Renovating your kitchen can increase both your comfort and the value of your home. To get the most out of this project, you will need a contractor who is reliable and does high-quality work. Here’s how to screen contractors so you can find the right professional for a kitchen remodel.
1. Ask for Referrals
Good contractors are always in demand—so the best way to find qualified professionals is to ask for referrals from people you know. Ask relatives, friends, the workers at your local home improvement store, or neighbors.
Always review any names you receive to make sure the contractors’ reputations are positive. The Better Business Bureau is a helpful resource as it provides ratings of business professionals.
If you have special considerations (for example a historic home or mobility needs), pay close attention to any contractors with demonstrated experience in this area.
Discard any contractors who have negative reputations or don’t have the qualifications to do the work you seek.
2. Conduct a Phone Screening
Face-to-face meetings are essential for hiring contractors, but they’re time consuming. Phone screenings can help you narrow down the options, saving both sides time.
Over the phone, describe what you need and find out when the contractor is available. If someone is booking jobs nine months out and you’d like to proceed now, it’s clearly a bad fit, for instance.
Ask the contractor about their experience with kitchen remodeling. Find out whether they have licenses and insurance. Request references, which you can check in between the phone screening and face-to-face appointment.
If a contractor lacks experience, license and insurance, or references, stop. Take them off your list and move on to the next candidate. It’s too risky to you to work with someone who cannot provide references or does not carry the proper licenses and insurance—which would leave you financially responsible for any injuries or liability issues resulting from the kitchen remodel.
3. Research References and Portfolios
After screening candidates on the phone, call references. Speak with two to three past clients to find out how they enjoyed working with the contractor and whether they would work with them again. References should speak highly of the contractor and provide detail that gives you confidence.
Check the contractors’ website for portfolio images of previous jobs. Is the work in good condition? Are the materials high quality? Do you like the style?
If you don’t like what you see in the portfolio, or if the references are less-than-stellar, take the contractor off your list.
4. Set Face-to-Face Meetings
When you’ve narrowed the list down, set up face-to-face meetings. These are essential for the bidding process, but also give you a sense of the contractor’s personality, values, and communication style. Face-to-face meetings build trust, which is essential to good working relationships.
In advance of these meetings, prepare yourself by thinking about what you want the kitchen to look like. It can help to find images of kitchens you like or put together a list of features you want to have. This will help the contractor price the job, and price is often an area where you can compare two contractors.
An ideal contractor will be someone who listens to what you want and comes up with ways to make it happen. They should be able to speak to how they will approach your kitchen remodel, drawing on past projects. If they aren’t interested in what you want, or if they don’t have a clear vision for how to make it happen, it’s not a good fit.
After each face-to-face meeting, write down notes about the experience. This will help you compare one contractor to another, so you can get a sense of who you would like to work with.
5. Review Bids and Decide
You may narrow down the list after face-to-face meetings. If you still can’t decide which kitchen remodel contractor to choose, wait until the contractors present their bids for the job. Cost projections can vary widely: some contractors may be too high for your budget, while others come in so low you’re not sure they’ve accounted for everything.
Price is an important factor, but should not be the only factor when hiring a kitchen renovation contractor. Skill and experience are important too, and more experienced contractors are able to charge higher rates that reflect their expertise. Personality, trust, and communication are important, as the contractor and his team will be working in your house. At the end of the day, you need to feel confident in your decision and excited to work with the contractor you’ve chosen.
It takes time to hire a contractor, and that can be frustrating if you want to move ahead on this project. However, it’s important to take time to make an informed decision as rushing can backfire, resulting in an individual who doesn’t have the skills, experience, or trustworthiness to perform your kitchen remodel.
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