You’ve finally made the decision to update your home. Maybe you just want a remodeled kitchen, or a bathroom makeover. Perhaps you’ve bought a new house that needs a brand new look. Your home is where you spend the majority of your time, and it’s important to you. You want a home you are proud of, can relax in, and meets all of your functional needs.
The next step after this important and exciting decision is to find the right general contractor to handle your home remodeling. There are hundreds of contractors to choose from, so the process of choosing can be overwhelming. The mere act of remodeling brings with it a certain level of stress and chaos. And making a bad decision on who you hire can be financially, emotionally and mentally taxing.
To make this decision making process easier for you, here are nine elements to look for when choosing the right contractor for your project.
Look for Personality
The general contractor you hire is going to be working with you for weeks, and sometimes months, depending on the size of your project. It is important that you like the contractor. Does your personality mesh well with your contractor’s personality? Do you get a good vibe when you talk with him or her? Just like a good doctor has great bedside manner, a good contractor will make you feel warm, safe and taken care of.
Look for Patience and Flexibility
It is rare that a remodeling project goes completely smooth from beginning to end. In the middle of the project, you might want to make changes. Mistakes might happen. You want a general contractor that is flexible and can roll with whatever is thrown his or her way. The last thing you want is a general contractor that gets irritated with you because you’ve changed your mind about paint color, or you are stuck choosing the right tile for your kitchen. Patience and flexibility in your general contractor will help ease your stress, and make the project more enjoyable for you.
Look for Quality
This is your home. You want it to look great. Even if you have to pay a little extra, it is worth it to make quality a priority. Not only should the finished product look fantastic, the process of getting there should be top notch as well. Are the workers protecting your home? Do they clean up after themselves? Is your general contractor overseeing the workers and making sure all the tiny details are addressed? If you are not completely happy with the work at the end of the project, your general contractor should stand behind his or her work 100%, and fix the problem, no questions asked. Whatever you do, don’t compromise on quality.
Look for Price Consciousness
I am not recommending that you look for the cheapest contractor. There will be lots of contractors who will low ball the price to get the job. Some will submit an original estimate at a low cost, but then charge a lot of extra money with change orders. All too often, selecting a cheap contractor results in headaches, low quality, and sometimes contractors who will walk off the job because they’ve run out of money. At the same time, you don’t want a contractor who takes advantage of you financially. General contractors are busy right now, and they will often price high because they don’t have time to take on a new job. Look for a contractor that is moderately priced. You want a contractor that keeps your budget in mind, and will coach you on what’s financially smart and feasible. An honest contractor who has your best interest in mind will treat you fairly when it comes to money.
Look for Experience
You may have all sorts of ideas about how you want things handled for your remodel project, but chances are you aren’t the expert in the construction trades. But your general contractor should be. A good general contractor will listen to what’s important to you, and will do everything he or she can to accommodate your needs. However, a good general contractor will also have experience with what works and what doesn’t work. He or she should be able to advise you when something you’ve suggested is not going to work, or is not advisable. A good contractor can give you options on how best to handle your unique project. He or she should be knowledgeable about the best places to purchase materials, and where and when you can cut corners to save money. Look for a contractor that has good, solid experience in the project you are hiring for.
Look for Availability and Reliability
Inquire up front about the lead time of the general contractors you are interviewing. Look for a general contractor that is available to answer your questions, and respond to your requests in a timely manner. Pay attention to how long it takes for them to return calls, set up an appointment to meet with you, or provide you with an estimate. This says a lot about their time constraints. Ask for honest commitments from a contractor as to how long the project will take, and when the project can begin. Talk to your general contractor about the reliability of his or her subcontractors. Will they show up on time? Does the contractor have backups if her personnel are unavailable? Availability and reliability will keep your project moving at a pace you are comfortable with.
Look for Licenses and Insurance
An unlicensed contractor might be cheaper, but it is not worth the headaches or potential legal problems to settle with an unlicensed contractor. Make sure the contractor you hire is licensed in the trades you need. Ensure he or she is bonded and insured. Do business on the up and up. Avoid paying cash under the table because you want to save money. When you involve yourself with uninsured and unlicensed individuals or workers who only accept cash, you leave yourself with no legal recourse should something go wrong. Protect your assets and your home by doing business with a legitimate contractor.
Look for Options
In my opinion, three is the magic number. Unless you have a great recommendation from someone you trust, interview three different general contractors before making your decision. Evaluate each of these individuals on all the factors above. Do your homework so you feel comfortable with who you choose. If it’s helpful, give each contractor a letter grade in each of these areas so you can find the best possible solution for your project. What you don’t want to do is overwhelm yourself with too many choices, so stop at three. You can run yourself crazy trying to find a perfect contractor, or the cheapest one. A good contractor will do a great job for you.
Look for References
A good contractor can provide you with references that will speak highly of his or her work. Don’t skip this step. Talk to customers who have done business with this contractor. Ask questions about all the factors I’ve just discussed. Look for pictures of the contractor’s finished projects, or better yet, visit a happy customer’s home. Keep an open mind when reading social media references. Although some of them may be very telling of a contractor’s work, others may be misleading if you don’t know the whole story. If you can get a personal recommendation from a friend or family member, that’s awesome. But ultimately, you will be the one working with the contractor, so be thorough when searching, and trust your judgment.
Happy home remodeling!
Lori Lear is a freelance writer and virtual office manager for JC Young Construction Inc. JC Young Construction specializes in residential and commercial remodels and additions in the San Francisco Bay Area. To learn more about JC Young Construction, visit www.jcyounginc.com.
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