I knew I was a grown up when all I wanted for Christmas was a new kitchen. And I wanted it SO badly. Beyond the crowded, inefficient layout, peeling fabricated cabinets, stained laminate countertops and flooring, and outdated appliances I fantasized of a dream kitchen waiting to be revealed. Unable to sell in today’s housing market, but unable to stand the unsightly 80’s country kitchen any longer, I knew a remodel was necessary to maintain my home’s value, but felt completely intimidated by the prospect of choosing a reliable remodeling contractor. What I wanted was for a contractor to magically appear as Prince Charming might, via a Fairy Contractor or better yet, through a girlfriend…
Of course! Girlfriends – And wouldn’t you know, that is exactly what the experts recommend as a first step to choosing a remodeling contractor – request recommendations from friends who have recently completed a renovation. And this is what my girlfriends said:
- It is best to hire a general contractor if your project requires more than three subcontractors as they can free you from maintaining a work schedule, obtaining permits, resolving disputes with suppliers, and can use their leverage as a contractor for discounts on supplies.
- If you can’t find a recommended licensed contractor through friends, a directory is available through the National Association of Home Builders . You can also request recommendations from local building suppliers.
- Choose reputable, licensed contractors with a physical business address (as opposed to PO Box), website, and a person (as opposed to voicemail) answering the phone. Be sure to verify if these contractors are financially reliable and request proof that they are licensed and insured to complete the work.
- Obtain detailed written estimates (not verbal) from three contractors that include the detail of the work to be done, materials needed, labor required, estimated length of job, as well as demolition and clean-up provisions.
- Make certain each bid compares pricing for the same materials, as cheaper materials can mean lower quality. Each bid should also include all the same job specifications necessary to completing a project (such as rewiring, new water lines, or which materials will reused or replaced). The least expensive bid may not be the best bid, and may not reflect the use of lower quality materials or hidden costs.
- A good contractor will listen to you and be respectful of your budget, and will avoid “upgrades” and trying to sell you things you did not request.
- Obtain references and pictures from previous customers, verifying the contractors’ work by asking questions that determine their satisfaction with the quality, daily cleanliness, and overall timeliness of the project, as well as their personal experience in dealing with the contractor.
- Know your project plans as changing plans during a project can be expensive and time consuming. This is also a tactic for contractors who low-bid and rely on project revisions to increase their profit margin.
- Ask the remodeler how much the project will add to the home’s value and be certain to attain additional insurance from your provider. Also be sure to verify what your homeowners insurance will cover in the event of an accident.
- Never choose a contractor who uses hard sell or scare tactics.
Once you have evaluated the bids and chosen a contractor, it is critical to negotiate a fair and comprehensive project. A contract should detail all aspects of a project, minimizing misunderstandings and should include:
- Contractor’s name and address, license number, proof of liability insurance and workers’ compensation
- Job Timetable with start and finish dates and sequential schedule of construction tasks
- Bid Price & Payment Schedule – An initial deposit is reasonable (unless custom orders are being made) with schedule of payments as stages of the work is completed and final payment withheld until you have obtained signed mechanic’s-lien waivers or releases from all subcontractors and suppliers (receipts acknowledging payment for materials/services and absolving you from third-party claims on your property in the event that you pay the contractor but the contractor doesn’t pay subcontractors or suppliers)
- Names of subcontractors
- Detailed scope of work to be completed & Site Plan
- Demolition and clean-up provisions
- Materials needed – Specify materials and brand names of all products, appliances, and fixtures used in the project
- Agreement to resolve problems that arise during the scope of the work instead of afterwards (ie. Damage resulting from construction)
- The contractor should hold the burden of obtaining building permits and the liability for meeting the building codes
- A change order clause, specified close-out procedure, dispute resolution clause, limited warranty, and a waiver of lien if subcontractors are not paid by contractor.
And then wait for that kitchen, bathroom, addition, remodel and more to come true.
Article written by new team member, Katie Golloher. A contractor that my husband and I used recently was Tom Murphy from Murphy Custom Builders and we highly recomment him (Christy).