Important Things the Property Always Do Before Hiring a Contractor

Tackling a renovation can be daunting, but there’s one simple way to set yourself up for success: Surround yourself with the best experts out there, including a committed and talented contractor.

Jonathan and Drew Scott, authors of Dream Home and the stars of HGTV’s Property Brothers, know a thing or two about home improvement work. The two pros shared their best tips for hiring a contractor with Business Insider, and their insights are tremendously helpful, especially for first-time renovators.

“You can just turn over the keys and say, hey! Make my house pretty,” Jonathan says in the video above. But if you do that, you’re essentially setting yourself up for remodeling failure.

Here’s how to ensure you don’t get stuck with a contractor who will take advantage of you, according to the brothers.

1. Evaluate the contractor’s credibility.

Look for professional affiliations and check references, Jonathan advises. A little research can go a long way.

2. Look at previous projects.

Ask to see photos or samples of past work, Drew recommends. Don’t be shy or timid. You’re about to hand over thousands of dollars to this person, so make sure they’re worth the investment.

3. Put it in writing.

This includes quotes, the contract, payment terms and more. And if you don’t know the first thing about contracts, look at samples online. You can compare and contrast your contract with others, or use the samples to draft your own. This cheat sheet will ensure your contract has everything it needs.

4. Make sure the contractor is licensed.

This simple step is an easy way to judge his or her skill set and credibility. However, Jonathan pointed out that this is not a foolproof way to make sure they will do quality work, so check references before proceeding.

Tips Before Installing Shiplap

You don’t have to hire Joanna Gaines, move to an expensive property, or even spend a ton of money to give your home some farmhouse flair. In fact, there’s one particularly easy way to achieve the look and make a statement: installing shiplap in your home. That might seem like quite the DIY challenge, but with some patience and precision, it’s definitely achievable.

Lacey Haskell, the blogger behind Feathering My Nest, created a shiplap wall in her home and (lucky for us!) created a tutorial explaining exactly how she did it. The entire project can be completed in a weekend, and cost her just $134.50. It’s simple and stunning.

For anyone who wants to recreate the look in their own home, Lacey revealed her best installation advice. “Ensure that the first row of planks at the ceiling are level,” she explained. This is essential in order to make sure the rest of the boards align properly. Make sure each plank has a square edge, she added.

She also said shared some more general DIY pointers: “Take your time. I know it can be exciting to have the finished product but if you take your time as you work through the project, you increase your chances of a great outcome. And don’t hesitate to walk away from a project for a small break so that you can come back to it with fresh eyes.”

Know More About Minor Design Tweaks That Make Your Kitchen Feel Remodeled

Want a new kitchen but don’t want to spend the money or time necessary on a major renovation? Forget the idea of the “right” kitchen and improve your space with some “right now” partial remodeling ideas. In her new e-book Kelly’s Kitchen Savvy: Solutions for Partial Kitchen Remodels (available for Kindle on Amazon.com), certified master kitchen and bath designer and certified interior designer Kelly Morisseau shares her advice for how to tackle what she calls a “20 percent kitchen remodel” for maximum impact and minimum frustration. “Take a hard look at your kitchen with all its pros and cons to decide what can be accomplished first, and what can be accomplished down the road,” Morisseau says. “Lifestyle, time spent in the home, and future resale are all factors that should be considered by any homeowner looking to make changes to his or her kitchen, while keeping budget in mind.”

Check out Morisseau’s tips to transform your kitchen right now.

1. BRIGHTEN UP THE LIGHTING

While giving the walls, ceiling, and trim a fresh coat of paint will combat dinginess, new lighting is an even better way to brighten your kitchen, Morisseau says. “Good lighting has the psychological effect of making your kitchen feel brighter, more cheerful, less cavernous, and easier to work in,” she says.

Switching out small ceiling-mounted lights for larger or brighter, energy-efficient fixtures will make the room’s ambient lighting more luxurious, she says. Task lighting, such as undercabinet lighting, can add brightness to the counters. “While most homeowners don’t pay attention to undercabinet lighting, adding it to your kitchen can make it brighter and easier to work in,” Morisseau says. While some undercabinet lighting is hardwired behind the wall, for a quick fix use models that can be plugged into the nearest receptacle outlet.

2. ADD ARCHITECTURAL DETAILS

“A contractor once said that he could make any home look more expensive simply by adding better-quality—and prettier—trim, such as baseboards, crown molding, and door and window casings,” Morisseau says. “This is true for almost all homes. If you’re a handy DIYer, consider adding these to customize your kitchen.” If you’re a novice, pass on this upgrade until you can hire a pro: your home is likely not perfectly square and it can require some expertise to make sure everything lines up, Morisseau says.

