A remodeling project is one of the most invigorating lifestyle changes a homeowner can make. However, trusting a contractor with both your home and your money can feel overwhelming. Spare your time, money and sanity by following these steps for choosing the best remodeling contractor:
1. Decide what you want out of your newly remodeled home. Start thinking about goals, amenities and a rough timeline, making sure you can clearly articulate your ideas to a contractor. Idea centers, such as Houzz or the James Hardie Photo Showcase, can serve as inspiration for kick-starting your remodeling project. This phase is also ideal for researching sustainable building products. By using green products, homeowners save money on heating and cooling costs, and builders can decrease construction’s carbon footprint.
2. Ask for advice. You’re not the first person to remodel your home, so don’t go through the process alone. Talk to friends, relatives, neighbors and coworkers about their remodeling experiences. In addition to collecting referrals, ask targeted questions about how those contractors communicated throughout the process and mitigated any setbacks. If you know a building inspector, ask which contractors regularly meet code requirements.
3. Research and contact businesses. Start gathering information on your referrals and local prospects by visiting their websites or making phone calls. Make sure these remodeling contractors have the required licenses, liability insurance and ability to obtain local permits for your project. Most will also tell you if they belong to a professional association such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry or National Association of Homebuilders. For exterior remodeling, the James Hardie Building Products website includes a contractor locator tool homeowners can use to search for reputable contractors. The Better Business Bureau also issues warnings about those that might not be trustworthy. Through your research, select three to five potential contractors.
4. Set up meetings with contractors. After identifying your top candidates, schedule face-to-face meetings with each to discuss your project. Ask questions and make sure communication is fluid and straight-forward. How many projects does the contractor handle at one time? Are his or her past projects similar in scope to yours? More of these questions can be found at the James Hardie Hire a Pro resource center. If you find a particular meeting goes especially well, ask for references and a bid on your project.
5. Compare bids and references. Think of this step as putting the finishing touches on your selection process. When contacting references, ask them to rate their satisfaction with the project. Did the contractor meet time and budget requirements? As soon as the bids come in, look at the cost breakdown of labor and building materials. The best contractor is not always the cheapest.
Now’s the time to find out if a contractor uses the best quality products that meet your budget. For instance, does he or she install fiber cement siding on home exteriors, or, opt for the cheaper, less durable vinyl siding? Make sure contractors are choosing long-lasting products that will stand the test of time.
6. Choose your contractor and sign a contract. With all of your research on hand, select the best contractor for your project. After confirming with the contractor, draw up a contract that includes a description of the work, products to be used, cost and completion dates and let the project begin.