How to hire any remodeling contractor

How to hire any remodeling contractor

I have been in the cabinet business for 10 years and in the construction industry for well over - OK, let’s just say a long time. What I am always surprised by are the questions clients don’t ask.

Whether it was when I was a project manager in New York on projects worth millions of dollars, or running my own business with projects in the hundreds of dollars, some clients always seem to be embarrassed by not knowing the right terms or by not knowing exactly what to ask.

Asking questions is always important

Always ask questions! It's important whether you are having some plumbing work done, purchasing cabinets or even getting your teeth worked on. If you don’t understand a term or you can’t quite picture what a contractor is talking about, ask them to explain it. Remember it’s your money and time that’s being invested in the project.

When interviewing prospective contractors, whether in person or online, don’t be afraid to ask them whatever you want. If the contractor can’t communicate to you so you understand, then he’s probably not going to understand what you want either.

Getting the right bids

When getting bids for your project, make sure the bids are for the same products and materials, or “apples to apples,” as the saying goes. If you’re not sure, ask. Itemize each thing listed on the bids and send it to all the parties. Make sure everyone is using the same type of materials when providing you with estimates.

If a bid appears to be too low, it might not contain everything or be of the same quality. However, that is not always true. I know that in the cabinet business, there are contractors who work out of their homes, which means that their overhead costs are significantly less than a company like mine that has a shop, employees and insurance.

An extremely low bid might be good for your pocketbook, but it’s not necessarily the best choice for every project. If it’s a small project, it might be just what you are looking for. But saving a few dollars on a larger project might cost you more in the future. For larger projects, established businesses with insurance are usually the save way to go. They will be around in the future, if any issues arise.

Always check references

In the 10 years that my company has been in business, I think clients have asked for references from us less than five times. Contractors are not going to give you a reference from someone that will give them a bad review.

Angie’s List and other review sites are an excellent way to see reviews that are not filtered by the contractor. When reading reviews make sure they mention qualities like showed up on time, gave us a lot of attention, pleasant to work with, had good ideas, would use them again and great workmanship.

Not all reviews will be great, but if there is a bad review, see how it differs from the others. Ask the contractor what happened on that project and if the answers don’t add up, something is probably amiss. Sometimes, it might be that there was a personality difference or maybe there was an issue and the contractor had a difficult time. If he or she can explain the good as well as the bad, they are a contractor to consider for your project.

Look at their work

Obviously, asking a professional like a plumber to show you the last drain they repaired is not practical, but if you are remodeling, replacing windows or redoing your cabinets, make sure you see some examples of the contractor’s work. It might be time-consuming now, but in the end you will be happy you did.

Look for memberships in associations

There are many good industry associations and organizations. For most, such as the Better Business Bureau, all you have to do to be a member is pay the fees. The BBB is great to check if there were any complains, but if you are selecting a contractor on the organizations he belongs to, remember to ask if it is a paid membership.

Know your company contact

Ask the contractor about if they are chosen for the job, who will be the contact person for your project? If it is not the individual you have been dealing with during the bid process, ask to meet them. It’s also important to ask if they will be doing all the work themselves or subcontracting it out. If they are subcontracting work, ask to see a subcontractor list.

Again, don’t forget to ask!

Asking a lot questions is probably the most important part of any project. The more questions you ask, the more you know. In remodeling as in life, it’s always the questions we don’t ask that get us into trouble.


About this Angie’s List Expert: Austin, Texas-based Distinctive Wood Crafts is a family-owned and operated company that offers quality traditional and contemporary cabinets. Established in 2004, the company earned the 2011 Angie’s List Super Service Award.

As of March 20, 2013, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.


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