What Does a Good Remodeling Contractor Look Like?
Whether you are considering remodeling your home simply to add value and function while keeping a potential future sale in mind or you have specific tasks that need to be completed before putting the home on the market for sale, for many jobs you are really going to need to seek out and hire a good contractor. But exactly how do you go about doing that?
You do a Google search for a kitchen remodeling contractor in your area and lo and behold dozens of results pop up, all in reasonably close proximity to your home. Now what? How do you even begin to start? Let’s take it step by step:
Most people’s first point of contact these days with almost any company is their website. Do not be fooled though. While a nice looking website can be a good sign you should not be blinded by a very fancy one. Being able to build a nice website (or to pay to have one built) does not mean that you can build a great kitchen!
There are some things that you should be looking for though. Clear contact information should be prominently displayed and not just a contact form either, a real telephone number and a real address should be easy to find. If a remodeling contractor does not list such things that should be a red flag.
Not all contractors are jacks of all trades. Some are far better at certain projects than they are others. During your first discussions you need to determine what their level of experience is with your specific project. For example, a company may be able to show you dozens of examples of their great kitchen remodels but how does that skill translate to the deck you are hoping to add to your home before the summer comes?
The Human Touch
Letting strangers spend days, weeks, or even months come and go in your home is a big leap of faith. If a contractor is not willing to arrange a face to face meeting then even more alarm bells should start going off in your head. You are also entitled to ask questions about why the company is in business. It may sound a little silly at first, but if a contractor is not passionate about what they do – and about great customer service – then they are simply not going to do the best job possible.
Any good craftsman is proud of their work and that is especially true of any home remodeling contractor. Most great remodeling contractors will want to flood you with examples of their great work, sometimes until you beg them to stop. That is not a bad thing though, it means they are proud of what they do and will carry that passion onto your project.
The Legal Stuff
Another huge headache for a homeowner is an improperly insured contractor. Hiring a contractor who is not properly insured can be more of a problem than you might think. Contractors of any kind – but especially remodeling and renovation contractors – need to carry two types of insurance; liability and worker’s compensation.
For you, as a homeowner, this protects you in two ways. Liability insurance will kick in in the event the contractor causes damage to your home. For example, what if, during a bathroom remodel something goes wrong and the bathtub goes crashing through the floor? It would be very, very unlikely that your homeowner’s insurance will cover you.
Worker’s comp is important to protect you from being liable if a worker is injured while on your property undertaking the job as specified. Your own homeowner’s insurance policy may help cover some of the costs to pay that worker’s claim but that will usually result in a hike in your rates and make it harder for you to get a new policy in the future. Before you sign anything, ask the contractor about these issues.
A Listening Ear
You may not have the technical know-how to pull of your desired home improvement project but you do know what you want and that usually is not exactly the same thing as your neighbour, and the people down the street have.
Some companies, usually the larger ones actually, will offer you set options for standard remodels. You can have A,B,C (or maybe even D) floorplan with X,Y,Z counters, flooring and cabinets. Any deviations are considered ‘custom’ and will cost you double the price.
That is not the way a home remodeling project should work. Look for a contractor who will listen to your vision and then tell you how they can execute it, explaining any challenges they foresee in getting you exactly what you want.
An All Seeing Eye
There is more to most remodeling projects than just the technical aspects of laying the floor in bathroom or installing the cabinets in the kitchen. Most people are remodeling for form and function and so how a remodel looks when all is said and done is very important as well. Ask the remodeling contractor you are considering what their interior design experience consists of as well. Good contractors will either have a qualified individual on staff or they will have a solid working relationship with a reliable and trusted associate who can help ensure that all of the design bases are covered as well as the technical ones.
Get it All in Writing
After you have made your decision on just which contractor you want to use make sure that there is not only a written contract but a written plan of action as well. In the course of a larger remodeling project this may need to be changed over time – as in ‘oops I do prefer blue over white for my ceramic tile after all’ and other such changes – and for the protection of both parties these requests should be made in writing as well, rather than simply casually mentioned to the foreman of the crew when they show up for work one morning.