Remodeling your home can be a huge undertaking, but approaching it from the right direction and selecting the right contractor for the job will determine the final outcome of your project. Research is your best tool, so utilize it wisely before you even start your remodeling job. Finding the right contractor to do your job is probably the most important thing you can research.
Choosing the right contractor.
The contractor can really make or break your home remodeling project. The truth is that there are many contractors out there, and a lot of good craftsmen. A quick search on Google for a home remodeling contractor in your area will result in hundreds of results. At first you'll probably be overwhelmed, but after doing some research you'll be surprised how easy it is to narrow them down to just a handy.
Make sure the contractor is Licensed, bonded and insured
First and foremost, make sure the contractor is legal. You can get that information directly from the contractor. If not, most states will provide this information through the State Contractor Board website. If you live in California, then check out the CSLB site. Just search by the company name or their license number. Hiring a contractor that is not licensed or insured can create a world of trouble for you in case there's an accident at your house. So protect yourself by hiring one holding all the proper documents.
Contractor with good reputation.
Get references, search online and ask for portfolio. You usually do not want to have a test subject for a contractor that has never completed a sizable job like yours. There's a whole different set of skills that go into remodeling a home and general carpentry or handyman services. So pick a contractor that is familiar with large remodeling projects and with a portfolio and references to back it up.
Beware of bad contractors.
Finding a contractor is a scary proposition. You're about to invest a lot of money into your home, and trusting just anyone can be a hard proposition. Contractors as a whole do not have a good reputation on the street, which is very shameful, because there are a lot of really good and honest contractors out there. But if you do some research it's really easy to spot the bad contractor from the good.
Low bids end up high in the end.
Usually the largest red flag is a bid that is significantly lower bid than other others. There are usually two causes of this. One is that the contractor is a change order artist, meaning that he purposely omits things in a bid or intentional under-estimates the costs. For instance, he'll give you an unrealistic allowance for counter tops, and later you find out that the counters you want are much more expensive, so you foot the difference. Or you'll find that the permission for the floor is for linoleum when you wanted or requested hardwoods.
Second reason for a low bid is a desperate contractor. A contractor that has not received a job in a while. He'll underbid the competition just so he can stay busy. These jobs usually end up with the contractor going out of business halfway through the job, and a lawsuit to follow. You do not want to be in that position.
Beware of contractors that sub-contracts your project.
In this case, the bid may not be lower, sometimes more expensive, but the contractor has no crew. He intents to use a subcontractor to complete your job at a low cost while picking a premium from you. So make sure the contractor does have a sizable crew, who are employees of the company. Your money will go much further with a company that actually does the work.
Not every 'bad' contractor is a 'bad' contractor. Sometimes he's just not a good fit for your project, so please do not give all contractors a hard time.
Design and Build contractors.
You might find a contractor that offers design and build services. These in my opinion are the best contractors. They have designers or interior architects on staff that will take care of the design process. Often times they can provide the same services as an architect, but at a much lower price.
A touch of a designer can give your home that “straight out of magazine” look and feel that will wow your guests for years to come.