A Guide to Remodeling and Hiring a Contractor
The difference between a wonderful remodeling experience and a seemingly never-ending nightmare often lies with the contractor. We've all heard horror stories about delays, budget explosions, and poor workmanship. However, remodeling or renovating your home doesn't have to be a nightmare - especially if you choose your contractor with care.
A little research goes a long way in choosing the right contractor(s) for you and your project. Reputation, budget accommodation, stylistic compatibility, etc., are crucial things to consider when looking to hire a contractor.
First, don't take anything on faith. Check prospective contractors' resumes, especially work history and references. Verify that they are properly licensed and insured, and contact the Better Business Bureau to see if they have any information on your potential contractor or company.
Make sure the contractor is not only experienced, but also well-versed in the kind of projects you're hoping to accomplish. A contractor with an excellent reputation for recreation rooms might not be the best choice for a formal dining room, for instance. Find out how many jobs your contractor has completed, and ask to view his or her portfolio (examples of projects completed and the kind of work the contractor has done in the past).
Most importantly, your contractor should provide multiple references - call them! Randomly select at least three references and discuss the contractor with them. Ask them whether they were satisfied with his or her work, and how they feel about the project's outcome. Ask them if the contractor had trouble staying within the budget, hiring and managing workers, providing clear and frequent communication, meeting expectations in a timely fashion, etc. In short, find out if those references would hire this contractor again, and why.
Once you've successfully vetted your prospective contractors and chosen the one best suited for your project, it's time to be just as careful in drawing up a contract with your new contractor. The contract should be clear, detailed, and specific. Contract details should include: budget and timeline expectations; materials to be used; scope of the work; payment schedule (usually based on progress made); etc. Make sure all parties understand and agree to the contract. This not only makes your expectations clear to the contractor (and sub-contractors), but also protects you in case the project is unacceptably delayed or otherwise deviates from the original plan.
Remodeling, renovating, or otherwise improving your home (perhaps even building a new home) should be an exciting, rewarding experience. All construction and home improvement projects have the potential for unexpected problems, but the best way to keep such problems to a minimum and actually enjoy your project is to take care when choosing a contractor and establishing a contract with him or her. Remember: your contractor can be your worst nightmare or your best friend - it's up to you!