They say change is good, but when it comes to a home renovation, it can also be intimidating. If you don’t do the proper planning, a home remodel can quickly go off the rails in terms of time and budget, making you wonder just what you were thinking when you decided to install a new roof or replace your worn siding.
One of the biggest mistakes homeowners make when they decide to remodel is cutting corners on their contractor. As with most things in life, you truly do get what you pay for when it comes to home renovation professionals.
At the end of the day, everyone wants to drive up to their dream home. By working with a reliable, experienced contractor, you can ensure your home renovation project stays firmly out of nightmare territory.
So how do you know a contractor is right for the job — and where should you even begin your search? Here are 20 tips for finding a contractor for your home remodel.
1. Clearly Define Your Home Remodeling Project
Before you begin reaching out to contractors, know what type of work you would like performed. This may sound obvious, but many homeowners attempt to hire a single contractor to perform a wide variety of renovations — something that generally isn’t a good idea.
Just as you probably wouldn’t see a cardiologist for a broken arm, you also shouldn’t use an interior home renovation company to install a new roof. Your home is a complicated assembly of numerous moving parts, from the plumbing to the electrical system.
As you move through your home remodel, decide which projects are highest on your priority list and target contractors who specialize in those types of jobs. You’ll be more likely to find experts this way, and you will end up much happier with the quality of the work.
2. Ask Homeowners in Your Neighborhood
It’s always a good idea to ask others for references. You may naturally turn to friends and family members, but why not ask a few neighbors, too? Did the family down the street just replace their home’s windows? If the end result looks great, ask them who did the work and if they’re happy with the final product. Take a drive around your neighborhood and look for homes that have undergone recent upgrades. Most homeowners are happy to share their opinion of contractors, especially if they’re pleased with the project.
3. Look at Online Reviews
The internet has revolutionized the way consumers shop for products and services, with 81 percent of people researching online before they buy. Sites like GuildQuality provide consumers with independent, third-party reviews from real homeowners who have used a contractor’s services.
Look online to get an idea of what other people have to say about a contractor. You’ll be able to see a wide range of opinions from homeowners willing to speak up about the quality of the labor, materials and overall workmanship.
4. Don’t Set a Minimum (or Maximum) Number of Estimates
When you’re looking for a contractor for any type of home improvement project, one of the first things you’ll hear is “get three estimates.” The problem with limiting yourself to three is that you really can’t be sure you’re getting a good representation of the options available.
The better choice is to get as many estimates as it takes for you to feel like you’re making a comfortable, informed decision about a contractor. If that happens to be the first one you meet with, great! If not, continue on until you find a highly qualified contractor that feels like the perfect match for your project.
5. Busy Can Be a Good Sign
When you’re ready to say “go” on a home remodel, it’s easy to go with the first contractor with an opening in their schedule. After all, you’re ready to get started, and you want the job done as soon as possible.
However, a contractor with a lot of time on their hands isn’t always a good sign. A reputable, experienced contractor is likely to be in high demand, which means you might have to wait a few weeks or even a couple months to get on their schedule. When you consider that you’re making a significant investment in your home, however, isn’t it worth waiting for a contractor you trust to do an exceptional job?
6. Trust Your Instincts
There is something to be said for “going with your gut.” You and your contractor — and the construction crew — are going to interact at various points, from the contract drafting and negotiation process to the completion of the work on your home.
Make sure you have a good rapport with the contractor. If you get a bad feeling from the start, it could be an indication that the project isn’t going to end up with a good result.
7. Go with a Pro
The do-it-yourself industry has become increasingly popular in recent years, and it has inspired everyday people to try their hands at complicated projects best left to the professionals. The problem for the average homeowner is that it’s not always easy to distinguish between true pros and individuals who perform weekend jobs on the side.
This is where it’s important to spend time talking to potential contractors. Ask questions and don’t be afraid to demand proof of the contractor’s experience and credentials. An experienced contractor will expect this and will be happy to provide the information you need to feel confident about putting your home in their hands.
8. Ask How Long the Contractor Has Been in Business
You don’t have to look hard to find horror stories from homeowners who have been dissatisfied with a contractor’s work, only to end up unsuccessfully chasing the contractor through the court system in an effort to recoup money for an incomplete or unsatisfactory job. Unfortunately, it’s relatively easy for a small company to close shop when a lawsuit threatens, only to open up under a new name a few months down the road.
