Storage Solutions for Every Room in Your Home

When it comes to optimizing storage in your home, take an ‘everything has it’s place’ approach. Before you begin your container store shopping spree or start working with your designer or builder to design built-in storage, you need to take a long, hard look at all of you belongings and organize, throw away, or donate as much as possible.

Here are some ways to think about each space in your home to optimize your storage options

Save 30% off ANY single item during Black Friday Weekend at The Container Store. But hurry! Offer ends Sunday.

Once you’re ready, whether you’re designing a walk-in closet or remodeling an entire kitchen, you’ll want to work with a designer or builder for the best built-in storage solutions that fit everything comfortably and are easily cleaned and maintained. Here are some ways to think about each space in your home to optimize your storage options:

Here are some ways to think about each space in your home to optimize your storage options

Storage Tips for Walk In Closets

In your closets, include a variety of storage types for maximum functionality, avoid dust collectors, and consider including some clear-front storage for smaller items like purses, shoes, and other accessories. Don’t think of storage containers as an afterthought, they should be as much a part of the design as your built-in’s. And avoid thinking about trying to pack as many items as possible in: Though it may cut into your square footage, customize your space by prioritizing the items you use and wear most often, make them most accessible. This can be difficult to do, in the planning stages of your closet, but you will ultimately be much more satisfied by the final result.

Here are some ways to think about each space in your home to optimize your storage options

Kitchen & Pantry

Much like designing closets, one mistake people often make in building a pantry is installing too deep of shelving. These are both spaces in which more is not necessarily more. You want to avoid having food stuck at the back, out of reach, going stale. A pantry is another great place to include some plastic or glass front storage containers so everything is easily identified. A new trend in kitchen, and specifically pantry design, is allotting storage space for small countertop appliance to be stored out of sight.

Here are some ways to think about each space in your home to optimize your storage options

Mud & Laundry Rooms

Mud and laundry rooms are transitional spaces: indoor to outdoor, dirty to clean, and they involve a lot of foot traffic for being such small spaces. Consider how easily cleaned any materials are: You’ll want to avoid tiles that stain or containers that collect a lot of dust. Since these rooms are generally smaller than other spaces in your house, consider ways to utilize the vertical wall space, first, before moving onto storage that will take up square footage. Consider the flow of these spaces as well: Baskets and containers on wheels are particularly useful in these spaces since there is a lot of movement throughout.

Here are some ways to think about each space in your home to optimize your storage options

Office & Media Rooms

Built-in’s are going to greatly improve the resale value of your home office, living, or media rooms, especially when it comes to ways of hiding unsightly technology and other cables that can potentially distract or ruin a gorgeous design altogether. With that said, consider what you use most frequently: You may want some storage containers to keep items easily accessible: magazine racks (that aren’t like a bottomless pit!), media consoles, credenzas, or tabletop storage like coffee table trays and desktop organizes.  

Here are some ways to think about each space in your home to optimize your storage options

10 Dining Room Design Ideas

Have Fun with the Space

Include bold colors, install that wild printed wallpaper, play with patterns. A dining room is generally used for entertaining– let it entertain you! Read on for tips on where to save, where to splurge, and how to get creative with your dining room design:


Draw the Eye Up with a Gorgeous Ceiling

Create a gorgeous ceiling: Paint or wallpaper, include custom millwork and finish off with a stunning chandelier! This is a great place to invest to give the space some architectural detail.

Create a Beautiful Tablescape

With the winter holidays coming up, you’ll likely be using that formal dinning room to entertain family and friends more than usual and most of your guests attention will be geared towards what is ON the table, rather than around it, but it doesn’t have to cost a ton!  

For Thanksgiving table decor, check out these chic and affordable options on Amazon for a modern, rustic tablescape.

Get the right Sized Table for the Space

Flow in any room in important, especially a space that is supposed to seat so many people. You don’t want to go with the largest table you can find necessarily, you need to be sure you leave ideally about 45 inches, give or take a few inches, around the perimeter of the room as a walkway so everyone is comfortable. If your space is small, but you require more seating, consider a table with extendable leaves.

