As the saying goes, your home is your castle. But even a dream home can use a refresh from time to time as circumstances or tastes change. For many homeowners, however, the mere thought of a remodeling project can be a stressful exercise as potential issues like construction delays and cost overruns are big enough worries to put the kibosh on construction plans before they even get started.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to take the worry out of remodeling your home, whether you are just touching up a room or two, or planning a complete, down-to-the-studs renovation. Read on to learn how to develop your own winning strategy for researching and hiring the best remodeling contractor in your area.
Decide Which Delivery System is Best for Your Remodeling Project
Before your remodeling contractors’ research begins in earnest, you will need to decide which project delivery system best suits your job’s needs. Like many other economic sectors, the construction industry continues to evolve and there are now several business platforms to choose from. The traditional construction model is the familiar design-bid-build system which consists of the following steps:
- The project owner works with an architect or design team to conceptualize the construction project and draft plans
- With designs and plans in hand, the project owner then solicits bids from construction firms, contractors, and subcontractors
- The various facets of the scope of work are typically awarded to the lowest bidders
Thus, one of the hallmarks of the design-bid-build system is the complete separation between the design and construction phases. In contrast, the design-build delivery system, which according to some industry experts is the fastest growing construction method today, takes a more collaborative approach to building projects marked by these attributes:
- Rather than being separate and independently managed phases, design and construction are unified under one contract
- With only one construction entity to negotiate and work with, a project owner stands to benefit from greater collaboration and cooperation among all the involved parties
- The benefits of going a design-build route can be expected to include timely project completion and greater cost control
While both approaches have been successfully used for countless home remodeling projects, the design-build method continues to gain traction among homeowners managing their own home remodeling projects, particularly those in the small to mid-size ranges. This rise in popularity is due primarily to the cost management, increased efficiencies, and greater accountability, that this delivery system affords.
Find the Right Specialist for Your Remodeling Project
The construction industry is highly competitive as service providers vie against each other to gain a leg up on the competition. One way that contractors seek to differentiate themselves in the marketplace is by specializing in particular types of construction jobs and this plays into developing an effective strategy for finding and hiring the best remodeling contractor for your project.
What types of remodeling specialties are there? According to the National Association of Realtors, there may be more than you think, including these popular remodeling projects:
- Whole house
- Room addition(s)
- Window or door replacement
- Basement finishing
- Deck or porch construction
- Roof repair or upgrade
- Second-story addition
- Garage enclosure or addition
By focusing your search on specialists practicing the particular type of work you are looking to have done, you can tailor your candidate pool to contractors who not only have extensive experience in a specific field but also very likely will have access to unique resources like specialized materials and services that may be required to complete the job and meet your expectations.
When it comes to improving an aspect of your personal living space, handing over the reins to an experienced specialist can be the difference between a job well done and a mistake that could have been avoided. By working with an experienced specialist in a particular field, such as bathroom remodeling, kitchen remodeling, or whatever the case may be, you can ensure that your project is completed on time and on budget.
Cost Control is Key to a Successful Remodeling Project
While the value of a successful home remodeling project is immeasurable in terms of how much it enhances your personal living space, the harsh reality of any construction job is that without conducting proper research and sticking to your budgetary guns, costs can quickly spiral out of control and tarnish the overall success of your home improvement endeavor.
Controlling your total spending is much more than having a budget; being a fiscally responsible project owner means having a cost management plan and recognizing how the various aspects of your remodeling project contribute to the overall cost. By seeing the big picture of how your construction budget is allocated, you can manage the specific costs more effectively.
This is where conscious and purposeful cost-related research comes into play. When vetting prospective remodeling contractors in your area you should plan on having open and frank conversations regarding the financial aspects of the project, including these primary construction cost categories:
- The cost of the materials(e.g., lumber, cabinetry, flooring, custom materials) used for a construction project typically represent the biggest portion of the overall budget
- Mechanical requirements such as electrical, plumbing, and HVAC elements, can also be a significant portion of construction costs
- Last but not least, labor costs for the entire construction team (e.g., contractors, laborers, tradesmen, specialists) will represent a major percentage of the overall cost of your remodel
A remodeling contractor who understands your financial objectives within the overall framework of the construction project can provide you with vital cost estimates (or in some cases, a maximum price guarantee) that will help you set your budgetary parameters. Some contractors may even be willing to furnish you with multiple cost options along the lines of good, better, and best scenarios so that you can make a choice that meshes with your expectations.
