Finding the right remodeling contractor you can rely upon and trust for your home's remodeling and maintenance projects seems like a monumental task. The assignment may even seem overwhelming. After all, you are trusting one of your most prized and largest assets to a stranger. There are some simple steps you can take, however, that will eliminate much of the uncertainty.
One of the best ways to find a good reliable remodeling contractor is to ask your friends and family who have worked with remodelers in the past. They can give you good insight into how the project progressed and how they felt about the remodeling contractor who completed the project.
Another source of quality home improvement specialists is to search the membership in industry organizations such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry or the National Kitchen and Bath Association. These types of organizations set higher standards for their members. This can be a much better method than pulling a name out of the phone book. Remember that large ads in the yellow pages mean nothing more than a large monthly advertising budget. Those large ads don't necessarily identify a quality remodeling contractor (or categorize a poor one).
Many remodeling contractors specialize in certain projects. A contractor may not be able to perform your project but may be able to refer you to another quality company that can. When making a referral, a good quality remodeling contractor is putting his or her personal reputation on the line and will, most likely, refer you to a company similar to their own.
Once you've put together a list of potential remodeling contractors, contact those companies to schedule an appointment. If you must leave a message, pay attention to how long it takes the contractor to return your call. A company that doesn't return your phone call now is doubtful for the long run. If you will be interviewing multiple contractors, be sure to schedule appointments far enough apart so that they don't overlap. A remodeling contractor needs your undivided time and attention to understand the full extent of the project in order to give you an accurate estimate.
Upon meeting the contractor for the first time, pay attention to his or her people skills. Is he or she friendly, dressed well, and most of all, prepared? The contractor should be able to provide you with the essentials of doing business with his or her company: a contractor's license, business license, insurance information, references and photos of prior projects completed by his or her company are a start. Memberships in organizations such as the Better Business Bureau, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, and the local Chamber of Commerce, just to name a few, indicate professionalism and interest in the community and the industry.
Be prepared to discuss your proposed project in detail. Written notes, simple drawings and pictures from magazines and books can help the contractor to better understand your vision for the project. Pay attention here to how the contractor behaves. If he or she monopolizes the conversation with talk about himself or his company's prior projects, he or she may not be taking the time to fully understand what you want. One who asks thoughtful, probing questions to better understand your vision will gain a thorough understanding of the project. Active listening is a key prerequisite for any remodeling contractor.
Use the time between your meeting and when the contractor gets back to you with an estimate to do some research. Check with your state's licensing board, your city or county's contractor board, the Better Business Bureau, and follow up with references. You may even ask to see some projects, if possible.
The remodeling contractor should present you with a written estimate. The estimate should detail the work that is to be performed and the materials that are to be used. A detailed written estimate eliminates the possibility of misunderstandings in the future.
Here are a couple caveats about the estimate. If the remodeling contractor gives you an exact price on a fairly extensive project at the first meeting, beware. All of the project details may not be included in the estimate and you may find, once the project has begun, that you are paying for “extra work.” Likewise, if the contractor returns an estimate to you very quickly, it may be a sign that he or she does not fully understand the scope of the project. A high estimate could mean that the contractor is busy and you will pay a premium to use his or her company.
Also be suspicious of remodeling contractors who can “start tomorrow.” This is a sign that they have no other work and may be desperate. Most jobs will take at least a few days to gather materials and plan the job, longer for more involved jobs or jobs with special order materials.
Once you've done your homework, it's time to make a decision. Sit down with all of the decision makers and, for each remodeling contractor, discuss the positives and the negatives. Look for the contractor who is the best fit for both you and your project. You should pretty quickly find your answer.
Finding a quality remodeling contractor will take some time, patience, and work on your part but it is worth the effort. A good quality remodeling contractor will help you to improve your greatest asset – your home.