Statement Lighting & Layers

We’re fans of a gorgeous chandelier and it’s usually the centerpiece of a great dining room. Put on a dimmer for transitional, moody, controllable lighting. You’ll also want to include some lamps on a lower level to create layers. Lamps are, of course, functional as light sources, as well as beautiful sculptural objects.

Mirrors to Bounce Light

Include mirrors on the walls or reflective surfaces like metallic case goods or a glass table to bounce the light around the space.

Invest in Forever Frames

Although the dining room might be one of the least-frequented rooms in your home, it can also be one of the most expensive to design because they tend to be formal, and you need 6 or 8 or 10 o 12 chairs. You’ll want to invest in some great chairs that you can always recover or cover with slipcovers when you want to redesign and change up styles.

Create Some Cozy

In a formal dining room, it’s easy to fall into the trap of creating a sterile, off-putting space that you don’t necessarily want to spend time in. Avoid making the space too cold by adding some cozy textiles and colors: Invest in a great area rug in a fun print or warm colors.

Showcase a Collection

Have a gorgeous dishware collection that gets used once a year (if at all)? Or ample wine bottles in need of storage? Or some fabulous art? A dining room can be a great mini-museum! Find some great showcase storage like bookshelves or use the existing wall space.

Fill It With Life

Plants, flowers: Including natural elements always makes a space more inviting. Not only do they make the space feel more lived in, they also help to purify the air. 



How to Light Every Room in Your Home

Lighting in Layers

Lighting is decorative, yes, but it’s also a practical necessity in every home. When you’re picking out lighting for your home, you’ll want to think like a designer: think of lighting a room in three layers: The first layer is your general or ambient light, this is the source for most of the light in a room. Secondly, think about the smaller sections, or vignettes in your rooms where you’ll need task lighting. These are spaces where you may find yourself reading, cleaning, cooking, applying makeup, etc. Lastly, think about lighting as decorative accents– these are more architectural light sources that serve as much decorative purpose as plants or art, while still illuminating the space. Read on for more specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home:

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home


In lighting your bathroom, it’s best to avoid overhead sconces because they cast shadows on your face making you appear tired, giving you big bags under your eyes. Op’t instead for sconces, which should be wall mounted at the same level as your face, typically that measures 66” from the floor, with one on each side of the mirror. This direct and balanced light on your face which will make you look your best. For an ambient night light, undercounter light strips allow you to see without turning on the lights full blast. This is great for those midnight bathroom breaks.

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home


The kitchen is the heart of the home and needs the most variety of light for cooking, cleaning and just showing off, so you’ll want to use a variety of task and ambient lights. This includes under cabinet (at the counter and floor level, recessed lights, or ceiling mounted fixtures like Chandeliers or Pendants above island). While cooking and cleaning, having overhead and under cabinet lighting will help you see what you’re doing. The under cabinet light strip will add more light to the work surface of the counter.  Without them, sometimes the cabinets cast a shadow on the counter making it difficult to see what you’re doing and you could chop your finger off.  (Trust me, I’ve done that! But it was also after a bloody mary, so…. Perhaps that’s a story for a separate blog post on kitchen safety!)  

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home

And when you’re not in the kitchen, keeping the under cabinet LED light strip, inner cabinet with glass doors, and Island lights on dim, allows the kitchen to be the highlight of the home: a star even while it’s in the background. A natural approach is to center the sink between 2 windows for natural light along with installing a can light or pendant directly above the sink so you can see what you’re doing when cleaning dishes.

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home

Dining Room

The dining room is where you are encouraged to bring on the drama! This is a room where you’ll want your lighting on controllable dimers. Beautiful lighting from a chandelier will cast gorgeous light on dinner guests so that everyone looks stunning. Wall sconces, and decorative mirrors will also help to bounce dimmed light around the room.

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home

Living Rooms

Although it’s popular, we’re not a big fan of multiple recessed can lights in rooms, because they can make a ceiling look like swiss cheese.  Again, it’s best to think in layers of lighting.  Floor lamps, table lamps, chandelier, ambient like a reading lamp, directional plant lighting, or art lights. Consider how much natural light sources might come from the windows, candles, or the fireplace as well. And much like in the dining room, chandeliers are great for bouncing light up and off the ceiling rather than casting light directly on someone’s face casting shadows.  

