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10 Tips to Ensure Your Remodeling Contractor Measures Up

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Hiring a contractor for your home remodeling project is a huge step and often a substantial investment. Your house will never look the same, and you’re placing your trust in strangers who’ll be temporarily setting up shop in your home. It’s absolutely worth the preparation, time and energy it takes to get it right!

Here are 10 tips to keep in mind when hiring a remodeling contractor:

1. Get Recommendations

Ask around and find out if your friends and family have recommended contractors for home remodeling. Use it as a starting point, then branch out in your research by cross-checking the recommended contractors with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry.

Another method of getting recommendations might be visiting your local lumberyard. The staff there sees contractors regularly and knows who purchases high-quality materials, pays their bills on time, and enjoys positive reputations in the community.

2. Have a Good Rapport with the Foreman

The right contractor for you will be easy to communicate with. Make sure he or she understands your goals and has experience you’re looking for. Early on, set communication expectations around regular email check-ins, phone calls, and text messages. It’s important to allow the work crew the space to manage their own work, but it’s a great idea to set up a weekly in-person update from the foreman.

3. Research Your Contractor’s Credentials

Those abbreviations behind your contractor’s name represent certifications from national trade organizations that bind them to a strict code of ethics, training, or both. Some designations you might come across (any of which are a plus for your contractor to have):

  • Certified Graduate Remodeler (CGR)
  • Certified Aging in Place Specialist (CAPS)
  • Local Building Industry Association membership (BIA) 
  • National Association of Home Builders membership (NAHB)

No matter what, you’ll want to insist your contractor is licensed, bonded and insured. This is an absolute deal breaker, because as the property owner you’re liable if a member of the work crew gets injured on the job.

4. Remember the Lowest Bid Isn’t Always the Best

Factor in how long your potential contractor says the project should take. Also request a written description of the materials needed for the job. An unusually low bid may indicate a contractor uses low-quality materials or is desperate for work. Especially for major projects, it’s not worth cutting corners. The more accurate bid will probably be somewhere in the middle.

5. Get Everything in Writing

At the very least, your contract should include these items:

  • Detailed time frames
  • Total cost, payment arrangements and how to handle any additional costs
  • Your contractor’s license number
  • Project description
  • Names and contact information for everyone involved

6. Be Realistic and Upfront About Your Budget

If you need to, consider breaking your home remodeling project down into multiple phases. This will likely increase the total cost, but it may also be a better option for you to spread out the cost over time. Homeowners can even save money by doing some tasks (like cleaning, or painting) on your own.

7. Get Educated About Home Improvement Requirements

Know what permits are required and what regulations need to be followed for your remodeling project. This is important because the cost of the job will increase if, for example, the contractor is taken by surprise when he discovers outdated wiring.

Your contractor or architect should be responsible for applying for and acquiring all necessary permits. However, you should still ask for information and be clear on what’s going on behind the scenes.

8. Don’t Jump the Gun on Demolition

Begin demolition only after the new equipment and supplies have arrivedincluding windows, doors, appliances or any other essential items. You don’t want to be left out in the cold (maybe even literally)!

9. Be a Good Neighbor During the Remodeling Process

Let your contractor know exactly where your property lines are located to prevent materials from being placed in the wrong area. You could also let your neighbors know if they can expect loud noises or work crews in the area.

10. Make Sure Everything is Complete Before Signing Off

After that final walk-through, you may find yourself so excited to start enjoying your newly-renovated home that you let these very last steps fall by the wayside. Don’t rush through meeting with your contractor and making note of any outstanding tasks. Ask for an affidavit of final release or lien waiver.

Once the job is done and you make the final payment, you’ll be free and clear of any liability for third-party claims. And from there? The only item left on your to-do list is to enjoy your newly-renovated home!

By Neil Christiansen, Branch Manager of Churchill Mortgage Denver, CO

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