Contracting 101

Contractors 101: What You Need to Know
Your Guide for Who to Hire and Who NOT to hire for Your Renovations

You’ve got a renovation idea and you want to move forward soon. But you’ve heard some bad things about contractors, so you’re unsure how to choose one.

Good news! The majority of the time people only share bad experiences, so there are plenty of good contractors out there. In fact, most are honest, trustworthy, and will do a good job for you. Why? Because it’s what they do for a living.

However, as with any profession, it only takes a few bad ones to attach a negative stigma and make it harder on the professionals doing things by the book.

In order to protect you, your time, and your money, Focus Construction offers the following tips and techniques so that you feel more confident in your decisions and can avoid being taken advantage of.


The average contractor will get paid in one of two ways: a set fee for the job; or a percentage of the total cost. In the latter case, 12% – 15% is standard, but 10% – 20% is not outrageous.

Some contractors will try to get new business by lowballing their quote to get their foot in the door, and then tack on extras for the majority of the work. This technique forces the price up drastically.

Others will do what is referred to as padding. They will show that they are only taking a 10% fee, but will charge more for plumbing and electrical, etc. Then, they pocket the difference.

Getting your Quote

  • Read over all of the quotes/estimates that you Be vigilant and find out exactly what the contractor is offering, and also what they’re not offering or showing. Some contractors will give you a quote for plumbing, but only include the rough-ins and not the finished work. That’s where they’ll charge extra. Ensure that you have everything in writing and exactly what is included to complete the job.
  • Ask if you will be seeing the quotes from the tradespeople that will be involved in your renovation. This will give you an accurate idea of how much profit your contractor is making.
  • Compare quotes and pricing. Find out the price difference between each contractor and don’t be afraid to ask questions. While you may not be an expert, you have a right to find out exactly what will be done and what you will be paying for. You don’t want to assume that you understand the pricing and then get hit with an unexpected $20,000 bill once the renovation is finished.
  • Evaluate how transparent each contractor is being and will be during the process. Should you hire them?

Cheapest for a Reason

Never work with a contractor that is the cheapest. If they’re the cheapest, it’s for good reason as cheap quotes will result in cheap work. The lowest quote often comes with built-in extras or surprise charges along the way. If you want to save money, discuss cost-saving techniques with your contractor, but not in some areas like bathroom walls. Sometimes going cheaper will cost you more down the road if you don’t pay for quality materials up front. For example, some contractors will use standard drywall in the bathroom, which will eventually get wet and moldy.

Areas where you can save money? Purchase cheaper materials like subway tiles, which are very cost-effective, classic, and never go out of style.

Other Costs

There are also carrying costs, like the mental stress of using cheaper contractors. Do you really want to have to deal with not being able to get a hold of them, their defective work, delays, or having to take on more yourself? Sometimes spending a little more on a full-service contractor will seem like a really good deal when your renovation is done on time and exactly to your liking.

Billing – What you Need to Know

Find out how and when you will be billed. Make sure you will be given the chance to review the quality of the work to ensure that you’re satisfied.

Be sure to inquire if your contractor is managing multiple sites and if there will be an onsite supervisor (at least part time). Why? Having an onsite supervisor is crucial if you plan on staying on budget and on time.

For example, if your framers are working and they make a mistake on the window sizing, an onsite supervisor should be there to check all of their measurements. If there isn’t a supervisor, this may go unnoticed and when your custom windows arrive 6-8 weeks later and they don’t fit, that’s a big issue!

Why is it an issue? Well, if the siding has already been installed or the insulation sprayed in, this lack of oversight could mean having to remove large sections of finished work, reframing and repairing the area. A mistake like this will add significant costs to the build, and a loss of valuable time.

Communication – What Should you Expect?

Ask if the contractors have any referrals that you can speak with or examples of work that they have done.

Some contractors may be great at building, but cannot talk to you without yelling or using construction language that you cannot understand. A good contractor should be easy to contact, skilled with their communication, and have a level head.

Ultimately, think about what is important to you and select a contractor who is compatible with your style and vision. You want to be at ease during this process, so being happy with your decision from the outset is important. If you’re unsure about any of the above, move on.

Focus Construction prides itself on clear and concise communication, accurate estimates, collaboration with their customers, and the willingness to go above and beyond.

Contact us so that we can prove it to you!