You’ve finally decided to remodel your kitchen or add on that extra room. You’ve done your research and found 2 to 3 contractors who are licensed, if that’s required in your area, bonded, and checked some referrals. So you’re ready to pick up the phone and call. Wait a minute! Just like men and women don’t always communicate on the same wave length, contractors and the rest of us don’t use the same language. In order to make sure that you’re clear about what you want done and have the contractor understand and explain the process, you’re going to have to do a bit of homework ahead of time.
Let’s say you’re going to remodel your kitchen. You want new cabinets, counters, flooring, and appliances, maybe even a different layout. Check out some of the home decorating magazines and find pictures of the type of cabinets you want. Visit an appliance retailer and pick out the appliances you want. Make sure to note the model numbers and if they come in the color you want. Next, you can draw out what you want, or drop in at Home Depot or Lowe’s. They can print out what you want from their CAD program and if you have measurements, so much the better. Check out the flooring and counter departments and get samples of what you think you might like. Like paint chips, laminate counter top samples are available for check out, and there is usually a variety of composite, tile, or other counter top materials to choose from. Flooring samples are available as well. When you’ve decided, make note of the information on the back side of the sample – the manufacturer, the style name and number. Gather all your pictures, drawings, printouts and sample information into a useable format and make copies for each contractor you’ll be interviewing. Now, you’re ready to talk to a contractor.
It’s important to sit and down and visit with each contractor, show them what you want and the space they might be working in, so make sure you plan enough time. An hour should be enough, but depending on your project you may want to plan for extra time. They should want to see the space and take their own measurements. They’ll need to check if any plumbing or electrical work will have to be moved. If you want to have any structural elements moved, they’ll need to look at the space above and below.
There are some questions you’ll want to ask. How many workers does the contractor employ? Do they all work on the same job at the same time? Will the contractor need to hire subcontractors, plumbers or electricians for example? Does the contractor work on more than one job at a time? Can he or she guarantee his/her estimate or what are the procedures if the job takes more time and money than the estimate called for? Does the contractor have business insurance? Can he or she guarantee how long it will take to complete the job? Who will handle hauling the debris away? Who handles the permits? The answers will depend on the specific job. The more workers, the faster they can complete the job, but some individuals can be pretty fast and often more reliable. If they work multiple jobs at once, are they going to split their time between jobs? If specialized work such as plumbing or electrical is called for – they should either be qualified, or hire sub contractors to do the work.
There are obstacles that can occur that aren’t planned for that can add time and money to a project. Moving structural elements isn’t a good idea and if the contractor doesn’t think they need to be replaced, you might want to consider another contractor. Structural elements are vital to holding up a structure such as a house. Without them, the structure won’t be sound and damage to the property and injury to those inhabiting it can occur. They should be able to give you a timeline for how long the project will take. If not, look elsewhere. The contractor should also be the one who cleans up and hauls the debris away.
After visiting with each contractor, contemplate on how you feel about each one. Did they give you the opportunity to ask questions? Did they talk about everything but the job? Did they want to give you an estimate on the spot? Did they look closely at the space and listen to what you wanted? Did they offer suggestions that would help reduce cost or would be a better choice? For example, not moving structural elements, but working around them, not moving plumbing, but reconfiguring the floor plan so everything works well. Both of those examples will reduce cost and may actually work to your advantage if the contractor is good at his job. Making notes of your visit can help you remember when the estimates arrive.
Once you’ve received their bids, don’t automatically take the lowest one. Don’t automatically take the highest one either. Remember your visit with each contractor and how you felt about each one. Look at your notes to help you remember. The estimates should be very specific about materials and labor, including hardware and any subcontractor work as well. choose the contractor who explains what is going to happen at each stage of the project. You should also feel comfortable with that person’s knowledge and expertise as well as with the person him – or herself. When you’ve chosen the contractor you feel is right for you, there should be a contract to sign detailing what all is to be done and when, along with the cost. It should be very clear and understandable and it should match the estimate. Each party should get a copy. Now the work can begin!
This was a guest post by Jayne Yenko
Jayne is currently a writer for http://WesternWyoming.blogspot.com