It’s time to replace your 25-year-old kitchen with something a little more up to speed. Listening to friends who’ve already done just that, you realize it will be either a wonderful experience or your worst nightmare. It all comes down to the contractor.
Hiring a good remodeling contractor for your home depends on following a set of guidelines to find the one with the right skills and experience who is also compatible with you and your needs. Remodeling Today offers these suggestions:
Picture the result. You’ll need to pinpoint what you expect to achieve and make it your vision statement. It remains the core of the process because you’ll come back to it over and over again until the contractor you choose has completed the work. It’s important to be able to picture the look, feel, style and purpose of your remodeling project in order to ask prospective contractors the right questions. The more clearly you’re able to explain your goals, the better chance you have that the project will be completed the way you want.
Get recommendations. Start with friends, co-workers and neighbors. Also consider contacting local trade associations or ask inspectors, handymen and others you have worked with in the past for referrals. If you have a local hardware store or lumberyard, sometimes the staff is willing to recommend some of the contractors who frequent the store.
Call with questions. Once you have at least a few prospects on your list, call each one and ask some questions to get an idea of whether they might be suitable for your project. Ask if they routinely accept projects the size of yours and if they specialize in any particular type of remodeling. You’ll also want to know if they’ll provide homeowner references. If your project is a big one, ask about their experience with subcontractors. You might also find it useful to know if they hold any professional certifications.
Interview candidates. Interview a handful of those contractors you questioned over the telephone. This is the time to ask about the insurance they carry, whether they guarantee their work and whether they’ve been involved in any litigation in recent years. Depending on the nature of the remodeling, you might ask who will manage the project and how many similar projects they’ve completed in the last year or two. You should probably also find out who will get any necessary permits and sign for deliveries and how the contractor will keep your home clean once the project is underway. By the end of the interview, you should have a feel of whether or not you’d feel comfortable having each contractor do your work.
Become an investigator. Call some of the references provided and ask questions such as whether the contractor delivered on all promises made and if the job was completed on time and within budget. Also inquire whether the company maintained a neat worksite, if the staff responded to issues quickly and professionally, how the reference likes the project now and whether he or she would hire this contractor again. You might also ask to see the completed work. Contacting your local Better Business Bureau and state licensing agency to check on complaints can also be helpful.
Get bids. Once you’ve narrowed the list of potential remodelers to just two or three, ask each one to provide a bid for completing your project. Tell them to break down the estimate so that you can see the cost of materials, labor and any other expenses. Normally, materials are around 40 percent of the total. A profit of 15 to 20 percent is reasonable. Also ask each one how much money is required before work starts and what their payment schedule is. A typical arrangement is 10 percent up front, two payments of 25 percent each during the project and a final 15 percent once the job has been completed in a satisfactory manner.
Make the choice. Start by discarding any bid you feel is out of line. For the remaining contractors, step back from all the numbers to take stock of how you feel about doing business with each company and to evaluate any red flags you encountered in your selection process. If significant prices variations in the bids remain, find out why. They could be due to a misunderstanding about what you require. In the final analysis, the contractor you hire should be the one you’re confident will best help you achieve your vision. Make sure to complete the hiring process by getting a written contract. Resist signing it until all the details are clear and complete.