Jonathan Scott’s checklist for avoiding renovation rip-offs

Renovation pro Jonathan Scott regularly manages massive projects for clients. An expert with knowledge in both construction and design, Scott knows the tricks of the trade when it comes to working with contractors. SheKnows spoke with the Property Brothers star and is sharing his advice for avoiding renovation disasters.

Jonathan Scott


Know when to DIY… or not

So, you see your favorite home blogger do a full DIY bathroom renovation in one week and think, “How hard can that really be?” Before you start wielding the hammer, smashing up tiles and ugly faux marble vanities like you’re starring in your own version of Thor, reconsider if you really have the mad skills to make it work.

“We see a lot of DIY issues; that’s what I fix the most,” Scott admits.

Just because Sherry and John, the dynamic DIY duo behind the renovation blog Young House Love, can renovate their own bathrooms doesn’t mean you should.

Know when to hire the pros.


Contractors are not designers

The second biggest problem Scott sees? “I find that contractors, for the most part, are usually not designers. So they’ll try to make design decisions that maybe aren’t the best for you.”

Scott went to school for both construction and design, but not all contractors have a similar background.

If design isn’t your forte and you need help creating the look you want for your space, either make sure the contractor has some design experience or consult a designer, too.


Research before you hire

One of the most important things you can do to avoid being ripped off is to thoroughly research your contractor before hiring him or her for the job.

It might be tempting to hire the dude you met at a home improvement store who promises he can renovate your bathroom for only $100, but it’s important to research who you’re hiring.

“Make sure that you’re working with a contractor who is doing this as a career, and not just a one-off job, because if you ever have to have warranty work done, or you need to go back to them in the future, you want them to be around,” Scott recommends.

“Look for contractors who set themselves up like a business; they have professional affiliations with the Better Business Bureau, and with maybe a home builders organization.”

It’s also important to make sure they are licensed, Scott says. “But understand that the city does not check to see that they’re any good. All the city does is check to see that they don’t have any lawsuits against them, and that they’re bonded.”

Before you bust out that checkbook, make sure the contractor meets the above criteria. “If a contractor is going to ask for money up front from you, they have to be bonded, or they have to be affiliated with the home builders organization,” Scott warns. “They can’t just ask for 100 grand up front if they’re not bonded.”

For more advice on how to find a contractor, check out Scott’s Facebook page. He has a photo album titled “Scott Logic” where he shares his tips, titled “Who’s Your Contractor,” along with other helpful hints.


Get a contractor who’s schooled

It’s important to hire a contractor who’s up to date on all the latest products and technology, otherwise you might end up with kitchen trends that were hip two decades ago. “If you’re working with this contractor who has been doing this for 30 years, but has never stepped back inside a classroom, building science has changed, building technology has changed, and you need to be keeping up on all of that stuff,” Scott explains. He frequently sees contractors who are unaware of new products that are on the market.


Pick appropriate products for your lifestyle

Your Pinterest “Dream Home” board might be filled with drool-worthy Carrara marble counter tops and glossy hardwood floors, but it’s best to only pick products that are conducive to your lifestyle.

For example, Scott says if a family has a bunch of kids and big dogs and goes all out splurging on a new hardwood floor, “You know that floor is going to get trashed in a matter of a year or two.”

He recommends researching products to find the best match for your space and lifestyle.

“Some of the engineered products will stand up a little bit better than solid wood,” which Scott says might be a better match for families with kids and pets.

“There are laminate products that are basically indestructible — they’re impervious to water, they don’t scratch like hardwood, and are much denser than any species of hardwood — and you won’t end up having to replace it before you sell the house. And if for some reason you, down the road, want to replace it, laminate is less expensive anyway.”

More home improvement tips

The cost of hiring an interior designer: Is it worth it?
25 Ikea assembly fails
Lowe’s expert Q&A: Plumbing edition

Photo credit: HGTV.


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