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home


Think soft, subtle, and simple in the bedroom: Nightstand lamps or hanging pendants on either side of the bed, a chandelier above the bed. In closets, choose lighting above the rods or inside the cabinetry. Op’t for either a pretty pendant, ceiling mounted fixture, or recessed lighting.

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home

Focal Points, Hallways, and Stairs

In choosing lighting, think like caveman: Light is the source that helped them navigate in the right direction, towards safety. If you have a long hallway, have a light at the end. If you have beautiful art, light it in a way that will highlight its depth of color. If you have stairs, make sure the steps are lit to prevent anyone from accidentally falling.

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home


Think of lighting in terms of distance – the house or close to the house, mid range and street level. Don’t forget to light the street numbers so visitors can see your address. Consider uplights on plants and trees, path lights to guide guests from the street to the front door, wall sconces around the perimeter (perhaps, on motion sensor), front door chandelier or sconces on each side of front door.

Read on for specific tips about choosing lighting for every room in your home


First impressions are everything. Make it big and bold, illuminate the entryway. If you have a tall ceiling with a window above the door, hang a chandelier so it’s completely visible from the exterior.

A Couple Lighting Terms You Should Know:

LED Lighting
Use warm white light, staying away from anything that feels unnatural with a cold blue undertone to it.


Dimmers are great. They save energy and offer flexibility in bright lighting for cleaning and working, or low ambient lighting.

10 Home Renovation Tips for New Home Buyers

So you’ve got the keys for your new home–now what? It’s time to get to work renovating your new house, but you don’t know where to begin. Home renovations can be extremely overwhelming, especially to new home buyers. So read on for our top 10 tips to keep in mind when renovating your new place.

  1. Plan Appropriately

Budget, design, and schedule ahead of time. You don’t want to get impatient and dive in head first, or you’ll inevitably find yourself overwhelmed and over-budget! With that said, you do want to be flexible. Various issues often arise throughout the design-build process, which we wrote about in a separate post here.

2. Prioritize

Separate ‘wants’ and ‘needs.’ Some home improvement projects are purely for vanity’s sake, which is fine, but don’t prioritize these over those that will improve the function of your space.

10 Home Renovation Tips for New Home Buyers

3. Keep a Contingency

Keep a realistic contingency (will vary based on the scope and age of your home) 7%-10%. If you don’t use it, you don’t lose it – buy new furniture or go on vacation from renovating your home.

4. Test for Toxins

Before beginning any home renovation, you’ll want to have your contractor test for lead and asbestos. 

10 Home Renovation Tips for New Home Buyers

5. Think Outside

Don’t forget the outside of your home! Add some curb appeal with some custom landscaping and utilize your outdoor space as a living space. Outdoor kitchens and living rooms are among the most in-demand outdoor renovations. We wrote all about how you can revamp your outdoor space here.

6. Small Facelift Vs. Major Overhaul

It is tempting to want to do everything at once and get a little overzealous in doing so. Realize when something just needs a small facelift instead of a complete redo. Consulting with a designer or general contractor can help you figure this out, which can save you lots of time and money in the long run.

10 Home Renovation Tips for New Home Buyers

7. Take Your Time

Do it right – don’t rush things and cut the wrong corners by doing things like buying cheap materials that won’t stand the test of time. Consult with your general contractor who can help you come up with a realistic timeline for your renovation.

8. Add Value

Consider what is adding value to your home. Adding a pool in your backyard may be tempting, but it’s more likely that kitchen or bath renovation will better increase the value of your home, if renovating is all about getting return on your investment.

10 Home Renovation Tips for New Home Buyers9. Think Long-Term

Part of adding value to a home is making sure it’s built to last! You don’t want to be too trendy – think classic in terms of style and materials, especially if you’re renovation with reselling your home in mind.  

10. Hire a Great Team!

Home renovations can be incredibly stressful when you try to do it all yourself. Leave it to a professional but make sure you’re hiring the perfect contractor for the job. We wrote all about how to vet your general contractor before you hire them in a separate blog post here.

