Ready to revamp your kitchen or finally add on that deck you've been dreaming about since last winter? Unless you’re going the do-it-yourself route, you’ll need a contractor—one with whom you can have a solid working relationship. You'll need someone you can rely on, a good communicator who can keep your project on track. You'll be hashing out specific details and having to make tough decisions together, so hiring someone you feel comfortable with is key. But if you really want to make sure things go smoothly, don't blurt out everything that comes to mind, and certainly not one of these eight phrases.
Make sure you know what not to say—and how to set up your next home improvement project for success.
1. 'I'm not in a hurry'
It's nice that you don't want to put pressure on anyone, but the laid-back attitude this phrase conveys isn’t necessarily to your benefit. It implies that your contractor and crew can take their time with your project, says Victoria Shtainer, a residential expert at Compass New York. Of course, unforeseen circumstances may push your construction or remodel off-schedule, but if you insist from the get-go that you don't have a timetable, “the more likely it is that your project will take drastically longer than expected,” she says. Remember, time is money—and convenience.
2. 'I know a great roofer/electrician/cabinet installer!'
If you’re hiring a general contractor, relax. There’s no need for you to give him or her leads on subcontractors. Really.
“The people we ask to bid a project are there because we know their capabilities, attitudes, and willingness to work,” explains Nathan Outlaw, CEO of general contracting company Onvico, Inc. The friend of a friend you know on Facebook, on the other hand, may not necessarily be willing to work within the parameters of your general contractor. And although your buddy may promise to give you a good deal, “it generally never works in the owner’s favor, due to increased management time, extended project deadlines, and causing frustration with the general contractor,” Outlaw notes.
3. 'We had no idea this would be so expensive'
“There is no worse feeling than bidding on a project, feeling good about your bid, and learning that the budget for the project is set unreasonably low,” says Outlaw. Not everyone knows exactly how much a construction project will run, but you can at least do a little research and be in the ballpark. Want to build a three-bedroom, 3,000 square-foot home but don’t want to spend more than $50,000? Ain’t gonna happen.
“A good lesson for contractors and owners is to always get the money talks started during an early conversation,” advises Outlaw.
4. 'Why can’t you work during the thunderstorm/snow/heat wave?'
Weather conditions can bring some parts of construction to a screeching halt, says Outlaw. For instance, framers need dry conditions to perform their job. Mortar and concrete won’t set properly unless they’re above a certain temperature. Ice can form on scaffolding, creating a major fall hazard. The list goes on.
“We really wish our clients understood [this],” Outlaw says. “Contractors generally want to be out there working, as no work means no pay.”
5. 'I’ll buy my own materials'
Sounds like a way to save yourself some green, but Outlaw has come across owner-purchased materials that aren’t up to code, are aged, or are damaged.
“It isn't necessarily a bad idea to check what materials a contractor is using for things like the subfloor or cabinets,” he admits, “but trust them to use a good, well-established supplier to have the materials brought to the job site.” Contractors often can get better pricing for materials, which can save you cash anyway.
6. 'I can’t pay you today. Is next week OK?'
Imagine if your boss strolled into your office one day and announced that although she appreciated you doing your job, she didn't have enough money to pay your salary. "Oops!" doesn't really cut it. Contractors will feel similarly cheated if you don't pay them.
“If the contract amount is made clear and the contractor performs the work correctly, there’s no reason not to have the money to pay him," says Outlaw. Paying on time has more perks than good karma, by the way. It also prevents a lien, or unpaid debt, from being placed on your property.
7. 'I’ll pay upfront'
Think laying out a wad of cash will make your contractor move faster? Maybe, but it also puts you at a huge disadvantage. You’re essentially paying for a completed project that you haven’t seen, Shtainer points out. Your contract spells out a promise to pay, which is contingent on the job being done to your satisfaction. It allows you to hold the contractor accountable. Pay your bill upfront, and you’re taking away that safety net.
8. 'I'm old school. We can use a handshake'
“When a client says this, I know it’s time to run for the hills,” says Outlaw. “There should never be any fear about getting the scope of work and payment terms in writing.” A contract protects the contractor from not receiving his payment. It also protects you, should the contractor take an overly long time to finish the project, go over budget, or if changes need to be made during construction.