Things to Know About Remodeling Contractors and Contracts

A General Contractor or Do-it-yourself

You love your house, but you hate your kitchen - or your bathroom or your family room - you get the idea!  Chances are you can find a remodeling contractor who specializes in whichever room you're looking to renovate, but it can still involve a number of specialists to bring it all to fruition. You can hire a general contractor (GC) to oversee and coordinate the work, or you can act as your own GC and find and schedule the various professionals you need. You can often save some money by acting on your own, but you may not want to spend the time and energy needed to pull it all togther, especially if it's a large or involved project.  Are you "handy" and thinking of tackling at least part of the project yourself?  You might want to rethink that decision.  Some jobs may take you a lot longer than they would take a pro, so the savings may not be worth it.  And keep in mind that some tasks can be dangerous if you're not licensed and experienced.  A gas leak or electrical shock are not worth saving a few dollars!

Getting estimates

It’s always a good idea to get at least three estimates before hiring a contractor.   A good way to find a good contractor is to ask for recommendations from friends, neighbors or family members who have had similar work done.  You can also reach out to Facebook Moms group pages for contractor suggestions and reviews by members of your community.  Social Media posters aren't shy about giving their opinions! Be sure to ask for and actually verify references from previous kitchen remodeling jobs. Call their referrals and ask about their projects. Were they happy with their remodels? Were there any delays or hiccups along the way? How well did the contractor, and his or her employees or subcontractors communicate? Did they clean up the job site daily?

Meeting with contractors

When interviewing contractors, be sure to ask about their experience in this particular remodeling specialty.  Ask if they use subcontractors or if they have in-house employees to do the work.  Keep in mind that some big box stores hire independent contractors to do installations, so you may not get the same crew your neighbor did when using the same store.  If you're using sketches, 3D models or CAD designs, be sure to share them with each contractor you interview, to be sure you're all on the same page and will be able to closing compare estimates.

And always, always be sure to ask for proof of a company’s insurance and bonding, as well as their contractor or trade license if required, and ask if they pull permits prior to doing a job.  You don't want to be stuck trying to get past work permitted when you go to sell your house in the future.

The contract

A contract should incude as many details as possible, including information about who is responsible for pulling permits, filing for inspections, arranging for utilities to be moved, etc.  Along wtih this information, the contract should spell out a detailed project description, materials and brands of products to be used and amounts and dates of payments to be made to the contractor.  Warranties and guarantees for craftsmanship and the final product should also be clearly defined. This provides you with a remedy to have repairs made if portions of the remodeling project are incomplete, done incorrectly or finished poorly. Be sure to include a lien waiver for suppliers and subcontractors in case the contractor fails to pay his vendors or workers.  Once work is completed satisfactorily you can sign a release.  These are just suggestions, of course, and you will want to look at your contract to be sure it includes everything you need to protect yourself and to meet local guidelines.