7 things to know before starting a home renovation project


Americans are set to remodel their homes in record numbers over the coming year. That makes this an ideal time to revisit some of Clark’s long-standing advice on remodeling and renovation.

The previous record for home improvement expenditures was set in 2007 during the final hurrah of the housing boom last decade. Spending reached $285 billion at that time, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Now we’re eyeing the possibility that Americans will drop up to $300 billion on home renovation by the time this year is through, with the promise of more to come next year!

Follow Clark’s advice about renovation before hiring a contractor…

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Choose your contractor carefully

It’s probably not a good idea to hire someone based off the flyer they left in your mailbox or attached to your front door! Worse yet, beware of contractors who like to canvass neighborhoods door-to-door asking to repair hail damage on your roof. These so-called ‘storm chasers’ usually offer to pay your homeowner’s insurance deductible for you so they can begin doing work on your roof and bill your insurer for it. Don’t fall for it! 

Get a professional recommendation

If your remodeling job is small, Clark says it okay to take recommendations from a friend or neighbor. But if you’re talking about a major renovation job — as in $10,000 or more — you’ll want to get a recommendation from the National Association of Professional Remodeling Contractors or the Remodelers Council of the National Association of Home Builders.

Call those references!

When you have a shortlist of contractors, ask them for the last 10 homes they’ve worked on, a description of what they did, the dates they started and completed those jobs and how you can get in touch with the homeowners.

Be sure your contractor has insurance

Protect yourself by only hiring people who have a current certificate of insurance, or by making sure you have enough liability coverage in your homeowner’s policy in case an uninsured person is injured on your property.

Be careful what you sign

Skip the standard builders’ supply house contract for remodeling. You’re better off with a contract from the American Institute of Architects, according to Clark.


Know how to deal with subcontractors

What happens when subcontractors get stiffed for payment by the contractor? They try to come after you. For this reason, you should get subcontractors to waive their right to place a lien on your home.

Agree on a payment schedule before work begins

Don’t ever pay a big chunk upfront! Work with your contractor to come up with a reasonable timeline and pay schedule. The contractor should be paid as work is completed. In whatever contract you come up with, consider including penalties against the contractor for failing to finish the job on time.

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