7 Landscaping Tips for a Breathtaking Summer Garden

Ahh…Summer Landscaping: everyone appreciates a bucolic landscape when they see one, but it’s often an overlooked aspect when designing a home. Rather than treating landscape architecture as an afterthought, you want your landscape to live in harmony with the architecture of the home by creating a nice flow throughout the yard or garden. Because our firm is predominantly working on Southern California residences and commercial spaces, naturally lending themselves to indoor-outdoor lifestyles, Summer landscaping is always on our minds. Read on for 7 ways to think differently about your Summer landscaping:

Shannon Beador Real Housewife of OC Newport Coast Home SoCal Contractor + Lori Dennis

1. How is the Space Being Used?

Just like designing the inside of a home, determining the primary use of the space will help guide all of the design choices. So consider how you are going to use the space. A place for kids to play? Pets that need a secured area to run around? A space for entertainment? A more intimate space? Privacy? Sun vs. Shade?

Shannon Beador Real Housewife of OC Newport Coast Home SoCal Contractor + Lori Dennis

2. Start with a Focal Point

Your focal point(s) which can be anything from a large statue to a small bench or gate. From there, work outwards: consider your walk ways. These paths can be a fun place to play with materials and curves.

Summer Landscaping: everyone appreciates a bucolic landscape when they see one, but it’s often an overlooked aspect when designing a home

3. Take Your Time

Don’t rush the process. Rushing through landscaping leads to sloppy mistakes, a hodgepodge look, and dead plants. It is better to divide and conquer and do little bits at a time to create a pulled together look. This will allow you to focus on the intimate spaces and create something you really love that works with the environment.

Summer Landscaping: everyone appreciates a bucolic landscape when they see one, but it’s often an overlooked aspect when designing a home

4. Listen to Mother Nature

Consider your environment first and know what mother nature will allow you to do. You don’t want to plant a bunch of beautiful shrubs, only to find out later that they won’t survive the climate. Be sure to do lots of research based upon the environment you live in ahead of time!

Summer Landscaping: everyone appreciates a bucolic landscape when they see one, but it’s often an overlooked aspect when designing a home

5. Be Strategic

Strategically place plants to provide shade in some areas of the yard or the house to reduce energy use in the hot summer months, provide privacy from neighbors, and hide ugly things like AC units and deck support systems. Make the most out of what you choose! Consider things that will serve multiple functions (like a tree to provide shade, serve as a backdrop for something, and grows fruit!) Divide the yard up into spaces (in planning and incorporate that into the setup with hedges or pathways) to create more interest and intimacy.

Shannon Beador Real Housewife of OC Newport Coast Home SoCal Contractor + Lori Dennis

6. Add Visual Interest

For smaller houses: consider tall trees to draw your eye up. Plant bolder colored plants closer up and lighter/ pastel colors farther away to give a sense of depth. And play with scale! It adds more interest to the eye. Repeat elements (color, texture, shape, etc) throughout the yard to create cohesion. This can be done with flowers, plants, and non-plant materials such as the materials of the patio or deck. Which reminds us…

Summer Landscaping: everyone appreciates a bucolic landscape when they see one, but it’s often an overlooked aspect when designing a home

7. Don’t Forget About the Non-Plants!

Most people get carried away with plants when they think of landscaping and forget about non plant materials such as decks, patios, pots, etc. These can make a huge impact. Incorporating lighting so you can enjoy your space at night is also incredibly important as well! Do just enough to guide through the yard/garden and keep with the ambiance. Solar power lights to line walk ways are a great way to do this. And string lights add charm to your gathering spaces.

If you’re more of an inside person, maybe an indoor garden is more your speed: Check out our partners at Lori Dennis Inc’s comprehensive guide to Indoor Plants–find out which are the most low-maintenance and the benefits of each here.

Is Your Home Smart Yet? How to Control Your Home with Your iPhone & Other Game-Changing Home Technologies

From our phones to our homes, technology is an intrinsic part of our professional and personal lives, and that’s not stopping anytime soon. Whether its purpose is sustainability, affordability, or simply luxury, these home technology features are in-demand and changing the way live for the better.

