If you are like me, you are also a fan of Property brothers. Unfortunately it’s not that easy to find another Jonathan.  He always takes care of his clients, doesn’t he?

I have worked with several contractors – some good and some, well, what do I say? Finding the right renovation partner is daunting, as well as critical, in making sure of the project being successful.

After all – not everyone is Jonathan.

As you have seen many times on HGTV’s various shows, it is common to find problems in the middle of renovations. And if you and your contractor are not in sync with expectations, then your budget gets tossed out of the window. And not everyone is going to find you ways to help you bring your budget back on track.

In order to minimize things going wrong, I hand over my clients to the contractor only after the project management stage- by then clients know exactly what needs to happen. And it’s like I’m handing over my baby to someone else, so I tend to be protective.


Here is my 3 stage process that I use with my clients.

1) Dreaming stage – Where we figure out who the person is, who their family has become after marriage and kids and getting clear on what they want to achieve. This is where expectations are set and we get the feel of mixing different design styles.

2) Planning Stage –  Based on the information collected from the clients, we make a custom design plan to bring about your personality traits.

3) Execution Stage – Project management and contracting.


By the time I’m handing over the client, every single detail has been thought of, and everything that is needed during this renovation project has already arrived in your garage so that there are no unecessary delays. During the contracting part I visit clients based on the necessity. I’m generally there because I want to make sure that things are running smoothly and clients are being take care of. I also visit to check on the quality of work that is being done. Sometimes we have to make some last minute changes based on what we find during this stage.


When you are working by yourself, picking the right contractor is tricky.

Here are my top tips to pick a contractor if you are not working with a designer. As a designer, I have already developed relationships with many contractors based on their specialty. I know the right electrician & plumber to call to the job site. If I need high end molding finishes, I know whom to call. If you have a tight budget, I know the right person who will still give you quality work.


1) Do your homework- Google them, look them up and try to find out as much as you can about them.

2) Ask people whom you know for referrals – your friends, family, neighbors. I have never used a contractor or installer from Angie’s list. I always get referrals from sources I trust like my colleagues who are also in the business and understand the importance of getting the right person who will take care of the clients.

3) Check out their references, make sure to call and speak to 3-5 references minimum. Some times the referrals could be their friends and family. Make sure you ask them specific questions such as, “Did you run into any problems during renovations and how did they solve the problem?”. “Was it difficult to get in touch with them after the renovation in case they needed to come back & fix or finish something?” There are too many stories out there about not being able to get in touch with contractors when things go wrong.

4) Check out if there are any complaints against them from Better Business Bureau anrare doing a major expensive renovation. I have visited construction sites to see the kind of work a contractor does before using them.

6) Make sure you have a valid contract with them. I cannot tell you how many times people are still working without a contract. Having a contract spelling out exactly what they are responsible for can save you a lot of headache, especially when things go wrong. The contract should have an itemized list of all the things that are  included in the bid & clearly state who is responsible for the permits and the timeline. Permits have been put in place to protect the home owner.

7) Know that 1 person cannot be a master of all trades. If he is a carpenter, he may not necessarily know electric and plumbing. There are a lot of handy people in this world, that doesn’t make them good at everything. When they are sub contracting make sure that they are responsible for the quality of work you expect from them.


I wanted to make sure that I was could cover as many details as possible. So once again I went to my trusted designer peers, the leading design bloggers  and asked them for their top tips & these designers took the time to send me information. For more design information, check out their blogs as well.

design bloggers give their favorite tips to finding the right contractor



 1)  Darla Powell,  Interior designer, blogger says “Have them start with a smaller job and if you like their work, then use them for the bigger projects. This way you know what you can expect from them.”
 2)  Sarah Wilson– Interior Designer, blogger  “Check to make sure that they are licensed & their bond is valid and up to date in your state. “

3) Shannon Richardson , a kitchen and bath designer  “Always double check licenses and insurance. Also check on the amount of liability they have. Professional’s will never have a problem giving you all their information.”

 4) Mary EttaMcCurdy – Interior designer, blogger says “Before you sign and pay a deposit, be sure the contract includes a detailed description of work to be done including specific brands of products to be used if desired, color choices, quantities and model numbers. More than one of my clients has come home to find a contractor has painted with ‘their version’ of a specified paint color or installed hardware in a bath that ‘is popular.'” 

 5)  Pam Hopgood a home staging expert said, “Meet them face to face and make sure you can work with them. Are they really listening to you and addressing your concerns and aspirations?”

6) Kara Wilde – an Interior architect says “If you are not working with a designer and going through a major renovation, having a lawyer review your contract would be a good idea.”

7) Wendy Woloshchuk – Interior designer, blogger “Make sure he has reliable sub contractors working under him. Sometimes you can find a great contractor and have an issue with his subs. Ask, How long have your subs been with you & how would you handle a problem with your sub contractor? ”


I hope this information will help you get your Jonathan and when you do, do introduce me to him.

50 Thoughts on “Need help finding your Jonathan?”

  • Great tips! I especially loved the tips provided by the other design professionals. It is very important to do your research before hiring a contractor. A good contractor can be the difference between a successful project or a nightmare.


    • Hahaha Darla, you are so funny girl. We have an awesome community of designers who are ready to help & I’m grateful to have that.

    • Me too, Elle. I have worked with many contractors as I’m sure you have as well. But still waiting to find my Jonathan. 🙂

    • We have all heard of so many projects that have gone wrong because of not working with the right contractor & how they change the design to suit themselves. We have all experienced that at some level. I hope this will help home owners select the right person for the job, especially when they are not working with a designer who has their back. Thanks for commenting.

  • Excellent advice!! You can’t stress enough that the contractor needs to have all the proper insurance, a contract, and license/registration. And Google is your friend.

    • Thats true, we can find so much about a person or company by using Google. Maybe they should talk about google being a mans best friend!

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