Managing Trade Professionals at Home – Tips to Success

Middleburg Eccentric

Whether or not you’re considering a remodel, there comes a time that each of us needs to perform maintenance and repairs on our home. As a professional remodeler, I get calls regularly requesting referrals for home trades – roofers, plumbers, electricians, painters, etc. While I love to make referrals when I can, unfortunately, many of the subcontractors that we work with are specifically set up to serve the construction industry and excel under the supervision of our full-time project managers. They often work from written plans and specifications, expect certain site conditions and don’t have the service infrastructure required to successfully work directly for homeowners.

So instead, what I do offer homeowners looking to hire service people for small projects in their own homes, are tips for increasing their chances for a successful outcome. The first step is identifying a consumer-focused trade company that has a reputation for success. Ask your neighbors, friends and colleagues who they have used to perform similar work and what their experiences were. Or see who is advertising in your local paper, magazine or school directory, then check review sites, like Houzz, Angie’s List, Yelp and Google, to see what you can learn. Do your homework!

Once you’ve identified who to call, start your “interview.” Retail companies should have a strong customer-focused front office, offer complimentary in-house consultations, provide a detailed written estimate and payment schedule, and offer references for similar work performed recently. You can learn a great deal from your first call and meeting. The level of responsiveness and professionalism of the “sales experience” is a good indication of the quality of the work of the firm’s field personnel.

Before meeting with a representative, write down a detailed scope of work. You don’t need to know all the steps involved, but your ability to provide clear direction to the estimator will help to avoid surprises later and give an excellent basis for comparison if you are trying to decide between firms. Then, don’t be surprised if the salesperson comes back with several options. Ask for as much detail as possible, and what the pros and cons of each approach might be so you can make an educated decision. In general, when it comes to home repairs and maintenance, you don’t want to cut corners, but do be careful to evaluate the extra “bells & whistles” to make sure they are things from which you can really benefit.

Finally, ask lots of questions. The more information you have before the project begins, the better you’ll be able to properly evaluate the professional and set and manage your own expectations. Depending on the project, some additional questions you might ask include:

  • When will the work start and how long it will take?
  • Who is responsible for cleaning up and disposing of waste?
  • Who is my point of contact?
  • Who will supervise the work?
  • How long is the work warrantied?
  • Do you have 24-hour emergency service?
  • What types and levels of insurance does the company carry?
  • Do I need to be home while the work is being completed?
  • What is the likelihood of any unknown challenges arising?
  • Is there a lower cost solution?
  • Is there a better performance solution?

The bottom line is, when it comes to hiring a professional to do work in your home, my best advice is to do your homework. The more knowledgeable you are about the firm you select and what you’re getting BEFORE you start the project, the more successful you SHOULD be in the long run.

Do you have a remodeling or design question for me that you’d like to see answered in the next issue? Email me at [email protected].

Tim Burch is a Vice President of BOWA, an award-winning design and construction firm specializing in renovations ranging from master suites and kitchens to whole-house remodels. A Northern Virginia native and third-generation builder, Tim enjoys calling on his 30 years of design build experience to solve clients’ home-related challenges. He is the Construction Advisor for The Mosby Heritage Area Association and sits on the Board of Building Appeals for Fauquier County. Prior to joining BOWA, Tim was the Lead Project Manager of Construction for the Emmy Award winning construction reality television show, Extreme Makeover Home Edition on ABC Television. For more information on Tim and the BOWA team, visit or call 540-687-6771.