People buy around 5.5 million homes annually. It’s a happy moment in most people’s lives. Yet, it can come with some headaches.
Most home purchases also require some, or even a lot, of renovations. Sometimes the bathroom tile is out of step with current trends or you prefer wood flooring. If you’re a big fan of oak and stainless steel, the kitchen may need a complete revamp.
Unless you’re a very gifted DIYer, these kinds of remodeling projects usually need the services of pro contractors. That leaves you with an important question. How do you pick the right contractors?
Keep reading for some key tips for picking the best contractors to help you with your remodeling.
1) Figure Out the Project Details and Budget
Before you worry about picking the right contractor, you need a firm idea of what you want done. The more specific details you give the contractors, the more accurate their estimates will prove.
You also need a clear picture of your budget. Decide ahead of time on your financial hard cap. Knowing what you can afford makes it easier to say yes or no to suggestions.
It’s also a good idea to work out smaller versions of your plans. You might want both a bathroom and kitchen remodel, but it might cost more than you can spend at the moment.
Is the renovation a quality of life improvement or aimed at a better ROI when you sell? What matters more to you right now? If you must scale down, go with the one that matters more.
2) Get Recommendations
Ask around in your social network for the names of good general contractors. Assuming you’re new in an area, you’ll probably know a couple people who got work done on their homes. Also, do your own research on review websites.
Check out the websites of the best 3 or 4 and look for license numbers and insurance information. At the very least, they should carry property damage and liability insurance.
3) Call Them Up
Different contractors specialize in different types of work. Some may focus on smaller remodeling projects while others focus on larger projects, like remodeling an entire house.
Chat with them about your project. Describe the general size and details of the project. Also, discuss your preferred timetable for completing the project.
Any of these factors can make it a non-starter for a general contractor. Their schedule might not allow it. The project might not prove big enough.
4) Ask About Subcontractors
General contractors don’t do all of the work on any given project. They dole out some of the work to licensed specialists.
In a bathroom remodel, for example, they’ll bring in a licensed plumber if there are any changes to the pipes. In a kitchen remodel, the contractor might use a service like this company for replacing any old wiring.
Make sure the contractor has worked with the subcontractors on prior projects. If they plan on using a new subcontractor, ask them why they selected the new subcontractor.
5) Check Their References
You should ask for both project and financial references from the contractors on your list. The project references will give you insight into how the contractors operate on site. The financial references will give you a clear picture of the contractor’s financial health.
Since contractor’s typically don’t make a profit until the end of the job, you don’t want one on shaky financial ground. If they fold up the business before wrapping up the job, you get stuck with a half-finished project.
6) Meet in Person
The in-person meeting is all about interpersonal dynamics. If you or your significant other can’t stand one of the contractors, they must come off the list. Otherwise, that person’s presence in your home will act as an ongoing annoyance.
All other things being equal, you should pick the contractor that makes everyone comfortable. Don’t ignore your intuitions here. Even if you can’t put your finger on the exact problem, don’t pick anyone who makes you uncomfortable.
7) Solicit Multiple Bids
The total cost isn’t everything, but it is a factor. You want a clear picture of how much the project will run you. Multiple bids provide you with a better overview of the expected cost.
8) Selecting a Bid
The first thing you should watch out for are bids that veer very high or very low. That’s usually a sign that something is off with a company. Reliable bids should all fall into a similar range.
The bids should also break down the costs into clear sections. You should see a list of the materials they plan to use and their costs. You should also see information about labor costs and the total cost.
Depending on the contractor’s thoroughness, you might also see a timeline for completing the project.
Consider the cost, your impressions of the contractors, and make a final choice.
9) Put It All On Paper
The days of gentleman’s agreements and handshake deals are long gone. You want all the details down on paper and in a contract. The contractor you pick will provide you with a contract for your review.
You should get a lawyer to look over the contract. In most cases, these contracts consist of boilerplate legalese with your project details spelled out. Your lawyer should spot any oddities or points of concern.
When in doubt, ask for revisions on the contract. It’s your primary legal protection if anything goes wrong down.
Parting Thoughts on Picking Contractors for Your Home Improvement Project
Picking the right contractor out of the available contractor can prove something of a chore.
You must get referrals and sift through references. Then there are the phone calls and in-person meetings.
Yes, it may feel tedious. You want your renovations done as soon as possible. Rushing the selection process can leave you with substandard work or an incomplete job.
Taking the time to work through all the tips above goes a long way toward ensuring you get the best person for the job.
Thinking about expanding your home? Check out our post on amazing home addition projects.