So, you’re ready to start a home remodel. But what to do next? You’ve saved up money, you have an idea of what you want the finished remodel to look like, and you’ve figured out which parts of the remodeling project you can’t or aren’t willing to do yourself. Now you realize you have a big decision to make: who to hire for the job?
How to choose a remodel contractor
Choosing a remodeling contractor is one of the most challenging decisions a homeowner can make. The wrong choice could lead to unexpected bills, an ugly bathroom remodel, a non-functional kitchen redesign, or work that needs to be redone and paid for again.
You want the remodel to be everything you hoped for in terms of aesthetics, safety, and functionality, and the most important factor is the remodeling contractor. Here’s how to find a contractor who can meet your needs.
1. Get Recommendations on Contractors in the Area
To find the best contractor for your situation, you’ll need to compare your options. There are dozens of remodeling contractors in Greater Seattle. Start by building a list of at least a few different local contractors who have the expertise to work on a project like yours.
Ask friends and your social media community for recommendations, read reviews on Home Advisor or Houzz, and search online for contractors who provide service near you. There is a wealth of information out there!
2. Perform Phone Interviews with Contractors
Give each contractor on your list a quick call and ask a few questions to ensure they can take on your remodeling project.
- Can they take on a construction project of your size?
- Can they give a list of previous clients as references?
- What is their relationship with their subcontractors? How long have they been working together?
A trustworthy contractor should be able to provide answers to all of these questions. You may be able to eliminate some candidates who seem less available or unreliable.
3. Compare Portfolios
Ask each of the contractors on your list to provide a portfolio of relevant remodeling and construction projects from the previous year. Many contractors will have a portfolio available on their website, although some may offer a physical portfolio instead.
Some contractors specialize in particular types of remodels. Someone with a portfolio full of stunning bathroom designs may not be the best person to help you build a new porch, outside living space or rooftop deck.
Watch out for contractors who have a portfolio with hard-to-see photos or less than ten projects. Remember that contractors only add their best work to their portfolios, so what you see shouldn’t be beneath your standards.
If a contractor doesn’t have a website or reviews, be wary. A successful remodel contractor will make it easy to get in contact with them and check out their work!
4. Check for Certifications and Insurance
Before you hire someone for a remodeling project, you need to know that they can do the job safely and within legal boundaries.
Remodel contractors should have liability insurance in case they damage your home, as well as workers’ compensation insurance. They may also need some form of certification or licenses depending on the type of project and location.
Call the licensing division in your community to find out what credentials a local home improvement contractor should have. Ask each of the contractors on your narrowed-down list for their licenses, certifications, and insurance policies. Make sure these credentials are up to date.
5. Check References & Referrals
When hiring a remodeling contractor, it’s not enough to simply ask for a list of references. You need to contact these references and hear what they have to say about the contractor. A trustworthy contractor will expect you to ask for this information, so you can eliminate anyone who is reluctant to provide a list.
The contractor should give you a list of at least ten referrals. If you see a significant time gap between references, ask the contractor about it. Time gaps may be a red flag, or they may simply mean the contractor was taking time off or recovering from an injury.
Call a few recent references as well as a few older references to verify that the contractor has a history of good work. Here are a few good questions to ask:
- How has the contractor’s remodeling work held up over time? Have they needed any repairs?
- Did the contractor stay on schedule and address problems quickly?
- Did the contractor keep the site neat?
- Did the contractor have any disputes with you or with the subcontractors?
- Were there any surprises in cost?
References will speak positively about the contractor if they had an overall good experience. If they hesitate or provide indirect answers, this may be a sign that they had a bad experience but don’t want to say anything negative. Cross out any contractors who didn’t receive good reviews from their references.
6. Visit a Finished Project
Now that you have a smaller list of candidates, it’s time to look at their work in person. Ask at least one reference from each candidate on your list whether you can see their finished project.
When visiting a finished project site, check for a good overall feel and a lack of problematic details. Here are a few red flags to watch for:
- Slanted, wavy, or swollen floors
- Crooked or cracked tiles
- Obvious seams on countertops
- Poorly laid out appliances
- Stains on the walls or ceiling
- Imperfect paint jobs
- Insufficient lighting
- Cheap materials
7. Meet In Person
At this point, you’ve eliminated any contractors who are untrustworthy or do sub-par work from your list. Now you need to make sure you can communicate effectively with the person who will be working on your project!
A good contractor will be able to answer any questions you may have. Consider their personality and make sure they seem both honest and competent. You should feel at ease with the person who will be spending hours working at your home.
8. Receive Contracting Bids
At this point, you’ll probably have 3-4 qualified contractors with a good track record on your list. It’s time to consult with the contractors about how much the project will cost.
A good contractor will ask for the blueprints of your home and a sense of what you want out of the project. Based on this information, they will be able to estimate the cost of materials and labor. In most cases, about 40% of the cost will go-to materials, 15-20% will go to profit margins, and the rest will go to overhead expenses such as labor.
Don’t assume that the lowest priced contractor is the best option. Consider the environment you’d like to create in your home and ask for details about how each contractor would complete the project. The materials and labor required for your project may vary depending on the exact quality of the work they provide. For example, a contractor who uses handmade furnishings will cost more than one who chooses prefabricated options.
If you feel that a contractor is pressuring you to sign right away, cross them off your list! A good contractor will give you at least a few days to think over the bid.
9. Finally, Hire Your Contractor
At this point, you should have all the information you need to make a decision on a contractor to complete your remodeling job. Choose one and sign their bid. Afterwards, the contractor should draft a more detailed proposal and once you’ve reviewed and signed it, your project can begin.
Ready to begin your home remodel project in Sammamish, Bellevue, or Redmond area? See all of our projects and contact us for a free estimate!