You’ve finally decided you’re ready to move forward on that home improvement project you’ve been thinking about. It’s exciting to know your fantasy is on the verge of becoming a reality!

But if you don’t have much experience with construction projects, you may not have any idea what to expect. Based on years of experience working with homeowners on a range of projects, we can provide a number of useful tips to make working with a contractor for your next home improvement project more successful.


1. Meet with the contractor early.

Many homeowners start by bringing a description of their dream project to an architect. They spend money to have plans drawn up, only to give them to a contractor and learn that the plans they already paid for far exceed their budget. Architects aren’t experienced in matching aspirational plans to specific costs. Contractors are.

Before you fall in love with specific plans you can’t afford, meet with a contractor who can provide helpful suggestions on how to build a version of your dream project that meets your main priorities, while staying within the budget you can afford. One of the useful skills a good contractor provides is helping you develop a realistic budget for your construction project. Then, you can work together with the architect to turn an achievable vision into specific plans.

2. Keep your financial expectations realistic.

Your home is the place where you spend most of your time, and probably a place you intend to stay for many years. If you’re going to make a big change to it, it’s worth doing it right. A construction project that involves high-quality materials will be costly. And the bigger the project, the more skilled professionals tend to be involved—think architects, plumbers, electricians, stone masons, brick masons and, of course, your contractor and anyone they have on staff.

If you cut corners to save money, you risk ending up with shoddy results that don’t last or hiring someone who doesn’t see the project through to the end—both issues it will cost you more to fix. An honest contractor will help you understand the true costs of a project upfront, so you can manage your expectations accordingly.

3. Find a contractor who tells you what you need to know, not what you want to hear.

The easiest way to get new business as a contractor is to tell homeowners what they want to hear, even if that means providing a lower estimate of a project’s cost or a faster timeline than is really possible. Some contractors will always go for the easy win, at the cost of a customer’s ultimate satisfaction.

In contrast, the kind of contractor who cares about building a long-term relationship with clients will give you the hard truth upfront. They’ll tell you the real costs and timelines to expect, even if they know it means the project you want isn’t in the budget you have—and even at the cost of losing your business. But they’ll also work to help you figure out a version of the project you can afford, if possible.

It’s easy to choose the person who promises you the lowest number, but there may be big tradeoffs for that choice. You’re usually better off going with the contractor that insists on honesty.

4. Don’t expect construction to start right away.

You’re excited and ready to see your home improvements start going up now. But that’s not how construction projects work. First, your contractor will need to spend time in the planning stages, getting all the details right. Then, they’ll spend time getting all the local permits required to make sure you stay on the right side of the law.

For small projects, this can take around two weeks. For larger ones it can take months. Don’t be disappointed if it takes time before the first person shows up with tools and starts actually building something. The time spent in those early planning stages is important to getting it right once that day comes.

5. Anticipate roadblocks.

One of the most predictable things about construction is how unpredictable it is. Home improvement projects regularly face delays and inconveniences for reasons as varied as weather, stocking issues, and illnesses.

As long as you hire the right contractor, you’ll get past all those roadblocks with the new home addition or renovation you wanted intact. But you’ll face less stress through the process if you start out expecting there to be bumps in the road.

6. Treat your contractor as the central point of contact for all communication.

Most home improvement projects involve a lot of different skilled professionals. One of the values a good contractor offers is finding trusted professionals to take on these roles and managing them all, so you don’t have to. They’ll take charge of all the communication to make sure everyone working on your project is on the same page, and the work gets done to the specifications you discussed.

But miscommunication issues are common when homeowners go around the contractor to discuss details with subcontractors directly. You can inadvertently give them incorrect or incomplete information that results in delays or unintended changes to the project.

To avoid communication issues, make a point of having all your communication go through the contractor you hired. Let them take on the work and responsibility of providing instructions to the subcontractors they hire on your behalf.

7. Don’t take frustrations out on your contractor.

There will be issues that come up in the course of your project. There always are. A good contractor will do what they can to protect you from having to worry too much about the roadblocks that arise, but they’ll also keep you in the loop when challenges arise that require your input or change the project estimates previously provided.

Your project will go more smoothly if you do your best to treat your contractor and everyone working with them with respect throughout the whole experience, even in the moments of frustration. It’s OK to be upset when something doesn’t go the way you’d hoped, but don’t take it out on the people working hard to make your dream a reality.

The Most Important Part of Working with a Contractor: Hire the Right One

Everything about your construction project will go more smoothly if you start by finding the right contractor. Look for a licensed contractor with a reputation for delivering results worthy of praise. Pay attention to how honest they are with you from the get go—do they promise the moon, or is their approach more grounded in reality?

For homeowners in the Charlotte, NC area, Fineline Construction has been earning the trust and loyalty of customers for years by providing honest advice and delivering consistent results. If you’re ready to take the first step toward making your dream project a reality, set up a consultation with us today.