation beforehand the more smoothly your project will proceed and the faster it will be completed.

If there is something you would like to add to the checklist, please feel free to leave a comment. Anything that would make the process easier will definitely be added.

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