3. SPLURGE ON ONE APPLIANCE

Splurging on a professional range won’t necessarily put lesser-quality appliances in the shade. “Today’s appliances have a sleek appearance in almost any price category,” Morisseau says. “While it’s nice to maintain the same quality throughout—and imperative if your home is in the high six- and seven-figure price range—the same is not necessarily true for low- to mid-range homes. A nice stainless-steel professional range can be paired with a lower-priced stainless-steel refrigerator.” Pro tip: Consider buying last year’s models or buying in the fall for the best deals, Morisseau suggests. “Manufacturers may also offer deals if you buy all their appliances,” she says.

Those easily removed, such as the dishwasher, range, and refrigerator, are the simplest appliances to replace. Make sure the new appliances will fit in the existing cabinet openings and line up with the existing countertop depth before purchasing. “If they won’t, hire a carpenter or cabinetmaker to retrofit the openings, especially for refrigerators, cooktops and wall ovens,” Morisseau says. “Alternatively, if you’re planning on replacing the cabinets soon and your current cabinets aren’t large enough to accommodate the new appliances you want, wait until you’re ready to order the new cabinets.

4. LAYER IN LUXURY

“In luxury design, textured glass in a feature cabinet are popular,” Morisseau says. Insert plain glass into a couple of cabinet door fronts as a focal point and display your decorative servingware. Or, opt for frosted or etched glass inserts to hide shelves full of non-display-worthy dishes while still adding visual interest and a custom touch.

5. REFRESH YOUR FITTINGS

If your cabinets and drawers aren’t functional for your needs, Morisseau suggests considering purchasing after-market items, such as spice or cutlery trays, lazy Susans, roll-out shelving, smooth drawer glides, and pot and pan organizers, from home improvement stores to get custom interior fittings without replacing the cabinetry itself. “Luxury kitchens have great hardware,” she says.

Morisseau adds that the same can be true for appliances: If your appliances are old and you can’t afford to update them, consider replacing old or worn parts, such as burners on an electric range, knobs on a dishwasher, or shelves in a refrigerator.

6. CREATE A BEAUTIFUL BACKSPLASH

“In a luxury kitchen, a tile backsplash usually extends from the counter to the underside of the wall cabinets and may even continue around the sink window and on other walls,” Morisseau says. “Custom kitchens usually have either a monochromatic or custom-designed backsplash made of tile, wood, or glass.”

Add a bit of luxury to your kitchen by using smaller patterned tiles mounted on a 12-inch by 12-inch mesh to make the installation easier. Or, mix tile shapes, such as a tile liner or dot, or add individual decorative pieces to a standard tile backsplash for an element of individuality, Morisseau suggests. “During installation, adjust the height of any border so it isn’t interrupted by switches or outlets, and make sure that all the tile you’re using is the same thickness,” she says. “Watch for very rough or textured surfaces, as they can be a challenge to clean behind a cooking area.”

7. DON’T SKIMP ON KNOBS

Most of us have heard that replacing cabinet hardware is one of the easier and cheaper ways of updating a kitchen, but the knobs you choose are important. “Anything below $3 will have to be replaced in less than two years,” Morrisseau says. “What you’re looking for is heft and weight. How does the handle or knob feel in your hand? is it very light or is it weighty? If you can, select the heavier weight. A lighter knob may be hollow in the middle or it may have been made with cheap metal. There is also a significant weight difference between an acrylic knob and a glass one.”

To make installation easier, choose handles or knobs with slightly bigger screws than your existing knobs, if possible. “The existing screw hole will be worn over time and you’ll need a bigger screw to get a good grip in the wood,” Morisseau explains. If the new handles require new screw holes to be made in the cabinet doors and drawer fronts, use a decorative plate, called a back plate, to cover the existing holes, or fill them in with wood putty if you’re handy, she says.

8. STAGE IT LIKE A PRO

“Staging is what a stylist for a magazine or photo shoot adds to the room: the glasses, stools, artfully arranged plates, decorative items, rugs, and flowers,” Morisseau says. Add items like those you see in a kitchen you covet in a magazine to update your space without lifting a hammer, she suggests.