Keeping It Cool

Advancements in home and design technology are making it easier than ever to go green. Window shades like the Lutron Smart Shades are controlled wirelessly and are also sensitive to heat and brightness levels indoor and out for the ultimate shade, which helps keep cooling costs down. Similarly the Nest Learn Thermostat automatically adjusts itself with the season and promises to pay for itself by saving homeowners up to 20% in cooling costs.

For convenience, the iHome ISP5 Smartplug or apps like the Apple Homekit enable homeowners to control the temperature of their home from afar. Your home can be adjusted to the perfect, comfortable temperature before you even get home from work! The Lutron Caseta Wireless system works similarly to lower the shades in your home from your phone.

Safe Smart House

It’s now easier than ever to protect your family and home from invasion with alarm systems like the iSmartAlarm, which comes with window sensors, door sensors, motion detectors, and cameras. Users can control the system via an app that also has the option to monitor and control a home’s lighting, thermostat, and smoke detectors. Or First Alert Onelink systems, which includes Wi-Fi enabled smoke and carbon monoxide alarms, a smartwatch, and a smart tracker for personal items like keys, a Wi-Fi safe, and a Wi-Fi programmable thermostat — all compatible with Apple’s HomeKit system and can be controlled via your iPhone.

Nearly everything in your home can be controlled and kept safe by your phone: the Kevo Smart Lock, for example, enables keyless entry to your home, using your iphone as a key. And with the August Lock and Door Bell Camera, see who’s knocking at your door from your iPhone screen.

Smart Kitchens

Refrigerator technology has come a long way, if you can believe it! The LG Mega Capacity French Door Fridge is aesthetically charming and makes food last longer by sensing humidity levels inside. The Samsung Family Hub Refrigerator includes a smart screen for busy family schedules and grocery lists and can even take pics of food on the inside so you know what you need at the grocery store.

Smart Bathrooms

Smart shower features like the Moen Smart Shower allow homeowners to control digital elements from the outside of the shower, including preset buttons enabling more than one homeowner to program desired water temperatures for a personalized shower. New digital tub fillers feature hidden speakers that emit sound waves, which envelop and gently resound within the body to calm and soothe, while a heated surface with three heat settings customize the surface temperature  for spa-like relaxation. Talk about taking your bubble bath to the next level!

Smart Garage

The Chamberlain Whisper Drive with wifi capability has a quiet, motor that can pull all garage doors, control the lights in your garage and is the only all-in-one option on the market! The Lyftmaster MYQ Universal Smartphone Wifi garage door opener is an affordable alternative, but includes less features.

HGTV 2017 Smart Home| Photo By: Brian Rozar/Auto Imaging Inc

Smart Laundry Room

Smart laundry washer and dryers like the LG Smart Thinq or the Whirlpool Smart Washers with Six Sense Live, can control loads from afar, let you know when a load is done, and even detect when detergent is running low.

Smart Controls

Need a butler? Smart home systems like the Amazon Echo, the Wink Hub, or the extremely affordable Google Home all come pretty close! Acting as your digital personal assistant or house manager, these systems can do everything from controlling lighting, playing your favorite music, or sync all of your personal devices.

How to Choose the Right Tile for Every Room in Your Home

Choosing the Right Tile

The materials you choose to install in your home are a big factor in both the aesthetic and function of the design of your home. Porcelain, glass, natural stone, marble, ceramic, all have different advantages and disadvantages that come into play based upon budget, location, and how they are used.

Lori Dennis For Tile Bar - Choose the Right Tile
Click to Shop this Tile

Choosing Tile for Bathrooms: Go for the Grip!

When choosing tile for your bathroom and shower floors, an aspect of tile you should take into consideration is its viscosity (how slippery or not the surface is). In areas like the bathroom (especially the shower) use an anti-slip tile or smaller application tile with more grout lines as a safety measure. The shower floor could use even smaller pieces of tile or mosaic where the grout will offer more grip.

