It’s time to replace those cabinets that are falling apart, and that sink that is as old as your kid in college. It’s time to hire a contractor to revamp your kitchen into a desirable one―a space where you feel like spending more time and experimenting with delicacies that you have never tried before. And while we have already established that this task is anything but a cakewalk, we do assure you that nothing beats the outcome of thorough research and the establishment of a healthy bond between you and the contractor. Here’s Buzzle’s take on how to hire a kitchen remodeling contractor for an impeccable final product.
Before Hiring a Kitchen Remodeling Contractor: Ask About These
Before you begin looking for a contractor, understand and establish the scope of work. You want to remodel the kitchen, which means, you will have to take everything down, and replace it with new material and designs. This will include electrical work, cabinetry, plumbing, tiling, and painting. All these should fall within the scope of work of the remodeling contractor. Some contractors may provide the kitchen design. Others may want a design ready to execute from a professional designer. Iron out these details before you begin.
Once this area has been cleared, look into the following details, and watch out for the signs that you should not be establishing any association with a particular contractor.
Licensing, Insurance, and Permits
Any home improvement contractor, regardless of his specialty, must:
❖ Possess a valid license for his area of work.
❖ Possess liability insurance and workers’ compensation coverage to protect you and his workers from damages.
❖ Be able to obtain permits necessary to perform the said work (this may vary from state to state).
Flee if he says: Obtaining permits doesn’t fall within my domain. You will have to get them yourself.
This probably means he does not have the license necessary to work as a kitchen remodeling contractor, and should not be even talking to you.
When you call him and speak to him, you should be able to get a good understanding of his communication style, and whether you will be able to work with him for a certain time period. Based on your telephone conversation, you should meet him in person to understand what kind of personality he has, how he works, and whether he is accommodating of your requirements and desires from the project.
Flee if he says: I know what a kitchen should be like. They’re all the same.
This clearly implies that he uses the same model for all kitchens, and does not pay attention to individual requirements. It is also likely this may cause several clashes with him in the future.
Client References and Previous Work
This is the most important aspect of narrowing down on a kitchen remodeling contractor, and the biggest section here, too. It is only from the experiences of others that you can decide whether this individual you are going to hand over your hearth to, the individual who’s going to be spending several hours in a day in your house, is reliable or not.
Ask for pictures of previous work. Ask to visit sites in progress. Obtain a list of references from him, and speak to a minimum of three past clients. These are the questions you should be asking them.
❖ How was your experience working with the contractor?
❖ Were there any issues regarding payments?
❖ Are his sub-contractors reliable?
❖ Did you have the facility to change your decision during the project? If so, what was the procedure to make the change?
❖ Did he clean up after the day’s work?
❖ How many hours a day did he work?
❖ Are you satisfied with the quality of material used for the work?
❖ Have all your requirements regarding the kitchen been accommodated? If not, were the alternatives provided suitable enough?
❖ Were there any delays in executing the project?
❖ What is the best way to communicate with the contractor?
❖ Would you work with him again?
❖ Would you recommend him to friends and family?
Flee if he says: I have high regard for client privacy, and cannot give out information of past clients to you.
Client references are the basis on which contractors get more work. Obviously, this person has not been doing a very great job, and wants you to find that out for yourself, not from previous clients.
Bids and Prices
Bids should always be made in writing, after the entire scope of work has been established. When interviewing multiple contractors, get bids from all of them for the same scope of work. Then identify whether they are adding or subtracting certain services that the others are (not) providing. This is the best way to narrow down on prices, and establish a good rate for the entire remodeling work.
Also, check whether this is an estimate based on the scope of work or a fixed price that includes contracting fees and profit margins.
Flee if he says:
❖ I can provide a bid just by looking at the place.
❖ If you hire me immediately, I will give you a 30% discount on the total rate.
❖ If you get me two other client referrals, I will give you a 30% discount on the total remodeling cost.
