Today is E is for Educate ... yourself. I can't tell you enough how important it is to educate yourself if you plan to renovate. There is so much to know--about products, what you like and dislike, about the contractor himself and hundreds of other things.
You may decide to interview every contractor in your area, or you may use a friend or family member. Here's a site that offers some interesting questions--most of which I agree with. http://www.askthebuilder.com/50-contractor-interview-questions/ While you may think some of these questions sound silly, they really aren't. You'd be surprised at what you'll come face to face with. One of the questions on this site is: May I please inspect the inside of your truck or car? This is supposed to show you the contractor's organizational skills. I should have asked this question. I don't think our little contractor had any organizational skills. Once he lost his truck keys and we searched for an hour or more. He finally found them ... in his pocket. And yes, he'd searched his pockets several times.
The more you learn about your contractor, the better off you'll be. You might want to see some of his work, so don't hesitate to ask for names of people he's worked for. If you can, interview them to find out just how happy they were with their renovation experience.
Potential unexpected problems you might have to deal with that have little to do with the inside of your house: angry neighbors. Workers have a tendency to block drive and destroy grass by either driving over it or pouring paint into the yard. Be sure to ask how many vehicles will be in your driveway at one time and if they do daily clean-up. When Mr. Contractor says yes, they do daily clean-up, you should say, "No, seriously, do you do daily clean-up?" The contractor will laugh a little and repeat yes, to which you should say, "Define clean-up."
When it comes to educating yourself about products... good luck. I spent hours looking at magazines and walking through Lowes, Home Depot and our local Steins. Believe me when I say there are several answers to any one question you ask. You have to determine the right answer. You have to know what stains and what doesn't, what's slick and what isn't. If flooring will buckle under a little water ... if paint can be wiped down, or if it'll end up chipping or peeling.
A site I used to learn about decorating and products is Houzz. I had pictures and colors and a vision in mind. Once I shared my vision with my contractor, my vision got lost. Be firm. Know what you want and why you want it. I learned that the pictures in magazines and on decorating sites are basically fiction. There are and were a thousand reasons I couldn't have some of the things I liked. It reminded me of when I took a Dillards newspaper ad of a pretty sweater to my local store and said, "I want this sweater" to which the salesperson answered. "That's not a real sweater; it's just an example of the kind of sweaters we sell."
Educate yourself, if for no other reason, you'll have interesting dialogue with your contractor.