Choosing the Right Tile - Aging in Place - Lori Dennis and SoCal Contractor

In one of our Aging in Place / ADA / Accessible Living projects, we used small mosaic tile on the entire bathroom floor that continued seamlessly into the shower without using a curb, (which can be challenging for those who have a hard time lifting their foot or leg.)

Click to Shop this Tile

Choosing Tile for Kitchens: Backsplash and Walls

Backsplash and Bathroom Walls are a great opportunity to have fun and make a statement — Go for color, 3-D texture, rough stone, or antique glass.

Although you’ll still want to be careful about the placement: We had a project where we installed large slabs of antique mirror for a kitchen backsplash. Although the client was careful while cooking, their cleaning crew was not and had banged pots against the wall and broke the glass. We replaced the large glass with smaller bricks of glass and did the same for another project.

Lori Dennis for Tile Bar
Click to Shop this Tile

Choosing Tile for Outdoor Spaces

Something to consider in choosing outdoor tile is its UV resistance. If you’re going for natural stone, a non-polished finish would be a better choice to install around pool deck or a walkway with greater exposure to rain and other elements. Chlorine and salt can do damage to stone tile, so, in general, we recommend trying to avoid this type of tile! Instead of stone, op’t for a porcelain tile.

Glass and glazed porcelain make for awesome pool tile material. Glass is the most popular pool tile, but also the most expensive. If you choose this tiling, be sure to select an iridescent color for the shimmering results! Mosaic tiles are another great idea, as it gives the designers some creative flexibility when it comes to installing the tile.

And don’t forget: When installing tile outdoors and around pools, chemical resistant grout is a must! And to prevent powder staining, you will also want to make sure that your installer is using a grout release.

Click to Shop this Tile

Where Does Tile Come From?

Last, but not least, let’s talk about the tile’s country of origin. You can get the same tile at $2/sqft from China, $8/sqft from Israel or $15/sq. ft. from Italy. Most of the time, country of origin is a good indication of the quality of the stone, (and telling your guests that your powder room walls are “Italian marble” can be so satisfying!)

5 Dreamy Swimming Pools that Will Take Your Breath Away

  1. Customizing a Mediterranean-Style Pool

    In this Medditerranean project, we added elements like the pots at the edge and stone coping, to integrate the pool seamlessly with the rest of the home.

    Generally speaking, the style of the pool should match the architecture of the home. But nowadays, any type of pool can be completely customized to match the style of the home. Although zero-edge and infinity pools are more of a modern design, and standard pool is considered more of a traditional feature. 

  2. Mixing & Matching Styles: An Infinity Pool in an Old World Luxe Home

    An infinity pool is a swimming pool that continuously flows over the edge, giving the impression that it merges into the ocean or other surrounding landscape.These pools are more expensive to construct since they requires a few more elements for this design to work: A trough around the spilling edge to receive the water, pumps to fill the pool so it can overflow. And it must be built accurately so it overflows evenly all over the edge.

    Infinity pools are a beautiful application in the correct environment. Some designers might argue they don’t work well in a traditional home but we think that if executed correctly, an infinity pool could be a stunning feature in any style home, like this one:

  3. Bringing the Beach Home: Wading Area/Beach Feature in the Hollywood Hills

    The wading area is another newer pool feature. Reminiscent of a resort pool, the “beach area” or in the professional lingo, Baja shelf is a great feature for parents with little kids or someone who wants to chill out in the shallow water. In this Hollywood Hills home, we added a baja shelf which emphasizes the house’s modern, indoor-outdoor feel.

    Another cool design in the zero edge design which has the water line come up even with deck surface creating a continuous looking surface. This design requires the same elements of an infinity pool and often times you will see both in the same pool.

     A Traditional Pool in Lake Sherwood

A classic pool with coping that matches the hardscape, makes the pool as an integral part of the backyard. Timeless, blue, water-edge tiles and light color plaster will keep this traditional pool looking fresh and refreshing for decades.

Lighting & Sound in the Pool: Real Housewife of OC Shannon Beador’s Newport Coast Home

Pool lights are in important part of the pool design. A pool is an expensive landscaping feature and should be lit properly to take advantage of the beautiful design (In addition to the safety aspect).

