Do You Have 23 Questions for Your Contractor?

Welcome to Week 2 of Makeover Mondays! Remember how I mentioned last week that you should “Take the standard “how long does it take to…” and add 50%”? Hahaha!

Our contractor came over to meet with us and start reviewing the details at a more granular level. I believe he’d planned to take actual measurements this time, but of course that didn’t happen, because by the time he got here I’d amassed a list of – wait for it – 23 questions for him. I won’t list them here; some of them are just too mortifying.

Our one-hour meeting turned into a three-hour meeting, so already my “add 50%” estimate is way off. Given this, my new recommendation is that you triple the amount of time you should allow.

Actually, I’m not following my own “updated time estimate” advice – I figure, since it was our first “get down to the details” meeting, not only was it a worthy investment of our time, but it would make everything else will go that much more smoothly!

Do You Have 23 Questions for Your Contractor, or are you an Ostrich?
Photo courtesy Pixabay from Pexels

We found an awesome local flooring store; it’s a South Florida institution. They encouraged me to take four (!) of their big floor samples home for a few days. They didn’t even ask for one of my kids as collateral, but I offered!

We brought them home and settled on two – one from the Institution and one from a chain. Choosing was a real nail-biter and we went back and forth about 100 times, but we’ve finally settled on the choice. I’m sorry to say it’s from the chain; I returned to the Institution and we tried really hard to find a similar version from their selection, but we just couldn’t. Nevertheless, they were amazing to work with, and we’ll head back there for an area rug once we get to that stage.

The Finalists

Here are the six “finalists” among the vinyl we narrowed it down to, and what we chose:

The flooring samples, among our 23 questions for the contractor

Naturally, given my “ready, fire, aim” approach to everything, I decided to look up reviews of this brand after choosing (but not after plunking down any money). The reviews were mostly good; there are were a few scary ones, but overall, we’re pretty comfortable with the choice. I’m still nervous, though, especially because it’s a “private label” store brand. I really wish we could have found something anywhere close to this in a name brand, because I would much rather go with one of those.

I did, however, deliberately deface the sample, as several online sites recommend. It felt weird to do this – way worse than ripping the tag off the mattress – but I do understand why you should vandalize your samples. I took an eyeglass screwdriver and gouged the tile. It didn’t look too bad! And since I figure our animals (and adult children) won’t be quite that vengeful, we’re good to go. Finally, we’ve walked on the three-plank sample that we laid down in the kitchen about a week ago, and put it through its paces. We’ve cooked, come inside from gardening, and – the final test – cleaned out the entire laundry area by dumping everything onto the kitchen floor, including the samples, and it held up just fine. Onward!

We Revive the Contractor

Back to our three-hour tour with the contractor; I’m pretty sure he had to be revived after he saw my 23-item list, but he rallied nicely.

He was even brave enough, after seeing my handwriting, to tell me I could just take a photo of the handwritten list and send it to him. Hahaha! He could spend the rest of his career deciphering my handwriting. Instead, I typed it up and added the additional questions that arose during his visit. I also removed one item, which none of us were able to decipher. Here’s what it said: “Open narrow (8”?) on upper half.”

“What does that mean?” the contractor asked.
I had no answer.

Fittingly, I finished typing up the list on Halloween and sent it off. It now has 25 items, excluding the “narrow (8”?)” something.

Usually, my handwriting is much worse than my husband’s artistry, which is pretty good. Unfortunately, that didn’t hold true this time. Below is a drawing my husband made while we were attempting to sketch out what we wanted. A few hours after he created this, neither of us had any idea what we were getting at with the drawing below, so we spared the contractor.

The Mystery Drawing; this wasn't one of our 23 questions for the contractor

The Countertop Samples

We’d also received a bunch of countertop samples, some of which are tiny. And I mean “tiny,” such as the smallest of these, which is about 1 ½ by 3 inches. Sure, I can visualize 20 linear feet of that! Haha! Luckily, our contractor can – and he instantly nixed all 15 or so of our samples. Sigh. I know he’s right, though, and I’m glad he feels comfortable telling us when he thinks we’ve lost our minds. Pro tip: Pick a contractor you can trust, who’s got solid reviews (of course), but also, pick someone who’s not afraid to call you out on your idiocy. So our next stop is to go by his shop and (attempt to) choose a countertop. Late-breaking update! As I write this, more countertop samples arrived in the mail. We’re in love with them both. Oh boy.

We’ve also settled on a backsplash; it looks just like sea glass, one of my favorite things ever.

Here’s another pro tip: It’s shocking how easily your memory tricks you. My advice: keep the photos and/or samples with you at all times. Our contractor had to remind me that the cabinets have a “pattern” to them, i.e. a woodgrain. I knew they looked like wood, but for some reason, I thought of them as completely plain, which of course is impossible for anything that looks like wood.

Our Disloyal Stairs

In other news, our stairs apparently heard us talking about how we’re not doing anything with them during this remodel. In an apparent fit of jealous rage, they started deconstructing themselves, flinging bits of themselves off; you can see this in the video below.

Nice try, stairs. Maybe next time. (Note: I’m sure that the stairs heard that, and will now punish us by upping the ante.)

My final warning for the week: Beware “Bright Shiny Object” syndrome. This is where your existing home looks (in your eyes, anyway) so old and shabby that anything you choose looks great. This will not end well. Try to step back and be as objective as possible, and imagine what it will look like in five years. Even better, work with a contractor who’s not afraid to tell you the truth. Someone has to.

Here’s a video tour of the rest of the downstairs, with some semi-coherent narration from me of what we’re trying to accomplish. Excuse the mess, or don’t. Whatever you think of this “busy” house, I’ve heard worse.⧉

Note: You can see the earlier videos in the “Makeover Mondays” series on my YouTube channel, which finally has videos on it!

If you’ve got ideas, suggestions, or more warnings we should heed, please let me know in the comments. We’ll take all the advice we can get!

If you’re just starting the series and would like to binge-read and get caught up on Makeover Mondays, here’s the series:
Week 1: Avoid These 10 Remodeling Mistakes
Week 3: The Countertop Contenders
Week 4: How Many Flooring Choices Can There Be?

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2 thoughts on “Do You Have 23 Questions for Your Contractor?”

    1. Thanks, David! We’ve known him for a long time, and hopefully will continue our friendship once this is over. I feel for him too, but apparently not enough to rein myself in. Speaking of which, I remembered an entire class of countertops that we love and had forgotten about until yesterday, oh boy! – Coach Dawne

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