Type “remodeling contractor” into Google, and you’ll be presented with the sites of hundreds of contracting firms in your area, each one claiming to be the best.
With so many choices to sift through, choosing the right contractor for your home improvement project is no small task. But making this decision is as important as it is challenging, since the success of your interior remodel will be in the hands of the contractor you choose.
So how do you choose a reliable and professional contractor who can provide the local remodeling services that you need? To help you through the process, we’ve listed six tips for choosing a remodeling contractor below.
- Take the time to interview each candidate. This one’s a given. Just as you’d carefully interview a babysitter for your kids or a personal assistant for your business, you should take the time to discuss your prospective contractor’s experience, work philosophy, and vision. In the initial interview, you should ask your contractor to provide you with a portfolio and list of previous clients and projects.
- Examine portfolios closely. Your contractor’s portfolio should have plenty of examples of projects in your area that are similar to your own. A contractor with experience in your type of home improvement project will be able to mastermind a remodel that accommodates your needs, complies with local building codes, and anticipate any complications that might arise.
When examining projects in your contractor’s portfolio, pay careful attention to the details. It is attention to little things—from carefully lined tiles to delicately installed fixtures—that distinguish a great contractor from the mediocre ones.
- Call up references and visit projects in person. While reviewing their resume is a good way to get an initial idea of your prospective contractor’s work and areas of expertise, the only way to truly get a feel for their craftsmanship and skill level is to visit their project in person. Ask your contractor to provide at least three verifiable references to past clients with projects similar to yours. Contact these references, and ask if you can do a walk-through of the remodeled area.
Also ask the references if they were happy with the length, management, and end result of the project, and whether they would use the contractor again. If possible, visit a project that is still currently under construction so you can see your contractor in action and get a better feel for the type of ship he or she runs.
- Ask about permitting. Whether you are installing outlets, knocking down a wall, or remodeling a bathroom, the vast majority of home improvement projects will require a permit. Your contractor should take care of the process of obtaining a permit for you, from drawing up permit-ready plans to submitting the necessary documents. Beware of contractors who try to convince you that you don’t need a permit—this is often a red flag that he or she is trying to cut corners.
- Ask about staffing. If your project requires any specialty work, such as plumbing, electricity, or structural engineering, you should ask your contractor who will be in charge of these jobs, whether they are staff specialist or hired subcontractors. It is important that specialty jobs are handled by experienced professionals if you want to ensure they will be done right. For example, electrical work should be installed by a licensed electrician—not a carpenter or plumber. Your contractor should also have a foreman on-site who supervises the project and is always available to answer your questions and address your concerns.
- Check licenses. In most counties, you can check the license status of a contractor with a phone call. You should also check the Better Business Bureau (for their letter grade - accreditation is not indicative of performance), disciplinary boards, and local court records for any past issues. Your contractor should be able to provide you with a copy of his or her own license, and the licenses of any major subcontractors working on the project.