Dive much? underwater speakers are all the rage at parties, sound travels well underwater and it is really cool to dive to your favorite tunes. Sites and sounds will amplify your pool design and make it a showcase in your backyard, day or night!

Stop! Ask these Questions Before Hiring a Contractor

You’re about to undertake a HUGE home improvement project and you know you need to hire the right contractor to make it happen. Choosing the right contractor can be a daunting task. It can make or break your design and mistakes can cost lots of time and money. So we’ve broken it down for you: Here are the questions we hear all the time and the questions you SHOULD be asking when it comes to hiring the right contractor for the job.

Scheduling Questions

Q. When can the contractor start and do they have enough resources/bandwidth to commit to your job?

There’s nothing worse than working with a contractor who is too busy to properly handle your job and manage the resources. Make sure that the contractor you are considering hiring has the bandwidth to dedicate teams and time to your project. Being in demand is a wonderful thing, but being too busy can delay your project and frustrate you. And trust us when we say, there are almost always delays. Although there should be a written schedule, be prepared to be flexible, in construction- anything can and usually does take longer than you think it will. Some typical delays include: Items getting stuck in customs, sub-contractors falling ill or going out of business; You could open a wall only to discover none of it was built to code and you have to rebuild the entire thing. Permits and the city inspectors add another layer of uncertainty.

Q. What hours will you work?

Hours will depend on the what the city allows by law. If you work outside of those hours and you get caught, the city can fine you and shut down your job.

Q. Who will be at the job site? Who do I call with questions?

Different days bring different demands. Some days the site will be full and bustling. On other days the site will be in a holding pattern and no one will be there. You contractor wants to complete your job as much as you do, so don’t worry if you don’t see people on the job, it’s normal. The key here is to have a schedule of what will be happening, our firm gives them to clients on Fridays for the following week. If the schedule and the activity start to deviate a lot, it’s time to ask questions.

Key Advice: Be patient and trust your team. They’ve been through this and can communicate what is happening and why and when.

Q. What are the stages of the job?

  1. Design 2. Permits 3. Order Materials 4.Demo 5. Rough Construction 6 Installation of Finish materials 6 Punch list 7 Payment in full 8. Lien (This topic deserves it’s own dedicated guide — so stay tuned we’ll publish one next week!)

Q. Does the contractor see any potential problem areas in your project?

If someone tells you nothing will go wrong, run! Hire someone else immediately. Something always goes wrong in construction and the best defensive is a good offense. If your contractor can think on their feet and feels confident problem solving, they will work it out. Ask them what the most challenging aspect of a past project has been, and how they worked through the challenge. Have they ever worked on the problems they see occurring at your project?

The Contractor, The Person

Q. Do you like this person?

You’re going to be spending a lot of money and time with the contractor. It’s important to feel comfortable with them. They should be someone who “speaks your language.” When they explain things, it should be easy for you to understand. Always start by asking yourself a simple question, “do I like this person?”

Q. Has the contractor attended any type of formal training or continuing education?

Although an academic program is not required and someone with years of field experience can do a phenomenal job, it’s an added bonus if a contractor has more formal education. Our principal contractor, for example, has completed a program in Construction Management from the University of Houston College of Technology and an ASID ReGreen certification. He regularly attends design build seminars, trade shows, and events to stay up to date on codes, trends, technology, building materials, and management techniques. Being deeply immersed in the field gives you a more well rounded and experienced partner in your construction project and can help you rest-assured that you’re in good hands.

Q. How will you communicate with me?

It’s important to decide on the way you will communicate before you begin working. You want to stay informed, but you don’t want to drive your contractor crazy. After each weekly meeting, our firm follows up with an email record of the notes from the meeting. We also like to correspond through text or email so there is a record of what was asked and promised. Quick telephone calls have a way of falling through the cracks or one of the parties not remembering correctly.

Q. Has the contractor been involved with any legal disputes following a previous job?

The answer to this question is probably yes and that’s ok. In a construction dispute, EVERYONE who worked on the job gets called into a lawsuit, whether or not they were responsible. The most important thing here is that your contractor has a valid insurance policy to cover any claims that might arise. Referring back to the contract throughout the process and having a clear understanding of expectations helps to make sure the project stays out of litigation.

