So You Want to Hire a Contractor to Renovate Your House: A Manual Designed to Help You Survive the Process and Maybe Save You Money
By: Hal Herndon
Publication Date: July 2009
Reviewed by: Will Gabbett
Review Date: January 30, 2010
How many times have you heard horror stories from friends about their renovation projects? If you're thinking of undertaking such a venture yourself, then you should pick up a copy of So You Want to Hire a Contractor to Renovate Your House. This book will save you a lot of frustration and money.
With easy-to-understand language, author Hal Herndon, an architect with national certification and active licenses in several states, guides the reader through the steps necessary to insure a relatively stress-free renovation. He even manages to lighten the mood with several true as well as humorous statements. "The general consensus is that Murphy, of 'Murphy's Law' spends a great deal of time on construction sites."
The book, primarily aimed at interior renovations, covers all the essential aspects of hiring a contractor. Herndon first outlines some general suggestions such as knowing in detail what you want to do before meeting the contractor. The author also stresses, several times throughout the book, to "get it in writing." 'Selective amnesia" he insists, is a common problem with construction jobs, so protect yourself!
The bulk of So You Want to Hire a Contractor to Renovate Your House guides the reader through the important steps to see a project to fruition. Topics covered include: caveats, creating the agreement, financing and selecting the contractor.
Herndon doesn't simply provide an overview of the renovation process, but discusses things that can go wrong. The author suggests your agreement include language that stipulates a certain percentage of payment be withheld until satisfactory completion of the job. This is known as "retainage" and will help protect the homeowner from poor workmanship and contractors who have a tendency to leave before a job is finished. In a related issue, Herndon notes the importance of requiring the contractor obtain a certificate of occupancy before making the final payment.
This books also covers such mundane, and often overlooked topics as dealing with parking for the various workers/trucks, demeanor of workers, noise from radios, and daily clean-up. These are issues that many homeowners don't deal with until they've become a problem and by then, the stress levels have tripled and it may be difficult to resolve.
So You Want to Hire a Contractor to Renovate Your House dedicates a full chapter to what to include in the homeowner/contractor agreement as well as providing a detailed sample agreement at the back of the book. There are also sample sketches, definitions of common drafting symbols and photos of rooms marked to note renovations. Finally, at the very end of the book are several pages of grid paper so the reader can begin sketching his/her plans.
Quill says: If you're planning a renovation, you need to read this book before getting started!
For more information on So You Want to Hire a Contractor to Renovate Your House, please visit the publisher's website at www.HalHerndonBooks.com