Choosing a Remodeling Contractor

How to Choose a Kitchen Installation Contractor for your Remodeling Project

$500 Rebate on Kitchen CabinetsThe DIY industry has never been stronger and healthier. Many people take the do-it-yourself route to home improvements and of course there are many ‘service centers’ around the country setup to support DIY’ers with equipment and materials.
But some projects require expert help, the key is to knowing your own limitations.
It’s fine to undertake DIY projects such as painting walls, adding new storage shelves, and  perhaps even changing internal doors, but some projects will stretch your abilities too far. One such project which would qualify for expert help would be a kitchen remodel. Most remodels, even the most basic, involve the need for multiple skills. Carpentry, electrical, plumbing, ventilation, tiling etc, may all be required during even the most basic kitchen remodel.
So for most of us, we’re going to need to find an experienced contractor to undertake the project, but just how does one go about choosing a kitchen contractor for a remodeling project?

There are a few different steps to this process:

  • Research and create a list of contractors to contact
  • Prepare a specification
  • Talk with the contractors and request bids
  • Seek out references
  • Agree a contract for the project with your chosen contractor.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these steps.

Research and Creating a List of Kitchen Contractors.

If possible, talk to friends and family members who may have already used contractor services and see if there’s anyone they can recommend. A good recommendation is worth its weight in gold.
Use the local yellow book to locate companies and independent contractors in your immediate area.
Checkout Angie’s List (www.angieslist.com). Look for recommendations others have made.
Use Google to search locally. Use your location in the search so you’re not wasting time looking for people who cannot service your location, for example, “San Francisco Bay area Kitchen Installation Contractors”.
Compile your list and order then in terms of who you think would be a good fit.

Preparing a Specification for your new Kitchen Project.

This sounds technical but it needn’t be. It’s important to have a clearly defined scope of work. Firstly, it will ensure that you end up with a finished project that matches what you set out to achieve. Secondly, it will create an even playing fields when you begin negotiations with your shortlist of contractors.
A specification can vary, and in some cases you’ll want input from the actual designer or contractor on what can and cannot be accomplished. But you’ll benefit from writing down as much as you can about your project.
For example –

  • Your choice of cabinet supplier
  • The layout of your kitchen
  • The space required for counter tops
  • Storage requirements
  • Lighting and service requirements
  • Specific kitchen appliances which you’d like to incorporate
  • Budgetary constraints
  • Time constraints and any access issues.

Having this all down in writing will go a long way to ensuring a good conclusion to the project.

Talking with Contractors and requesting quotes

Think of your discussions with a contractor as being something akin to a job interview. Do they fill you full of confidence, can they provide good work samples and references, how long have they been doing kitchen remodeling work and how long has their company been in business.
It’s often a good idea to check with your local BBB to see what their customer service track record is like, and also check with online review websites like yelp.com

I always like to see people’s reaction when you ask for specific references. Ask for a list of customers who’d be willing to take a call from you and actually take the time to make the call before you engage a contractor.
A simple checklist of what to ask a past customer includes:

  • Simple confirmation that the contractor was indeed hired by them.
  • What type of project was the contractor hired to do?
  • Was the person satisfied with the performance of the contractor?
  • Was the project finished on time and within budget?
  • Were there any specific issues with the work?
  • Would the person recommend the contractor to a friend?

Obviously you need to read between the lines a little. If the person is somewhat reticent it could be that their experience was not a good one, but they’re nervous about saying anything too inflammatory. If the person is too enthusiastic, they may be associated with the contractor and perhaps even paid to give out glowing recommendations. So use your common sense and judgement. Remember that a contractor is unlikely to provide a reference to an installation where things went badly.

Check to see that the contractor properly licensed and insured. Not all States require kitchen contractors to be licensed, so check the requirements for your local State then make sure the contractor has the required license.
Always remember to ask that the contractor shows proof that they are fully insured. Since some of the work performed may involve services and even construction work (modifying load-bearing walls for example), it’s important to know that if something should go wrong, you’re not the one who is going to have to foot the bill.
In many cases you’ll need to get a permit from the city or town in which you live. You should make these inquiries yourself and not rely on the contractor to do it for you. They should be able to help you with the permit application, but some less reputable contractors might try to skip the process, so make sure that you have yourself covered.

Once you’re at the negotiation stage it’s important that you are comparing apples with apples. Having a detailed work spec will help in this regard, but make sure to read their offer/quote carefully so each one of your shortlisted contractors are bidding to provide the same service. Look carefully for any exclusions in the work, and make sure all material and labor costs are included. See how they word any sections for ‘extra work’.
Don’t be afraid to negotiate the bids. If your first choice contractor’s bid is too high, tell them so. See how they react and give them the opportunity to make a revision to their bid. Different people react differently to the negotiating process. If your first choice contractor is unwilling to change their bid, then that might suggest they are busy and wouldn’t miss your work if you took it elsewhere. Whilst someone willing to drop the price too easily may be demonstrating that they don’t have much work. Which would you sooner choose, someone who is busy, or someone who doesn’t have any work?
The point is, don’t just award the contract based solely on price.

Choosing from among multiple kitchen contractors can be a hassle, but it’s a very important stage of your remodeling project. If you’re located in the SF Bay City area, then Goodlife Kitchens can provide the expert services you need. Contact us today

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