Q. Has the contractor previously operated as a contractor under a different name?

If so, ask the contractor to explain why.

Q. Does the contractor plan to work on the project personally or assign a supervisor?

Either a contractor or a dedicated supervisor should be assigned to your project and you should have contact information for both. Before the project begins have a clear understanding of the process and who does what.

Q. How will you protect my property?

Remember that many trades with many different people will be on your site. A sub-contractor could bring someone onto your site that no one has ever met, that’s the nature of the business. When a contractor tells you a locked storage on site or warehouse off-site is necessary, take their advice. If you have something valuable treat it that way and make sure you protect it. Once an area has been completed or finish materials have been installed, your contractor must provide heavy cover to protect from other construction that is still happening on the site. The site should be cleaned, broom swept, at the end of each day and there should never be trash outside of a designated

Q. What is the guarantee or warranty?

Most contractors will guarantee against defective materials and workmanship problems. Most municipalities and states require a minimum period to warranty and address the work a contractor or their subs have performed. If something goes wrong, call your contractor first. Allow them the opportunity to address the issue. If you bring in other subs or workers to address the issue, you risk voiding your warranty.

Q. How do I reach you after hours?

Unless there is an emergency on site, like a broken pipe or a gas leak, you should contact your contractor during business hours that were agreed upon in your contract. However if there is an emergency that must be handled immediately your contractor should provide a contact number to call. If you’re wondering if it’s actually an emergency or not, a good rule of thumb is that it should look something like the aftermath of the plane crash from War of the Worlds:

Q. How often should I be updated on progress?

It’s a good idea to touch base at least once a week with your design and contract team. Throughout the process you may need to be involved more or less depending on what is happening. Communication is key and a weekly schedule helps you understand what and when things are happening.

Q. Who meets with the inspectors?

The general contractor meets with the inspectors and is responsible for setting up the appointments and making sure they or someone from their team is on site to walk the job with the inspector.

Q. Do I need a contract and what should I include in it?

A contract is a good communication tool to make your project run as smoothly as possible, as it is a written understanding of what is expected from each side. It should be referred to throughout the process. Common contracts include elements like: a detailed work scope, line items for materials, the cost, and a termination clause. Any special requests, concerns or agreements should be written in the contract.

Q. How much do contractor’s require as a down payment?

Sometimes contractors charge as little as $1,000, the maximum by their state law, and up to 10% of the estimated contract to be retained. (We’ll write a separate post that goes into more detail, stay tuned!)

Q. Does the contractor need a design or plans? And if I don’t have them, can the contractor do it for me?

It is always best to have a set of plans before you begin working on a project. A set of plans is a road map to success. A contractor can help you put together a set of plans with the help of a draftsperson, a designer, an architect, or a structural engineer. If a contractor says they don’t need plans, hire someone else!

 Q. What is the management style for your team?

You’ll want to know how the contractor works with their team. Is there a weekly meeting for each job. Are the subs given an up to date schedule each week so they know when they are expected to perform. More successful and sophisticated firms have scheduling programs that allow everyone to see where things are at any given time. Our firm uses UDA construction.

After the Build is Completed

Q. Does the contractor stay up to date on trends?

A great contractor will know a lot about current trends and timeless design styles. You can tell a lot about the contractor’s knowledge when you look through the portfolio. Don’t be afraid to ask them how they stay on top of the latest design trends and materials, oftentimes this is through regularly attending design trade shows and events and keeping up on continuing education.

Q. Do I need to let the contractor take pictures at the end of the job?

It’s a nice thing to do. Your contractor is proud of what they’ve done and will use your project to market to other clients. You also get professionally shot images of your home that you can share with friends and family on social media and use if you ever want to sell the house. If you ever wanted to rent your home out for a vacation rental or a commercial or movie set, you’ll have great photos!

Q. Should I give my contractor a review when the job is complete?

Chances are, part of the reason you selected the contractor is because you read great reviews about other client’s experiences. If you liked your contractor, it’s a generous thing to do. Reviews also help you because they eliminate the contractor’s potential clients from needing to call you as a referral.