How We’re Selecting A Contractor

Selecting a contractor is a really tough decision.  It brings me back to wedding planning except instead of one day, I get to live in it for at least five (plus) years.  We toured a handful of houses with a general contractor we trusted while we were home searching.

fixer updaterAfter reviewing proposals, we second guessed our decision.  We decided to re-think our selection process.  While it felt like one step back, I want the right foundation for this project.  I’m confident it leads to lots of [fast] steps forward so we can move in as soon as possible, which I shared our plans on here.  Since I drafted this post, we’ve signed someone and I’m so glad we did!  Here’s what we did to decide to go with him.

Ask for referrals from friends

This has been a big one for us.  We’ve sourced 3 people that have done work for friends or acquaintances in the city.  It’s important for us to hear first hand if these people were easy to work with and timely.  Plus, we wanted someone who’s familiar with the city as rules can be different between city and suburbs.

Understand their work style

This is a big one.  Initially, we connected with a well-known Chicago rehabber.  I assumed a Chicago rehabber was a great fit.  If he flips homes in the city, he should be well-versed with permits, etc. right?  Right, but it also means their design style may be more basic – more on that below.  Plus, many general contractors end up sub-contracting much of the work out to the team.  They oversee the work and maybe do a weekly site visit.  We’ve decided we want someone who’s on the job site frequently.  It’s a balance though because you also don’t want a one-man band or you’ll never finish the work!

Check out their vendors

Understanding the vendor relationships was my first major miss in this fixer updater process.  We’d like to do greige kitchen cabinets, and apparently, that color is a bit tricky to find unless you go with custom cabinets.  Stock cabinets are the baseline cabinet (and the least expensive).  Then, there are semi-custom cabinets, which is about double the prices and relates to the style more than the quality.  At the high end, there are custom cabinets, which are truly custom and triple the price of stock cabinets.

One of the vendors we were exploring only carried two colors in semi-custom cabinets, which was a major problem.  When he said we’d have to procure the cabinets on our own and then he’d install them, it felt too messy.  Needless to say, that’s what’s caused the general contractor hiccup, which I’ve been documenting on the ‘Herrmannito House’ on Insta Stories.

Reach out to references

Asking for references you can speak to, but also see the work is super helpful.  Contractors’ Instagram pages and websites are often limited.  It makes sense because they are mainly in the field and not at a desk.  So, all the more reason to find a good reference and personally check out their work.

Trust your gut

There’s no replacement for your intuition.  One of the reasons we paused with our initial general contractor was because it felt like he started playing games.  I went out to pick out cabinets with him.  After seeing his limited selection, the original contractor opted to use fear tactics to secure the business.  First of all, I don’t appreciate mansplaining.  Second, using fear as a way to secure business deal is always a ‘no’ in my book.  It made me take a step back and ultimately look at more contractors, which Matt wholeheartedly agreed with.


Meet Jen

I’ve always had a love affair with creation. Since I was a child, I handmade my gifts or combined toys to design something new. Fast forward twenty years, and I’m still making my gifts every holiday and designing new ways to do things.


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In order to grow my small business, I earn revenue in a few different ways. I publish sponsored posts from time to time, which are always labeled. Sometimes I earn an affiliate commission on the sales of products or business resources I link to. I only feature items I genuinely love and want to share. Thank you for reading and supporting my small business!