9. PLAN PURCHASES WISELY

If your flooring, cabinets, countertop, or appliances need to be replaced, or electrical or plumbing lines need professional help, it’s important to plan the order of action on each of these items, Morisseau says. Replacing some items may have a domino effect and require other repairs, leading you down a rabbit hole of renovations, or the money you spend now may be wasted when you have to rip it out to replace something later, she says. Replacing flooring requires removing and reinstalling appliances, for example, and countertops usually don’t survive relocation. “Each decision affects all the others and, if not made carefully, can result in extra costs, delays, and frustration,” Morisseau says. “Stepping back and focusing on the logical order of repairs and improvements will allow you to identify those you can tackle in the short term while saving up for bigger projects that require more investment and can be done later on.”

Tips to Took Glamping to a Whole New Level

When most people hear “rental,” they think beat-up walls and subpar appliances. But this house would put most people’s homes to shame!

JILL SHARP WEEKS: My husband, Ray Weeks, and I were lucky to find it. An architect had lived here before and did an incredible job with the place. It took us five minutes to say yes! Our goal when we moved to Charleston, South Carolina, from Atlanta was to use our car sparingly. Here, we’re in the heart of the city’s historic downtown, and we can take easy strolls to get coffee or lunch, or to the nearby farmers’ market. We’re also just a block away from the home we’re building, which makes managing that project so much easier.

What was it like going back to renting?

For most spaces I’ve lived in, I’ve been involved on an architectural level. I certainly would never have designed rooms as petite as what we have here — I haven’t lived in spaces this intimate since my 20s — but it’s actually been an unexpected gift. My husband and I are newlyweds, and it feels like we’re holding hands in every room! But I did make adjustments. For instance, there wasn’t enough lighting, so I installed additional fixtures. Kitchen islands are generally anathema to me, and this one is 10 feet long and takes up almost half of the first floor. I would have opted for a farm table or industrial cart on casters. But while I won’t necessarily borrow this concept for our next place, I’ve really had a lot of fun entertaining around this big ole island.

You’ve painted every room in the house the exact same shade of gray. Why?

When we moved in, the walls were peach and kind of dowdy. I painted everything in Pussy Willow by Sherwin-Williams. It’s this strange gray that I adore because the color shifts throughout the day. It was an easy design solution that unified the space. I also painted the ceiling, trim, and cabinetry the same color because it prevents your eye from focusing on things like big, heavy moldings, which are not my style. I left some natural wood exposed on chair rails, newel posts, and cabinet knobs — a respectful way of celebrating what was here before while establishing a modern, graphic motif.

Speaking of graphic, there are so many pops of black. Is this a trick you use on styling jobs, too?

The interiors in my previous homes were much more understated and soft, which felt appropriate in large rooms that sometimes had 20-foot ceilings. [See her former Atlanta cottage.] My styling work — branding, ad campaigns, catalogs — is largely tonal. But I wanted this home, and the one we’re building down the street, to feel different. The scale of this house is so much smaller than what I’m used to, and threading black throughout creates a sense of continuity. This gutsier, bolder look felt like the right way to express the modern lifestyle I’m living in Charleston. I’ve also always been good at trend forecasting, and I predict that black and white is about to come on with a vengeance!

Have you always leaned neutral?

When other designers use color, I enjoy looking at and learning from their work. In my own projects, I’ll use flowers or textiles for a pop of color, but I’d rather inform a room with texture — handmade baskets, the straw pendant light in the office, pewter bowls filled with the tribal beads I’ve collected over the years. That’s where I have my fun.

How much do you love relaxing and entertaining in this stunning garden?

What we really love is that the garden is accessible only through the house. There are no side gates, so it feels incredibly private. It also has an outdoor privy, which is the only bathroom on the ground floor! Since the garden is just outside of our dining area, we often leave the huge wooden French doors open so that the room feels 40 feet longer. When we first arrived, the garden had been neglected, but we’ve replanted the beds, brought in furniture and turned it into a total paradise.

In a home built in the 1740s, how did you avoid a formal period look?

I lived in Tokyo as a child, and I’ve traveled all over the world. My style derives from having been exposed to many kinds of global architecture — from humble mud houses to the most exquisite homes. These multicultural influences helped me create a look that is unexpected in a historic house. For instance, instead of a dresser or armoire in my bedroom, I chose a pair of smart cane stools from Palecek and a great mirror from Mecox, and I set up a cool vignette with sculptures and baskets sourced from around the world.

You’re in this home for a mere 16 months. Why bother unpacking boxes and decorating to perfection?

Why not bother? Every day matters! I can’t imagine living in a space that doesn’t give me great enjoyment. You have no idea what’s going to happen tomorrow. Why not live with extreme beauty today?