By Gene and Katie Hamilton
It may sound obvious but do your homework and know exactly what you want before talking to a contractor about an improvement or upgrade project. No one can read your mind and it's impossible to get an accurate bid for work if that job isn't spelled out in detail. A painting contractor can't give you an accurate bid for painting the first floor of your home unless you have decided some basic details.
For example, an estimate for having the molding and walls painted the same color will be different from having them painted different colors because more cutting in and detail work is required. A plumber needs to know what kind and style of faucet you want to replace an old one because the price range and configuration of the faucet will affect how much it costs and manhours are needed.
Have paint samples, model numbers and pictures to show a contractor or installer what you want. When you walk into a window treatment retailer have the dimensions of the window. The same is true for new flooring or ceiling material. If you’re replacing an old bathtub with a new surround bring a picture of the tub with its measurements. The more visual material you have to explain what you want guarantees you'll get what you want. Tear out pictures in a magazine, use product brochures from home centers and retailers and print out examples from Web sites to illustrate what you want to get a realistic estimate from a contractor.
That information goes a long way and keeps you focused on your improvement goal. When you've defined what you want you can get fair bids from more than one service pro because you’re making an accurate comparison of their estimates and not comparing apples with oranges.
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