You have many options when hiring a professional remodeler or renovator to complete your renovation or remodel. What questions should you ask? What’s a realistic budget? And is the potential contractor reputable? If you follow these top 10 tips for hiring a professional remodeler or renovator, you’ll be well on your way to a finished project that meets your expectations and then some.
1. Due Diligence
Research everything you can about your potential remodel or renovation project. Make a list of materials you think may be involved, any preferences you have, will permits be necessary, and your budget. Once you choose a remodeler, they’ll help you understand what is involved along with expected budget. But it’s always good to know what a faucet or granite can cost in today’s market, so research supplies.
If you are looking for all the bells and whistles on a super tight shoe string budget, you’ll need to work through those expectations a bit before being blindsided when you review your remodeler’s estimate. Also, consider timeline. If your remodeler estimates 3 weeks, keep 6 in mind just in case something unforeseen appears. Timelines and deadlines are pushed out frequently in the remodeling industry, so allow extra time so you and your contractor are less stressed.
2. Energy Efficiency or Green Standards
Many professional contractors use energy efficient appliances and practices today, so if that means a great deal to you, be sure to have the energy conscience discussion at the beginning. If you have a green imprint expectation, discuss that too. In fact, doing some research before even talking to your potential new contractor is best, then you have ideas on various options out there and costs for incorporating them.
3. Who and How Many
You should search out 3 potential good leads for a remodel or renovation contractor. Leads can come from referrals, your local chamber, home builder’s association, neighborhood hardware store, or online search query. You’ll want to take into account ratings, testimonials and feedback. Check out their website too. Do they have experience with the type of project you need completed? What does their website, project or gallery pages look like? Do you feel they are reputable?
4. What to Ask
After you have your list of 3 leads confirmed, reach out to them with a list of questions that will help you make a decision on who to meet with face to face. It’s kind of like dating – you want to get to know each of them and feel comfortable. Are they easy to get a hold of? Do they have a specialty? Are they insured? Are they licensed? How many other jobs will they have going on while doing yours? Does the contractor have financial references from suppliers or banks? You’ll want to be there for each inspection, if permitting is involved, so make sure you make the remodeler or renovator aware of that. Any contractor that says they don’t want you there, cross them off the list. If anything during your conversation makes you uneasy, cross them off the list.
Along with financial references, ask for a list of prior customer references and then call them to check up on the potential remodelers work. Ask the prior customer about the job the remodeler performed. Did they come in on budget and timeline estimated? Did they clean up any mess they made? Ask anything you think would help you make a final decision about hiring a professional remodeler or renovator to complete your project. Also, if the reference is close by and had a similar job done for them, ask to view the work. Most happy customers are delighted to show off their finished remodel or renovation.
6. Meet Face to Face
After you have a good list of potential contractors that look like they may be a good fit for you and your project, call them back and meet face to face. You’ll get a sense of their character, be able to share your project with them visually, and ask further questions you didn’t before. A contractor should be able to answer your questions satisfactorily and in a manner that puts you at ease.
7. Project Timeline and Payments
Talk about payments to expect throughout the job with your potential contractor. A 50% deposit is standard if the contractor is providing custom ordered materials and has a showroom. Your next payments will be divided amongst the delivery of materials and completion of tasks during the project. Discuss what the calendar looks like for your potential contractor. When will they be able to start your job? Expect that it will likely be at least 3 weeks or more out and will depend on how long it takes to get the materials specified. A smart contractor will never start a remodeling project until all of the materials are received.
If a contractor says he can start the next day, that might be a red flag. Make sure once the project is finished you will receive a release of lien document upon final payment, verifying that you have made payment in full and a lien cannot be placed on your property.
8. Don’t Let Price Alone Guide You
Professionals suggest throwing out your lowest bid. This contractor may be cutting corners or desperate for work. Not a good partner for you or your project. Your comfort level should play an equal or greater role in your final decision. How well the two of you communicate is very important as well. It’s better to spend a little more in budget especially when you feel comfortable and find it easy to communicate with a potential contractor.
A general rule of thumb is to get 3 estimates and accept the middle bid. It is most likely the most realistic and the best option. Always make sure each contractor is bidding the same scope of work and materials or your bids will be skewed and the comparison won’t be apples for apples.
9. Get it in Writing
Once you’ve confirmed 3 contractors to possibly commence work with, request an estimate in writing that outlines a payment schedule, timeline for work, materials and products to be used and potential start date. Make sure a detailed scope of work is included.
10. Final Contract
Once you’ve approved one estimate, require the contractor to provide you with a copy of his business insurance policy with you named as additionally insured. Insisting on a clear contract isn’t about mistrust, it’s about insuring a successful renovation. And keep in mind if a change order is added or an unforeseen issue arises, your contract may change. Make sure if any issue arises, you have a new working contract in hand so everyone stays on the same page.
Hopefully these top 10 tips for hiring a professional remodeler or renovator equip you with what you need to feel confident when searching for a professional to bring your remodel or renovation to life.
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