How to Hire a Contractor/Renovate...or a starting point at least!

Ive got a few new projects to post for you this week (yea!), but I wanted to post about something else first. You have all been so incredibly patient in waiting to see our bathroom reveals, and trust me, they are coming!
Our contractor finished his last day on Saturday afternoon, which would seem to be a huge relief and I could FINALLY post about the bathrooms but unfortunately not. In between re-painting all the trim, parts of the ceiling and walls, switching the backwards door handle (?), painting the mirrors, fixing holes, scraping paint and grout off the floor tiles, etc, etc, these reno's are still not over. 5 months and counting....

Thankfully for my sanity, I was able to put all of our toiletries that have been sitting on our bedroom floor, (covered in dust for the past 4 months), back into the vanity. This was exciting for me people....VERY exciting. As a true organizer, I excitedly took on that task and am happy to report we have part of our bedroom floor back, and things are back to being *somewhat* organized. Ahhhhh.

Anyho, in-between working on the chair update, we started working on the bathrooms again this weekend and started with the painting.
So far the trim has gotten done. Sigh....when will it end?!!

You must be thinking that we probably just hired our contractor to do the tough work (i.e plumbing, electrical, structural, etc), but no. We did hire him to do all these things (painting, putting door handles, in properly, etc), but unfortuantely things we not done to our standards. We did ask him to come back and fix it but after asking many times for things to be fixed and them still not fixed, we got tired. We just want our house lives back, and the best way to do that was to take control and get these things done ourselves. Faster, better.

(He is going to have to come back 1 more time though...to fix the door that doesn't close....).

For anyone who has gone though a reno before, Im sure you can relate. They aren't easy and we certainly thought we might lose our minds a few times, but in all reality most things are done (and done well now), but there are still many things for us to do.

I wanted to post a few tips on how to pick a contractor (that we followed), but for anyone thinking of hiring someone, its a major decision and you really want to go through the process as informed as possible. Even if you follow these steps, you still never know how its going to go. Renovations are a huge under-taking and I'm sure anyone you ask who has done them, will probably have similar experiences.

These guidelines are from the HGTV website, written by Mike Holmes, and I think they are a great starting point for hiring someone.

"How to Hire a Contractor" By: Mike Holmes

From licences and terms to contracts and reference checks, hiring a contractor for your home gets a little easier with these great tips.

Mike discusses Licences and Insurance, References, Contracts, Terms and other items. Definitely take a look before you start the process! We actually had one contractor bring us a handwritten quote with drawings on it. Needless to say, we weren't comfortable with that.

Along with those suggestions from Mike Holmes, here are some of our own that we have learned along the way:

Check and Double Check:
The contractor we did hire, fit all of the criteria we had. We even checked him out on the Better Business Bureau before hiring him, had references and went to check out his work. Ask if they have a website or pictures of their work, etc, etc. Again, different opinions, views, ideas of how long things should take, are always different between people.

Speak UP!
Even if you do get a good contractor, there may still be things you are unhappy with. Dont forget to speak up and ask for things to be changed. We had many unexpected things come up during the renos that we needed to be fixed or get done. They did cost extra, but we didn't see the point in covering them up. We wanted it done right. Just remember you are paying them to do a job and you want things done properly.

Dont get taken advantage of:
We hired a company to cut a countertop for us for our bathroom vanity. Long story short, we had 2 countertops cut terribly. The first had the hole for the sink cut in the wrong spot, the second had a hole that looked like it was cut with a jigsaw. It was hard but we went to the store and asked for our money back. After a bit of a fight, we ended up getting our money back, and finding a different company (who did an amazing job).

Im the first person to find a deal. Always on the hunt and always with coupon in hand. However, finding a deal was what got us into the countertop nightmare story. Funny enough it wasn't even a deal. In the end, the company that did cut us our awesome countertop was cheaper. AND faster. So get referrals, and shop around!

Quality is important:
Im not saying you need the best of the best for everything, but adding in a few quality pieces will help elevate how your bathroom looks in the end. We saved on floor tiles, but got a more expensive countertop. Discount vanity, but nicer fixtures. Mixing and matching will help you to achieve a high-end look on a budget.

When we were looking for fixtures, I remember going into one store and overhearing a customer saying "chrome is so dated". Not true. Chrome is pretty timeless. The best thing about chrome? You can always find cheaper options with chrome (there is more of it available) and it also allows for more options in style choices. Plus its easy to clean. Options that might be riskier- mixed metals (gold with chrome) and brass. You can check out a list of finishes here.

Modern/Contemporary/Traditional, Classicetc:
Thankfully, Ian and I have very similar styles. We both love similar colours, decor, etc :) That makes decorating much easier and more fun for us both. I might be a bit more classic/vintage and Ian might be a bit more contemporary/rustic, but thats how we maintain a good balance I think! You want to be careful though, not to go too far contemporary (modern) in terms of style. I heard somewhere the question "what is the difference between moden and contemporary?" and the answer given was "modern is an era, while contemporary is a style." So basically if you are on a budget, try to think of things that will stand the test of time...that funky tub with the bee stripes on it, might not be the best choice.

I cannot tell you how many times I have watched Sarah's House bathroom episodes. Maybe 30+? Lol. But seriously, I read every issue of Style at Home that I could find, borrowed books from the library, watched all design shows on tv, researched pictures online, went into model homes, took notice of things I liked in my family/friends homes (who have wonderful taste by the way!), and most importantly, lived with our old dated bathrooms for a while to see what we REALLY wanted/needed to spend more money/focus on. Even still, there are things we look back on and think we should have done differently. That will always happen, but you want to be as informed as you can be, before sinking your life savings into something you hate a year later.

So there you go! Im sure there are 100 more things I could write about, and a million more things I have to learn about! But you learn as you go, and its helpful to at least have a place to start.

If you are thinking of hiring a contractor check this list from the HGTV.ca site, as well. It provides suggestions on how to point out problems" Contractor Red Flags- How to Point out Trouble."

Goodluck if you are planning any renovations out there ;)

For those of you who have done reno's, any other tips you'd like to add?! ;)


  1. Melissa @ Living BeautifullyJanuary 26, 2012 at 2:17 PM

    You are very welcome Anna! Glad you enjoyed :)


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