How to hire a contractor for your remodel
If you’ve ever purchased a new white vessel sink or clawfoot tub, you know just how pricey quality fixtures can be. Considering that, it’s easy to imagine how much full-scale kitchen and bathroom remodels cost. In fact, it’s hard to completely overhaul either of these rooms for under $5,000, and full renovations often end up costing $15,000 or more. One of the more difficult parts about investing so much money in a remodel is that, more often than not, homeowners have to hire contractors to take care of the project for them. Can you imagine placing $15,000 in someone else’s hands and trusting them to do a satisfactory job? For large-scale projects like these, hiring a contractor is not just about choosing the first name you see online; it takes spending time to research, check out your options and make sure you’re hiring someone trustworthy who has ample experience. Here’s a guide for hiring a contractor for your kitchen or bathroom remodel:
Do your research
The first step toward hiring a contractor is doing a bit of research about the options in your area. One of the best ways to come up with a few strong candidates is to talk to any friends, neighbors or family members who live near you and have recently gone through a similar project. Ask who they hired and what they did or didn’t like about the person. You’ll be able to trust those opinions and first-hand experiences of your friends. Next, do a search online for the type of contractor you’re interested in hiring. Peruse online reviews, testimonials and any other information you can find until you have five or six potential candidates you feel confident in.
“Hold preliminary phone interviews to narrow your selection of potential contractors.”
Hold several interviews
It’s a good idea to hold preliminary phone interviews to narrow your selection down to about three people before meeting anyone face-to-face. During your phone calls, ask more general questions, including about their experience with projects similar to yours (medium-sized kitchens, for instance). Discuss prices without being too specific (you’ll be asking for bids later) and ask about how much of the job they’ll allow you to take care of yourself. Some contractors let homeowners take care of some parts of the project, including demolition and tile work, while others prefer to handle everything themselves.
You also want to make sure your candidates have the required insurance and licensure in your particular state. General contractors should be licensed and comfortable with local building codes and laws. They must carry liability insurance, as well as worker’s compensation and insurance that covers any damage to your property. If they aren’t insured, you could find yourself covering damages or injuries yourself, or even potentially being liable for a lawsuit.
There are a few places you can check to make sure a contractor is trustworthy and honest. First, call the Better Business Bureau to see what each contractor’s rating is. Then, check the local and municipal court records in your area for any lawsuits they’re currently involved in. If they have several lawsuits filed against them, they’re likely not your best bet. Finally, ask for a reference from their banks.
Check referrals and past work
After narrowing down to three potential contractors, it’s vital to ask for references who you can call. The references that will be most helpful for you are those who worked with the contractor on a similar project within the past year (or as recently as possible). Ask them how happy they are with the final product, as well as how easy or difficult it was to work with the contractor during the remodel. If possible, see if you can visit an in-progress renovation to get an idea of how it’s going.
Have fixtures picked out beforehand to get a more accurate bid.
Have your remaining contractors put together bids, including how much the project will cost and how long it will take. To ensure the bids you get represent the same amount of work, try to have as many of the appliances and materials you’ll be using picked out beforehand. For any fixture or appliance you haven’t chosen yet, your contractors will include what are called “allowances,” or an estimate of how much those aspects of the renovation will cost. This could affect the accuracy of their total bid. Remember that you shouldn’t decide on a contractor only based on who will do the work the most cheaply. Choose the person who you trust the most and feel you will work best with.
Sign a contract
Never begin working with a general contractor without first signing a contract. You should have the payment plan and timeline for your renovations worked out and written into a contract, as well as exactly what you expect the contractor to take care of. This document should be signed by both of you so that you’re both protected later on.