What Does a Contractor Do?

Hiring a contractor is one of the most important decisions you take in adding beauty, function, and lasting value to your home. Understand what you’re getting into...

When it comes to home improvement projects, there are really three kinds of people.

The first is homeowners who are very handy with tools and understanding essential concepts to execute projects of various complexity. These folks are genuinely talented, and we respect their skill level, but this article is not for them. Most of us fit into the other two categories: people who are relatively handy and will attempt smaller projects on their own, and people who are terrified to make a mistake, so they always hire a contractor. If you’re in one of these two categories, this article is for you.

The reason we’re even writing this one, in fact, is because a lot of people have found themselves entering into agreements for contractor services without a full understanding of the scope they’re hiring for. This is understandable: we hire contractors because we don’t necessarily know how to do the job ourselves. We hire because we maybe don’t have time to do it ourselves. One thing is for sure: we hire because we have a desired outcome in mind. That’s usually where the gap of understanding can start to develop.

General Contractors/Subcontractors

The bigger the project, the more likely you’re going to be dealing with a general contractor who isn’t necessarily the one doing all of the work themselves. The reason for that is the same reason you’re hiring a contractor: it’s because they want to make sure they are putting licensed professionals onto specific, sometimes high-stakes tasks such as electrical, plumbing, or gas-fitting elements of the job.

A general contractor is someone who can see not just the outcome you have in mind, but they are also aware of all the steps involved in getting to that outcome, some of which may not be obvious. Let’s say you wanted to remodel a kitchen in an older home you have just purchased. While your general contractor may specialize in kitchens and be adept at specific tasks such as countertop installation or kitchen cabinet installation, there are many contributing tasks that lead up to the final product. For a successful project, delivered on time and on budget, these tasks need to be executed in a specific order against a schedule determined by the general contractor. These contributing tasks might include re-wiring of the electrical elements, changing the location of the stove plug, moving or improving plumbing, connecting gas appliances, tiling, or painting. Each of them requires a specific skillset and sometimes legal certification. The general contractor’s job in this case is to break your project down into a workback schedule, bring in trusted subcontractors to professionally handle the contributing tasks, and then deliver you your desired outcome at the end.

Think of it this way; part of the value that home improvement contractors bring in a big home improvement project is that they are managing all these relationships and responsibilities on your behalf. All the questions, all the appointments - all of this is the domain of a competent general contractor.

Choosing Your Contractor

We have written about this elsewhere on this blog, but we think it’s worth repeating here. After reading the above, you’re starting to get the feel for how important trust and value are in selecting contractors. Value is a personal feeling, but to try and simplify it, it really boils down to how pleased you feel to pay the price for the work in exchange for delivery of the work. Trust is another matter. Here are our recommendations for where to look for a trustworthy contractor:

  • Your Personal Network. Ask people whom you already know and trust and learn from their experience.
  • Online Reviews. These can be very helpful, but they can also be misleading. Try reading the most in-depth five star and the most in-depth one-star reviews that a company has. This may help you build a more accurate understanding of their services.
  • Branded Providers. Companies such as Home Install Experts work very hard to build a good reputation around our brands in an effort to build trust right into our business offering. To that end, you will typically find branded providers offering a higher level of service, especially in a situation where anything goes wrong, or misunderstandings need to be resolved.

As you can see, the greater the complexity of your home improvement project, the more likely it is that your contractor needs to be capable of more than just the physical tasks of the job. To best protect the outcome of your project and the lasting value of your home, we think it makes great sense to bring in licensed professionals to take on most larger home renovation projects. If you’d like to book a consultation to have one of our licensed professionals take a look at your project, we’d be happy to help!

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