Ask the Expert text

How to Manage a Home Contractor

Illustration of Richard Mold
Illustration: Joel Kimmel
" " Richard Mold ’81, P’14 majored in art & art history at Bucknell before shifting gears and launching a 40-year career in the construction trades. After decades of working on smaller projects, he is now site supervisor on the construction of a $3 million vacation home in the Catskills. He lives in New York’s Hudson Valley.
What’s the best way to hire contractors?
Research them. Get recommendations. Make sure they’re insured. Go see their work if you can. When you get cost numbers that you like, double or triple check them.
What’s the biggest mistake a homeowner can make?
Aside from hiring someone incompetent, it’s not doing any financial planning. Don’t start a project and then say, “Oops! We’re out of money, and the kitchen isn’t done.”
Do things usually turn out as planned?
With a good plan in hand from the start, the client should have everything exactly as they want, with some caveats. There is always trouble of some sort — unexpected complications, like bad weather or people getting sick.
What’s the biggest mistake a contractor can make?
Besides incompetence, it’s inattention to the project. They get stretched too thin. Ideally, the contractor is doing only one job at a time.
What’s your best advice for project planning?
Simplicity is a good thing. The less complicated it is, the easier it is to build it right. Don’t build an octagonal house unless you want to bang your head against the wall.