One of the most important decisions you will make prior to a renovation is choosing a contractor. The first step is to decide what kind of professional you'll need. A general contractor oversees an entire project, including hiring and supervising subcontractors and getting permits, while a specialty contractor installs particular products, like cabinets or bathroom fixtures. An architect designs homes and major structural renovations.
Follow these tips for choosing the right contractor:
Get a referral from a trusted source.
Friends and neighbors are an excellent source of references. Check out websites like Angieslist.com and HomeAdvisor.com to read reviews. Be sure to compare projects during the search; someone who builds beautiful decks may not do quality bathrooms or whole-home renovations.
Don't go by price alone.
Resist the temptation of choosing the lowest estimate. Interview at least three contractors, having them review the project and scope of work in person. Going by price alone increases the risk of project failure and can lead to higher costs down the road.
Be sure to hire a licensed, bonded and insured contractor.
Licensing protects you by helping ensure that contractors meet the minimum insurance requirements. When interviewing a prospective contractor, ask to see a Certificate of Insurance. Make sure it's current and will cover your job. Name a "go-to-person" to be the key contact between the contractor and the family. This will help keep communication clean and clear to avoid confusion.
Get your home improvement contract in writing.
Your contract should include: detailed time frames, the total cost, payment arrangements, your contractor's license number, project description, names of parties involved and how to handle additional costs if necessary.
Be prepared for demolition.
Begin demolition only when all the materials have arrived, including appliances, doors, windows, flooring, etc. This will minimize interruptions when the project gets going.
At the end of the day, you should always choose the contractor with whom you feel the most comfortable.