I recently had some work done in my house and though I think we did pretty well overall, I also believe there were a few things we should have done differently that might have made the process not only go a little smoother, but might have saved us some money or enhanced their time. Here are 4 of those tips, though it might be difficult getting some of these pushed through.

1. Ask them what they need and then go buy it yourself.

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Although the work the contractors did for us was good, on one day 5 hours was wasted as he and his associate drove all over the city trying to find a window that fit in the space, and he never found it. He also purchased a door that works well, but it turns out not to be the door we actually wanted. We gave him money up front to make those purchases but I found out later that I could have saved $100 if I’d bought them myself.

2. Get a contract.

Any reputable person won’t mind giving you a contract and in this instance you can pay them with a check or cash. I say this because without a contract, you give someone money and they never show up, you just lost that money. Also, if you paid them cash, even if they did the work and you bought the materials, you can’t even think about claiming anything on your taxes.

A contract also freezes the price if anything goes wrong or it takes them longer to do the job than they estimated. They’ll be stuck with that price, although if they needed extra material you’ll probably still have to pay for that.

3. Get some kind of time clause built into the contract.

This is one where things might get sticky. No contractor is going to sign something saying they’ll have a certain item built or installed within so many hours. Instead, the contract should state the day they’ll show up, the time, and how many hours minimum they’ll work on the project. Because my house presented many challenges it actually took 2 1/2 days to complete everything that, in a normal house, might have only taken the 5 hours he’d predicted.

However, one problem was he didn’t buy the window or doors until we gave him a deposit on the day he was supposed to do the work, and he was gone almost 6 hours, which means I had to sit around the house waiting because I had no idea when he’d be back. Had I known about that up front I’d have given him the money way beforehand so he could have shown up and gone to work. Still, if there had been some kind of time clause where, if he hadn’t done so much work in a day that I got a 5% discount or something.

4. Always have cold water or something else cold for them to drink.

Turns out that the 3 days they were at my house were all very hot days. And, because I had to keep the doors open, especially when they were replacing the window, it was hot inside as well. It wasn’t until the second day when my wife told me there were bottles of water in our second refrigerator in the garage (we have a small refrigerator out there) that would be really cold and that I should offer them some. That was greatly appreciated, and instead of having to keep taking breaks because of how hot and tired they were they were able to continue working, and efficiently at that. The cost of 24 bottles of water were $3.99; their hourly rate was much higher than that.

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