Independent Certified Kitchen Designer Peggy Deras shares tips on hiring a residential remodeling contractor
Creating lifetime kitchens and lifelong friends

Tips > General

Finding the Right Professionals
How to hire a professional contractor

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Hire a local licensed contractor who has a good track record in your type of project. Any contractor working on a job with a total cost of over $500 must be licensed by the Contractor's State License Board. The CSLB and your local BBB will be able to tell you anything negative. Your contractor should carry both worker's compensation insurance, required by law, and sufficient general liability insurance, not required but absolutely necessary.
The individual you are seeking is someone you trust to give you the fairest price for the level of quality you want. This translates into shopping for the contractor, not the price. Gather names of contractors who fit your criteria.

Now make some calls. Be prepared to answer the following questions when you call the contractors: Description of the project, square footage, desired start date, and preliminary budget. Your budget figures, at this point, should not include the design professional's fees or your 20% reserve fund, only what is left for the project itself. The contractor will let you know if he or she is interested and if their company is appropriate for the job. If you feel comfortable talking to this person over the phone, make an appointment to meet

Prepare for your meeting. Be prepared with a set of preliminary plans. Prioritize your wish list in terms of space and finishes. Know what quality of finishes you want and how your choices impact the cost of the project, i.e. the general difference in price between tile and granite countertops or good, better and best tubs. Be consistent with each contractor. Now is not the time to redesign the preliminary plan. The purpose of this meeting is to determine how well you can work with this person. Resist the temptation to ask for a bid until you have made your choice. Remember to ask for client, bank and business/trade references.

Analyze your meeting with the contractor. Was the individual punctual, courteous, professional, neat and confident; an attentive listener, responding with appropriate questions and good suggestions? Did you understand all of the conversation? Were you comfortable? Did you come away from the meeting with trust in this individual's abilities, competence and company? Your answers to the above questions should all be positive before you proceed to the next step. If any are negative, keep looking.

Call all of the references the contractor has given you. Prepare a sheet for each reference with these questions and room for your comments.
Was this a competitive bid or negotiated project? Were you able to achieve your budget for the project? Were the contract, description of work and price complete? Were you surprised by extra charges and change orders? Was the crew punctual, responsible, reliable, neat and clean? Was the site kept as safe and clean as possible? How was communication between you, the workers and contractor? Were you kept informed of job progress and the need for decisions? Were there any problems and how were they handled? Would you hire this company again? May I call you back to schedule a visit to your home?

Make Your Decision. Since you have followed all the rules to select a good contractor, you should have encountered one who will do a good job with your project. Just remember that at some point in every remodeling project you will be sick and tired of the whole thing and just want it over and everybody out of your home. Think of that day and decide who can go on with you for all the days until it is finally done. Now you can finish planning your project with your team of designer, contractor and you; all working together to create a finished product that meets your needs and your budget.

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