Let’s face it: When your home improvement project gets done correctly the first time, you save precious time, sanity and money.

More than 20 area homeowners came to Lakewood Public Library on April 25 for LakewoodAlive’s “Knowing Your Home: How to Contract a Repair” free workshop.  Hosted by Allison Urbanek, LakewoodAlive’s Housing & Internal Operations Director, this workshop focused on the process of working with a home repair/improvement contractor.

Now in its sixth year, LakewoodAlive’s Knowing Your Home workshop series draws hundreds of attendees annually to learn home maintenance best practices.  Our workshop series is generously supported by: Citizens Bank, City of Lakewood, Cleveland Lumber Company and First Federal Lakewood.

If you happened to miss this workshop, we’ve got you covered.  Here are five key takeaways from “Knowing Your Home: How to Contract a Repair.”

1. Do Your Homework

It’s imperative that you learn as much as possible about your project before contracting a repair.  Being knowledgeable helps safeguard you from being taken advantage of and guides your vision for a desired finished product.  Know where you fall along the scale of lowest price vs. best quality.  Contact the City of Lakewood’s Division of Housing and Building to determine if your repair requires a permit.  Utilize LakewoodAlive, Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau or other trusted resources to research prospective contractors, and then check with the City of Lakewood to ensure your contractor is registered.  Seek at least two contractor estimates and be sure to request and call references.  Your preparedness will ultimately save you time, money and sanity.   

Lakewood’s free Knowing Your Home series is now in its sixth year.

2. Get It In Writing

We can’t stress this enough.  When you seek estimates for a repair job, get the prospective contractor to detail the specifics in writing.  Have a list of items you want repaired, ask questions and make sure the estimate addresses the full scope of your desired repair services, including any warranties that exist for materials or labor.  Doing so helps ensure the finished product lives up to your expectations.  An estimate that’s not in writing is like a home with strong curb appeal but a shaky foundation – it might seem fine from the outside but it likely won’t stand the test of time.

3. Sleep On It

When it comes to your home, major decisions need not be made hastily.  Whether you’re seeking an estimate or preparing to submit a final payment to a contractor, sleep on your decision first, so you can reread the fine print or re-examine the finished product with a fresh set of eyes.  Are you happy with how the job turned out?  Although a down payment may be required, most contractors should be willing to grant you 24 hours following the project’s completion to submit final payment.  If you encounter a contractor who’s pushy, pressuring you to make decisions, chances are they’re not the right partner for your project.    

4. You’re The Boss

There are many instances in life where you’re likely at the mercy of the decision making of others.  Thankfully, your home represents an exception to this rule.  As a homeowner undertaking a repair project, you get to call the shots.  Work with your contractor to tailor the project to meet your needs and tastes.  Request a project timeline and hold your contractor accountable for sticking to it.  Don’t be afraid to require approval for any additional work that arises during the project, or to require notification if subcontractors will be utilized.  You’re the boss, after all, and the buck stops with you.

5. Be Proactive Rather Than Reactionary

Positive outcomes tend to occur for homeowners who take control of their repair situations rather than simply responding to a repair need after it arises.  Practice preventative medicine and learn to anticipate upcoming home repair requirements.  Set aside home repair funds when possible and seek out banks offering low-interest home improvement loans.  Have a preferred contractor who’s licensed and bonded in mind before your next home repair need presents itself.  By taking a proactive approach to your home and its future repair needs, you can enjoy the myriad benefits home ownership entails while minimizing your stress level.