Meet Audrey, RG’s brand-new Home contributor. You’ve actually seen her here before – she has the single best home decor taste of any human I’ve ever met, and I featured both her home’s interior and its exterior awhile back. She recently sold that house and bought a new one, a 100-year-old place in one of L.A.’s most historic neighborhoods that she’s renovating from top to bottom…so obviously I had to ask her (pictured above with her impossibly adorable family) if she’d give us all a chance to share in the gloriousness.
Audrey’s also a virtual dictionary of home renovation and decor knowledge (seriously; I vet most of my home purchases through her) – so if you have any questions, now’s your chance! – Jordan
So, here’s the scoop: Back in March we sold our first home and bought a 100-year-old house a few blocks away. It needed some work, but we could clearly see the potential. The folks buying our old house gave us a free 6-week lease-back (thank the heavens!), so the clock was ticking on renovating the new place.
First step: Hiring a contractor.
I previously worked with a contractor when we remodeled the exterior of our first house, so I had a starting point. I learned from that experience that all (yes, all) contractors talk a big game when they are bidding on a job. They all promise (!) to be on-site to supervise their crew, and they swear that they’ll get the job done faster than anyone else. Oh, and of course there won’t be any hidden fees.
Us in our new living room, pre-commencement of renovations
How The Hiring Process Works: The contractor who owns the company will come by to bid on your job and negotiate details, and will remain your main point of contact until you sign a contract. After that, they will sub-contract your job to their crew of professionals. The contractor will (hopefully) come by every few days to check in, and will most definitely swing by to pick up checks as the job progresses.
I knew all of this before we hired the contractor for our remodel, which was very helpful. Having a realistic expectation of their involvement is key so that you don’t get frustrated before the job actually begins.
For this particular renovation, I knew that I would take the lead on designing the house and overseeing repairs, but I also knew that the job was a big one: Our punch list included demolition of built-in cabinetry in four rooms, painting the entire interior, re-wiring the whole house, streamlining lighting in every room, installing new hardwood floors, and completely gutting two bathrooms.
It’s now September, and – surprise! – our contractor’s crew is still here working. Saying that I’ve learned a lot would be an understatement, and – surprise number two! – I somehow…yes…still love our contractor.
HOW TO HIRE A CONTRACTOR THAT YOU’LL LOVE, TOO:
- Get plenty of referrals, and have them all bid the job. We had four different contractors bid the job before we closed escrow on the house, and I negotiated with each of them. Negotiating with them will give you SO MUCH insight – you’ll learn their communication style and get a feel for how flexible they are. (Trust me, you’re going to need a lot of flexibility.)
- Make sure your timelines align. Ask about their availability, what jobs they have lined up next, and when they can start. Also confirm if their entire crew will be available to focus on your job for the duration of the project. Some contractors have their crews spread out working multiple jobs at once, which can get frustrating if you’re trying to move things along quickly.
- Hire someone with whom you have a good rapport. Make sure you trust them and that they are responsive. It’s 2019. We’re all glued to our phones, and we all know this, and there’s nothing more frustrating than not being able to get ahold of someone. Quickly.
- Ask if they are willing to extend trade discounts to you. This one is key! If you’re not working with a designer who can purchase materials (hardware, tile, lighting, etc.) for you at a discounted price, your contractor may be willing to extend their license to you so you can make purchases as a trade professional. The average trade discount from most retailers is 15%, which seriously adds up.
- Agree on a clearly defined scope of work, payment schedule, and timeline. There will be changes along the way, but starting with a detailed list of expectations – everything from who pays for materials to notes on tile installation from manufacturers – is imperative.
- Ask to see examples of their work or have them do a small project for you. Most contractors will allow you to come see a project they’re working on so you can see the quality of work, meet their crew, and evaluate how detail-oriented they are. You can also have them start with something smaller to get a feel for how things will go – I had our contractor do a small roof repair for us at our first house before hiring him to do the remodel at our new house, and seeing his team in action was what gave me the confidence I needed to move forward with him.
Work in progress
When it comes to managing your own sanity during the project, just remember to stay focused on the end goal – it’ll help get you through the rough patches. Also, take a lot of before pictures AND videos so you can reference them later. Keep a record of all changes, prices, and approvals so nothing gets lost in the mix. Most of all, have fun with it and enjoy the ride!
In the coming months I’ll be discussing all things home renovation here on RG, and will be showcasing lots of fun before/after content from our house – so be sure to let me know if there’s anything specific you’re interested in seeing!
Audrey is a native Texan living in Los Angeles with her husband (Matt), their two kids (Huxley & Tilly), and a four-pound poodle (Shadow). She studied advertising at the University of Texas in Austin and worked in the ad industry for 10 years before leaving to pursue her passion for interior design. On RG, she’ll be sharing all about her full renovation of her new 100-year-old house house in one of L.A.’s most historic neighborhoods.