Why is it so hard to find a good contractor? It’s a common question – and the answer can be found just by boosting your knowledge of the ins and outs of the remodeling industry. These 8 tips for hiring a remodeler can give you the insider knowledge you need to make the right choice for your next project.
When you’re considering renovating your home, nothing is more important than choosing the right company to get the job done. We’ve all heard nightmare stories of scheduling issues, builds that go on forever, and deadlines that fly by while the money keeps piling up. Don’t be another victim of bad management! So, how do you choose the right remodeler for your home?
A design-build firm specializes in the whole process of a build – from the dream to the design, and through the final construction. You work directly with an in-house architect who designs structural changes to the exterior and interior of your home. Additions, layout changes, even building a whole home from the ground up – the architect and design team bring your vision to life. Interior Designers or solo Architects only offer design services and then outsource the rest of the build. This means that even if you have a great relationship with the designer, you don’t know who or what you’re getting into once the project transitions into construction. With a design-build firm, the whole team works as one coordinated unit, ensuring that the process goes forward without any hiccups. The result is a project finished on time with clear communication and a solid process.
Next, call up and ask for a phone, Zoom, or in-person interview. A company that deserves your business should be quick to respond and eager to help. Remember, these people will be in your life and in your home for months. It’s important to trust and get along with the team members. Your interactions need to be honest, respectful, and make you excited about the possibilities that await you and your home. At Red House, we use a convenient App to communicate with our clients for daily log, selection choices, and scheduling updates. Your dedicated project manager will meet with you regularly to answer all of your important questions.
Customers review remodelers online just like everything else these days. Some reputable review platforms for home design and craftsmen are Houzz and Guild Quality. Make sure the firm you pick has many top-rated reviews from these independent and verified sources. Awards can help a company stand out too. Design awards like the Contractor of the Year (CotY) Award from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), the Chrysalis Award for Excellence in Remodeling, and of course Houzz, the industry standard, has annual Customer Service and Design awards. Furthermore, a reputable firm should have references ready to share from past clients. In your initial interview, if the references aren’t offered, ask for a list. Do your due diligence and contact the homeowners, especially if they have a project that is similar to your own.
This is the fun part! Most design/build firms will have their portfolios online – either on their own website, social media, or on Houzz. Look through the photos and save the ones you like (you can easily create your own ideabook directly from design portfolios on Houzz). According to Consumer Affairs:
“Look out for a portfolio with too few projects, no photos before the remodel or grainy, hard-to-see images of the final product. Also, keep in mind that home improvement contractors only include their best work in their portfolios. If any completed project is not up to your standards, it’s likely their average work is even worse. Take that person’s name off your list.”
A firm that is too big might not offer you the quality of personalized service that you need. Moreover, a small company might not have the resources at their disposal to do large-scale remodels. A medium-sized, boutique firm is a perfect choice. Ask how many projects they take on at one time during your initial interview. Make sure that your home will be a priority.
It is tempting to shop around for the best deal. With so many options available online, you can always find something that promises temptingly low prices – but there is a cost. According to This Old House, “Throw out the lowball bid. This contractor is probably cutting corners or, worse, desperate for work.”
Be realistic about what you want and the costs that will be involved. A good design/build firm will offer an itemized cost list so you can see where the money is going and why. This can save you from hidden costs or highlight areas where you can save. It’s better to spend more to get a designer or contractor that will get the job done right and on time – so you won’t have bigger problems down the road.
The company you work with should have a clear process for getting the job done. No missed meetings, phone tag, or sketches on the back of a cocktail napkin. Look for a firm that has a schedule in place – a process for the design phase and the build phase. They should offer plans, blueprints, 3D renderings, and mood boards. The more planning that is done in the beginning, the less confusion there will be down the line. Milestone payments evenly spaced over the duration of the project make for an easy and honest payment schedule. Plus, the best firms offer software that gives you a one-stop hub for all of your project information. Daily logs, messaging, invoices, selections – every element of your design/build all in one easy to access app.
Finally, these are the important questions that get to the nitty-gritty: are there Certified Remodelers, Certified Lead Carpenters, and licensed architects on the team? Does the company hold professional affiliations like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry or The RI Builders Association? Is the company insured? This will protect you from liability if there is an accident at your home. Ask about securing permits upfront and do not trust a contractor that says they do not need them. Paperwork and red tape are not always fun but they will ensure that the job is done up to code.