The risk of encountering this type of issue decreases significantly when you work with a contractor that has been in business for several years or even decades. A contractor with an established reputation and a long history of verified reviews isn’t going to disappear in the night.
9. Review Past Jobs
Take a look at the work the contractor has performed in the past. This is another area where the internet has given homeowners incredibly useful tools for researching potential contractors. Most experienced contractors have a photo gallery of their recent projects on their websites. Do you like what you see? Chances are, the contractor can deliver the same results for your home.
10. Check the BBB and Trade Organizations
Is the contractor an accredited business with the Better Business Bureau? Check its ratings online, as well as its status with home construction and renovation trade organizations and publications, such as GuildQuality and Qualified Remodeler Magazine.
11. Verify Insurance, Licensing and Permits
The contractor should be able to provide you with proof that it has the proper licenses to perform home renovation work in your community. It should also possess the required insurance to cover its workers in the event someone is injured while performing work on your property, and it should have all required permits through your local government before beginning the job.
12. Ask about Check-ins
A home remodel is not a “set it and forget it” type of project. Ask how often the contractor will check in with you as the work progresses. Ideally, the contractor should have someone in the office specifically assigned to act as a liaison between you and the crew performing the work. When you have questions, you should know exactly which person to call for answers and guidance.
13. Get It in Writing
It goes without saying that every aspect of your project should be reduced to writing. Without a contract, it’s your word against the contractor’s in the event of a dispute about the labor, materials or the quality of the work.
An experienced and reputable contractor will offer you a comprehensive contract that clearly explains all the terms, from the financing to what happens if you are unhappy with the work.
14. Price Isn’t Everything
If you’re like most people, your home remodel must fit within a certain budget. Although it’s perfectly normal for price to be a prominent factor in your choice of contractor, it shouldn’t be the only factor — or even the most important one.
An exterior home renovation, such as new doors or siding, is a major investment that will last for decades. If you’re installing a new roof, it should last for a lifetime. If you opt for the cheapest price at the expense of quality, however, you will almost certainly end up paying for a replacement much sooner than you should. In the long run, this will add to your cost and likely decrease your property’s value.
15. Be Specific about Financing
You should know exactly how much you’re paying — and when you’re paying it — before a single hammer flies on your home remodel job. It’s especially important to be wary about contractors that require you to pay in full before any work begins. You wouldn’t pay for a new car without taking it for a test drive, and you wouldn’t purchase a new wardrobe sight unseen. Why should something as important as a home renovation be any different?
At Nu Look Home Design, we offer our Peace of Mind Financing on every job, which means our customers pay nothing until the job is totally complete and finished to their satisfaction. We believe you shouldn’t have to pay for something unless you’re 100% happy with it, and we want you to feel confident about the work we’re performing.
16. Know Exactly Who Is Doing the Work
Will the contractor you hire be the one doing the work, or will the contractor outsource your job to a subcontractor? Make sure you know exactly who will be showing up at your home prior to the first day of the job, so you feel comfortable with and confident about the individuals working on your property.
17. Ask about Materials Up Front
Understandably, you might not be an expert on shingles or siding, but that doesn’t mean you have to be in the dark about the materials being used on your home remodel. Ask your contractor to explain what types of materials it uses and why. You should also be given options for upgraded materials, as well as materials designed to be more budget-friendly.
18. Who Will Be at Your Home While Work Is Performed?
Will the contractor assign a renovation supervisor to your job? The contractor should appoint a single point of contact to be on site in case you have questions while the work is being performed.
19. Ask about the What-Ifs
Watch enough home improvement shows, and you’re guaranteed to see your fair share of unexpected — and often expensive — surprises. No matter how carefully and thoroughly you plan, it’s usually impossible to know the full conditions behind walls, underneath layers of roofing materials and below the foundation of a basement.
Expecting the unexpected should be part of any home remodel. Ask your contractor how it handles the what-if moments when they happen, and how it will affect your timeline and your budget.
20. Know What Happens If You’re Unhappy
The contractor should make sure the job is completed to your total satisfaction. In fact, the contractor should be unwilling to walk away from the job until it’s absolutely perfect.
Ask the contractor how it handles customer complaints and concerns about the quality of labor and materials. You’re paying for both a product and a service — the contractor should be 100% committed to doing the job the correct way, and it should have a plan in place to address any issues that come up along the way.
Call Nu Look Home Design to Learn What We Can Do for Your Home
At Nu Look Home Design, we’ve been helping homeowners fall in love with their homes again for nearly 20 years. Contact us today to learn what we can do for your property.