As working women, balancing work and home remodeling projects is tricky. You can’t take off too much time from work or business, so it’s important to know how to manage and hire a contractor. We hear horror stories about contractors all the time. Take, for example, the movie The Money Pit. Tom Hanks asks the contractor, “How long will the job take?” The contractor’s response: “Two weeks!” How long did it take? Four months.

When hiring a contractor, make sure you do your research.

• Verify that the contractor’s license is current with the Contractors State License Board at

• Ask for a certificate of insurance for workers’ compensation and general liability. If it’s a large or high-risk project, ask to be added as “additionally insured.” A good contractor will readily accommodate this request.

• Get at least three bids, and take everything into consideration. If one is incredibly low and looks too good to be true, it just may be.

• Ask for referrals from friends, family and co-workers. Referrals are the best advertising.

• Make sure the contractor understands that you work for a living, that your time is valuable, and ask that the crew arrive within its given time frame. Of course, contractors have their schedules as well, but it’s something you can work out.

When looking online for your contractor’s reviews, keep a few things in mind:

• Look at all of the reviews. Are there more positive than negative reviews? “Hiccups” can happen in any project.

• Are the comments vague or specific? Sometimes it can be more of a personality clash than a performance issue.

To help your project run smoothly, have an idea of what you’re looking to do on your project.

Contractors and designers appreciate it when clients know what style they prefer. Familiarize yourself with different products for countertops, cabinets, flooring, paint, appliances, etc., and take into consideration where they will be applied.

• Countertops: Quartz, granite, solid surface, laminate, tile, concrete, etc.
o For a desktop, make sure the pattern isn’t too busy and the front edge is rounded for comfort.
o For a kitchen, take into account the styles and colors in surrounding rooms.

• Cabinetry: Melamine and laminate, wood (stain color), etc. Consider different styles of doors, such as bead board, shaker, raised panel or a simple bevel slab style.
o For a desk, determine which drawers will be pencil drawers, file drawers, locked drawers or cabinets.
o For a kitchen, determine where you’d like to store pots, pans (and their lids!), dishes and storage containers. Decide whether you’d like a dishwasher drawer or any special drawers or cabinets.
o For bathrooms, decide how you’d like to arrange the doors and drawers. We store many small items in the bathroom, so drawers are definitely important.

• Flooring: porcelain, travertine, wood, laminate, carpet, etc.
o For bathrooms, avoid carpet due to repeatedly wet floors.
o For kitchens, just about anything goes. However, be cautious about wood flooring: if you have a water leak, it could mean trouble. Try installing an interesting tile with a complementary grout.

Remember, research is the key. But no matter how much research and preparation you do, any remodeling project will be a mess; there will be chaos. Keep your eye on the final project, know that you’ve done your research, and it will make your experience more comfortable to live through.

About Your Columnist

Alona Fulton is a featured columnist for Women Lead, the official blog of Connected Women of Influence, where she covers the ins and outs of the construction industry. Alona is the president of Liquid Amber Designs, Inc, providing custom-designed countertops and cabinets for residential, apartment and commercial clients.

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