Wondering how to choose the right contractor? Is the person you are hiring to complete your remodel licensed, insured, or should you even care? Do they specialize in your project? Have you totally and fully creeped them online? Or are you just looking for the quickest turnaround time or lowest bid?
When a new lead hits our inbox, the first thing we always make sure of is that construction2style is a good fit for the project. And likewise, that the homeowner is a good fit for us at c2s.
Remodeling can be stressful. There is a lot of planning, time, financials, mental energy, and hard physical work that goes into every single project on both sides.
And we want to make sure we are the right contractor for our potential clients just as much, if not more than they do. But one thing we’ve noticed over the years is that the client’s “good fit” in reality, only comes down to one thing, the final price. And we’re hoping today that we can shed some light on why it should be so much more than just the final price.
More often than not, what we find is that at the end of the project, the homeowner spent the same…if not more…than the other bids they got and may have had a really bad experience along the way.
So we wanted to share some additional things to look into to ensure the contractor you choose is in fact, the right fit.
Scouring the internet can be overwhelming and can be somewhat misleading. It’s hard to know what services some companies offer, who you’ll actually be working with, prices, the value, and quality of work, etc.
We recommend getting referrals. This can/should be the initial step in selecting your contractor.
The very question we ask a new lead is, “how did you hear about us?”
When we’re making sure the homeowner is a good fit for c2s, this is a big one for us! If they found us from Google, we know we have a lot of educating to do. But if it was a referral from a past client, or if they read our blog or follow us on social media, we then know that they really know who we are as a team, family, our process, etc, and we can get straight to the point and speed up the process.
Whether it’s reaching out to a friend that had a remodel done, asking local home improvement stores, or tracking down the contractor of a kitchen you liked on Instagram. Finding out a little bit about the company before you inquire with them is crucial.
Read reviews. Ask around. Deciding on whether or not the company is a good fit should be your first priority, and getting referrals can help you decipher which will work best for you.
Make Sure Your Contractor is Licensed
Once you’ve found a contractor that you like and inquire with them, find out if they are licensed. Some people run into this issue too late in the project, and it can be a nightmare.
Most contractors should be licensed, given they need one to pull a permit, but if it’s an odd job or cash job, or you hired a handyman or a designer to manage, there could be a chance they are not licensed, insured, or carry workers comp insurance for them and all of their subs that they are about to bring into your home to do work.
Licensing creates the security that your contractor is being held accountable and that if anything goes wrong, they have it covered. To obtain that license, they needed to prove that they were equipped enough to carry the license through various tests.
We would always recommend that you hire a licensed contractor for your remodeling project unless it’s a smaller odd-end job and you’re willing to carry the liability and take the risk.
Within Minnesota, you can easily look up their company name on the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry Website –> HERE.
Are they insured and do they carry a warranty?
In addition to a license, insurance is another thing you want to make sure your contractor has. This is more for things down the road. It can cause a major headache if something were to happen, and the contractor had no insurance covering anything. This includes anything that would happen to you or your property regarding their work on your project.
A general rule of thumb, you should never lend your contractor anything more than a pencil. This will hold them liable and confident that anything that might happen would be because of something the contractor did or a tool that they provided versus you as the customer getting in trouble because it was your property.
Ask about their warranty.
Homes shift, cracks happen, things break, faucets leak…it’s not uncommon that the following season here in Minnesota after we have wrapped up the remodel we’re back at clients’ homes running through a quick short punch list. This is common, and here at c2s we come back, no questions asked, no bills sent for the post-work up to a year after project completion.
Do they Specialize in your Project?
This goes back to the initial vetting of the contractor. You should find a contractor that specializes in or has completed a project similar to the one you want. For instance, you wouldn’t hire a roofing crew to tile your bathroom. Or an exterior residential remodeling company to remodel your interior.
Most renovation companies specialize in a broad spectrum of work, but some have a very unique niche. Be upfront with your contractor and ask questions like, “What area of the home do you specialize in?” Or even… “What aspects of a bathroom remodel do you specialize in?”
No two projects will ever be the same, but we know from experience that most of the projects we do are along the same lines.