Do not fall for these ‘schemes’ or the lowest bid, because this may mean that the contractor is going to compromise on material and quality of work, and you will be left with a sub-standard kitchen that is probably worse than what you put up for remodeling.
Well-established contractors have a specific payment method. Most do not even need an advance to begin with, but they may take a small amount as security, should you change your mind about their services midway. Other payment terms are clearly defined in a written contract, and are provided with the bid for clarification.
Establishing a payment policy right at the start is essential so that you are able to arrange for the necessary funds, and no surprises are sprung on you halfway through the work.
Flee if he says: I will require a 50% advance to begin.
This is merely a sign of his poor financial condition, which indicates that he has been out of work and out of touch with his field for a while; which, in turn, means he is not very reliable.
It is likely that your contractor will sub-contract to electricians/plumbers/carpenters, and the like, to get specialized work and even to expedite the remodeling process. This should be fine as long as he knows exactly how the work is proceeding and has a strong rapport with them.
In this regard, find out:
❖ Who will be liable for the quality of work?
❖ How long has the contractor worked with these sub-contractors?
❖ Can you communicate with the sub-contractors, or is the contractor going to be your main communication channel (recommended)?
❖ Will payments have to be made to them separately, or will they go through the contractor?
Flee if he says: You will have to deal with the other contractors directly. My job is only to bring them to you.
That is not his only job, and you are not meant to get involved with his team. You are only supposed to coordinate with him, the main contractor.
An experienced contractor will have a strong network of suppliers who regularly provide material to him. Because his reputation is on the line, he will probably not liaise with suppliers who will provide poor quality material. And even though he has a profit margin on the cost you will incur upon its purchase, it is better to allow him to source all the material with its guarantee/warranty.
You do not want to end up buying material you hardly have an idea about, and then argue with suppliers if it is not what your contractor demanded. Just ensure that the material the contractor uses falls within your budget.
Flee if he says: If you want a good sink, you will have to spend $6000 on it. Nothing else is good enough.
Budget plays a very important role in your remodeling project, and while no one is suggesting that a contractor use cheap material to meet your budget requirements, he should not go overboard with it, and make you spend on something good that can be bought for a much lower price.
Any reputable kitchen contractor will not only offer a warranty on the material used, he will in fact guarantee that there will be no problems for a minimum of one year after the work has been completed. Ensure that you get this in writing from him. You can also recheck this from previous clients.
Flee if he says: Even doctors don’t provide guarantees.
What a lovely but completely irrelevant analogy. You are demanding a guarantee on tangible products, and it is very much possible to give one in this case.
The time frame within which the work is completed will depend on the scope of work, the size of the contractor’s team, and his experience and expertise in performing his job. He should be able to give you a believable time estimate so that you can plan your other activities accordingly. Also, ask if he will provide you with a temporary kitchen setup somewhere else in your house so that your kitchen activities may continue smoothly.
Flee if he says: (One week before Christmas) Sure, I can give you your kitchen by Christmas eve.
This guy is certainly very eager to land your job and equally eager to get it out of the way, which again is a ‘sub-standard job’ alert. Unless the job (or your kitchen) is really small, it is very unlikely that it will be completed to the last detail in a mere week.
Every bit of discussion pertaining to the kitchen remodel should be part of a written contract, including the makeshift kitchen he is going to provide. This is important so that both you and the contractor are secure, and have a legal document to resort to, in case of any differences. Thus, the time, the prices, the material, the sub-contractors, the number of times you can change your decisions and the method of implementing them, his liability to suppliers, liens that release you from any liability should the contractor fail to pay suppliers and subcontractors, and more, should all have individual clauses within the contract.
Flee if he says: These are small things. I am giving you my word on them.
Going back on your word is as easy as changing your mind about what you want to eat while waiting at the counter at McDonald’s. Get EVERYTHING in writing to ensure a successful project.
Finally, experts always suggest choosing a contractor whom you are comfortable communicating with. Even if he charges a slightly higher price, the outcome will be better, because he will understand your requirements and try his best to give you exactly what you want from your kitchen.