Protect Yourself with Written Bids and Enforceable Contracts
The unfortunate realities of construction are that the unexpected almost always seem to occur and that disputes are a near certainty in any project, small or large. It is how these challenges are met that will determine whether a project gets mired in endless conflict or if those difficulties are overcome in a professional manner.
Researching the right contractor for your remodeling project means finding a partner who understands your concerns, respects the boundaries (financial and otherwise) that you are establishing, and is willing to put key project obligations, terms, and conditions, in writing. These are the types of documents you should expect to receive from your contractor:
- Written estimate– this goes far beyond a ballpark project figure and should include a detailed, line-item breakdown of material costs, labor rates, applicable permit fees, and other regulatory costs, as well as the complete scope of work which should include prep, installation, demolition, and clean-up
- Written proposal– for complex projects with budgets in the thousands of dollars, some contractors will opt to prepare a proposal that will provide a more in-depth overview of the financial aspects of the job, including special provision pertaining to administrative and overhead fees and “cost-plus” provisions (some contractors may assess a proposal fee which is credited toward the cost of the project)
- Written contract– the purpose of a written contract is to lay out each party’s obligations to the other and provide remedies in the event that either fails to perform one or more responsibilities; ideally, you should discuss key contractual terms with your contractor in advance and take a collaborative approach toward preparing this vital document
Even the best-laid plans can go awry, which is why it is important to not only find a qualified remodeling contractor who has the skill and experience to complete your project in a satisfactory manner, but also one who can be held fully accountable for any shortcomings in the work performed and service provided. For you, as the project owner, this type of peace of mind is immeasurable.
Really Get to Know Your Remodeling Contractor Candidates
There is an old saying dating back to the time of the Founding Fathers (in fact it is often attributed to Thomas Jefferson) that ignorance of the law is not an excuse for violating its provisions. The same can be said in modern times for hiring the wrong party to perform an important service for you. If it is reasonably within your power to make an informed decision, then there is no excuse for making a poor one.
Of all the steps you will take toward hiring a remodeling contractor, this may very well be the most important one. There is a wealth of information out there to guide you in making a solid hiring decision, and if you are willing to invest the time to conduct the proper research and make the effort to do the necessary legwork, it is all but a certainty that you will find and hire the best remodeling contractor in your area.
These are the key aspects of your candidate search that you need to thoroughly research and investigate to the fullest:
- Check those credentials– many states and jurisdictions require contractors to be properly licensed and many contractors will go one (or several) steps further by earning additional certifications or participating in elective training in specialized fields; you will find that contractors who have gone to these lengths will make these facts known
- Look for memberships– active participation, membership, and affiliation with various construction industry associations is a sign that your contractor is active in peer organizations and has an interest in keeping up with new trends and technologies; notable associations include the National Kitchen & Bath Association and the National Association of Homebuilders
- Ask for references – just as reputable contractors will not be shy about their credentials and affiliations, they also will not hold back in sharing their stories of notable projectsand satisfied clients; get those references and when contacting past clients ask the questions that really matter, like whether deadlines and budgets were met, and whether results were satisfactory
- Set up interviews– nothing will give you a better sense of whether a contractor is right for the job than meeting the candidate in person, asking the hard questions, and getting straightforward answers (the contractor should have their own questions as well and this can be very telling as far as your mutual compatibility)
While there can be no shortcuts taken when it comes to something as important as hiring the right remodeling contractor, you can streamline the vetting process by seeking referrals from family, friends, and colleagues. Recommendations from your personal network of people whose opinions you trust are invaluable and would be an excellent place to begin your search for a remodeling contractor.
Putting it all Together
If there is any project that needs to be done right and within budget, it is the remodeling of the personal sanctuary you call home. Researching and hiring the best remodeling contractor for your job is a matter of first recognizing and then prioritizing the things that matter most.
Decide whether your needs are best suited by going the traditional route or whether a design-build delivery system will get the project done right. Find a specialist who is experienced in the particular type of remodeling you are planning. Shop around, get competitive bids, and check those references. And protect yourself with a rock-solid contract should things take an unexpected turn.
Spaces Home Remodeling is a design build home remodeling contractor in San Mateo, CA. We specialize in custom designs with a modern flare. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation.