hiring a remodeling contractor

When hiring a remodeling contractor, there’s a lot more to consider than the bottom line. Photo: Ryan & Ryan Construction, Inc. (2016)

Considering the stakes involved, it’s no surprise that a large-scale remodeling project can be a bit unnerving. After all, you’re entrusting thousands of dollars to a contractor’s promise to deliver a product that currently only exists on paper. That’s why, prior to hiring a contracting firm, it’s critical to confirm it’s worthy of your trust. To gain further insight, we’ve asked five Diamond Certified Expert Contributors to weigh in on what to look for when hiring a remodeling contractor.

A Current License: Diana Connolly, Montclair Construction & Structural, Inc.
All building and remodeling contractors in California are required to carry proper licensing. Unfortunately, not every working contractor conforms to this legal obligation, so you’ll need to make sure yours does. To verify a contractor’s license is current, look up the license number on the California State Licensing Board’s website (www.cslb.ca.gov), which keeps a record of all registered contractors in the state.

Complete Insurance Coverage: Ariel Baleli, Everlast Construction
Most homeowners know remodeling contractors are supposed to carry insurance, but many fail to realize that proper insurance consists of three parts: workers’ compensation, liability and bonding. By confirming your contractor carries all three forms of insurance, you can rest easy knowing you have full coverage.

Valid Referrals: Richard Gallardo, RG Builders
Besides verifying a contractor’s professional track record, referrals can offer insight as to what the company is like to work with. A good referral list will consist of references from a variety of phases, including long-term clients, clients with projects currently in progress (who can give you an idea of the crew’s dependability) and clients with recently completed projects (who can give you honest opinions of their experiences). Since it’s easy for a dishonest contractor to falsify references, make sure all sources are verifiable—not just a phone number, but a real client you can meet with in person.

A Detailed Contract: Greg May, May Construction Inc.
When comparing bids for a remodeling project, many homeowners are chiefly concerned with the bottom line. However, the bottom line doesn’t always tell the full story, which is why it’s important to look at the content of a contract before signing it. In particular, be wary of any contract that doesn’t lay out the details of the job. If your contractor hasn’t worked through all the details, including the products and materials to be used, there’s no way to know if you’re getting an accurate estimate. What’s worse, a vague contract makes it easy for an unscrupulous contractor to take advantage of the situation and tack on extra charges later, which is why the lowest bids often end up with the highest price tags.

A Collaborative Attitude: Jim Kabel, Case Design/Remodeling
Finding a quality, trustworthy contractor is critical, but many homeowners overlook the crucial aspect of relational compatibility. Since a home remodeling project is typically a long-term affair, make sure you hire someone you feel comfortable working with—that way, you can ensure a positive experience throughout.

To learn more about hiring a remodeling contractor and other topics, visit our Diamond Certified Expert Reports at experts.diamondcertified.org.

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