Hopefully, the contractor can be upfront and honest with you whether or not they are comfortable with what you are asking of them.
One thing we’re proud to specialize in is bathrooms, kitchens, and full finish lower levels. And within those is custom carpentry. Jamie and I both started by making furniture and we’ve carried that skill into the job site.
For example, last year, we worked on a 100-year-old home in Minneapolis, and being you can’t find base trim original to the home anymore, we custom made it…piece by piece.
Try to get a glimpse into their personal life. Again, this is the first thing we do with any new lead that comes into our inbox. Copy and paste their name right into Google. We’ve quickly and easily been able to find things about our clients that don’t align with our personal team morals and have been able to save a lot of time and headaches. And likewise, you should be doing this with your contractor.
Google their personal name and business and see what appears. Often people will leave reviews on their experience with that specific contractor. This can be a telltale sign of whether or not you should hire them.
Check out their website, online reviews, social channels, and portfolio.
People are brutally honest and downright ruthless when they get behind a screen, so dig deep on anything that someone may have had a problem with. Most often, the reviews will be positive, but unfortunately, the negative ones are sometimes more beneficial. Which at c2s, we’ve experienced first hand. But this has also been a great opportunity for us! There will be some challenges throughout your project and how you resolve and move through them as a team is what matters. Through these negative online reviews, see how the contractor responded to them and worked through the problem. This will give you a glimpse of how they will work through situations, good or bad, with you.
In addition to finding information on your contractor on the deep dark web, there are often pictures of work they have done. This can serve as a good indication of whether or not their style of work will fit your project.
Meet & Get to Know them
Once you’ve contacted your desired contractor, set up a time for a phone call, Zoom chat, come out to your home, or go into their office.
Go over the project with them and pay attention to how they respond.
Are they engaged? Are they pleasant? Do they want to make sure you are a good fit just as much as you want to make sure they are?
Go with your gut, feel them out, do they seem genuine, problem solver, etc.? You will work alongside this person for quite some time, and they will be in and out of your house on their time, and at times you won’t be there.
Ask about their Team
Ask about their team beyond their employees, but their designers and sub-contractors. Do they help you pick out selections, do floor plans, layouts, renderings? Do they use the same core group of subcontractors, what are their names, their businesses, how long have they worked with them?
All of these people will have full access to your home, so getting to know your contractor, their team, and building trust with them is going to be a crucial part of the project.
Minimums and Timeline?
We’re all about time efficiency over here at c2s, as I’m sure you are as well. So cut straight to the chase if the contractor didn’t already and ask if they have project minimums and what their timeline looks like to get the ball rolling to ensure both meet your timeline and budget.
If they’re available right away, this may not be the best sign of their work as they aren’t in any sort of demand. Take some time to do a bit more research and get to know them if this is the case.
Most contractors have project minimum requirements, as they know how much money any space requires. If they happen to say they don’t have any project minimums, again, you may want to tread lightly and do a bit more research and dive in a bit deeper to truly get to know this contractor. If a contractor is experienced, they will know what the bare minimum for what it takes to remodel a space is. They will also have a minimum to not sacrifice the quality that is a reflection of their work. There will be a lot of educating through this planning process when it comes to financials and you need to know and have a trusted contractor that knows the industry pricing well to ensure you are getting the best bang for your buck.
For us at c2s, a bathroom minimum is $60K and a kitchen is around $100K. However, this doesn’t mean what you’re looking to do will be this price point. Because typically our bathrooms end up being, on average, $70K and kitchens $130K. Whatever the contractor minimum is, just know based on their quality of work they won’t let one of their projects look less than that. Anything less than $30 or $60K, we’re not willing to put our name on.
You’re also going to want to truly know and be ready to share your budget when you start reaching out to contractors. This is something we ask right away at construction2style, and if a new lead isn’t sure, we politely ask them to reach back out when they are more serious about their project.
Take them Golfing…
Finally, once you’ve found your contractor, hired them, paid them, and they have finished your project, you should always take them out for a round of golf.
Make sure to get a cart, no walking. Buy the round. Maybe mix in a few beers if you REALLY liked their work. This is the final and most important step in choosing the right contractor, especially if it’s construction2style.