How to hire a contractor for your remodel
By Jeffrey Anderson
Preparing for a home remodeling project requires a lot of planning and budgeting, but the final phase before getting started can set the tone for the entire project. The same important steps apply whether you're planning a small project like window replacement or a new roof, or something more involved like a bathroom or kitchen renovation. These key elements are hiring a contractor, understanding and signing a contract, and establishing communication guidelines for the duration of your renovation.
Finding a reliable contractor
One of the easiest ways to find a qualified contractor is by soliciting recommendations from friends and neighbors. If anyone you know has had a recent home renovation, ask them how the project went and if they're happy with the contractor. Home improvement websites that screen contractors can also be a good resource for locating experienced professionals. Once you have a list of at least three contractors the next steps can be critical:
1. Estimates. Ask each contractor to provide you with a written estimate outlining their entire scope of work and the total price for the job. All pricing from competing contractors should be for the same scope of work using similar materials to allow an accurate comparison. All permits should be included in their costs.
2. References. Even if a contractor's name came from a reliable source, you should still check references. Contact recent customers to find out how their remodeling project turned out and check for complaints at the Better Business Bureau.
3. Credentials. Any contractor doing work on your property should be properly licensed by your state and carry all required insurance. Your local building inspection office can give you information as to how much and what types of insurance are required in your state
Choosing a contractor isn't always about lowest price, paperwork, and their previous projects. If the contractors you interview all seem to check out, which do you feel you could have the best professional relationship with over the duration of your project?
Consider contracts and communication
Regardless of how many good things you've heard about the contractor you select, always insist on having a signed contract before the job begins. The contract should define:
1. Scope of work. Exactly what the contractor is expected to provide and accomplish should be spelled out in detail. It is also a good idea to include a clause that any budget increases require your approval prior to proceeding.
2. Payment terms. The total cost of the project should be itemized, and when payments are to be made should be listed. A small kitchen renovation or new siding may have just one payment at the end, but a large renovation, like a home addition, might have payments scheduled throughout the project. Always hold a substantial amount of the contract amount until all work is complete.
3. Schedule. When is the project expected to start and when should it be complete? Keep in mind that with any renovation unexpected situations can arise and delay work, but the project should be scheduled to proceed in a timely manner.
Setting up a regular weekly meeting with the contractor while the remodel is underway can be beneficial. Progress and potential problems can be discussed, allowing you and your family to be an integral part of the renovation.