How To Choose A Company For Your Remodeling Project
- Interview at least three companies. Imagine you are responsible for hiring a new employee for your business. How would you approach this?? You read all submitted resumes, you choose a number of candidates for an interview, then you decide to hire one. Submitted resumes are equivalent to collecting names of companies from ads or by asking family, friends, and neighbors for recommendations. Most companies today have websites where they post a wealth of information about themselves, including photo galleries and portfolios. Examine these websites thoroughly, then decide on three companies to interview.
- Make the interview count. Conduct the interview with all decision-making parties present.
- Present the same set of questions to all the companies and listen, listen, listen to the answers.
- Make a list of your wants and needs and express them to all interviewed companies. If you don't do this then you may not have common grounds for comparison. The most common mistake homeowners make when interviewing multiple companies is asking different things from different companies, as if their needs and wants evolve with every interview. Doing this makes it impossible to choose based on price, time frame, materials, and procedure. For example if you tell one company you want 42" tall wall cabinets and forget to tell that to the other company, the second company's estimator may include only standard height cabinets in the estimate which is less expensive than the 42" cabinets.
- Be careful with family and friends' recommendations: "My plumber Joe is honest and he did a fantastic job replacing my faucet. He told me he can remodel kitchens and bathrooms, and he can install hardwood flooring too." says your sister in-law. If your sister in law was satisfied with the work her plumber did in replacing her faucet, that doesn't mean he is as skilled in kitchen design, electrical, HVAC, carpentry, tiling, and dry wall installation. If Joe is that skilful, and owns all the necessary tools and licenses for all these trades, he would have put every tradesman in town out of business.
- You did all the above and you feel good about one company. You are ready to hire them. Stop! Not so fast! You still need to do some investigative work.
- Check the Better Business Bureau website and find out if the company had any complaints in the past three years and if they resolved these problems properly.
- Check online reviews:Exercise caution when reading these reviews. Some companies are posting favorable reviews about themselves. If you see a company with 20 reviews, all with five stars rating and posted within a short period of time (sometimes one or more daily, and for every possible project imaginable), this should raise some red flags. Sometimes negative reviews are posted by competitors. If you see a low rating posted without any explanation, it may not be posted by a customer.
- Review all the photos they have on their website one more time. Some companies post photos supplied by the cabinet manufacturers they represent. These kitchens have been staged by some of the best designers in the country. That does not mean your kitchen will turn out the same if this company worked on your project. Ask to see photos of projects they did themselves.
- Don't rely on a list of references one hundred percent; it is not enough. You don't know if these people are the company's owner, sister, aunt, cousin, or friend. Even if the names on the list are actual clients, asking them about the company may not reveal much. You may not know how large or small their project was or what the circumstances surrounding the project were. What's acceptable to someone else may not be acceptable to you. Similarly, what is problematic to someone else may not be as problematic to you. Ask to personally see one of their finished projects. Trust your eyes.
- Ask if the company is insured and bonded. This is usually required by cities to obtain a permit.
- Ask the company if your project requires a permit: If the company suggests that a permit is not needed, don't take their word for it. Call your city building department and inquire. Installing hardwood flooring or painting your walls usually does not require a permit, but redoing your kitchen, bath, or windows most likely will require a permit. If a company or an individual insists that a permit is not needed, this is usually because the company is not insured or bonded, or because their electrical, plumbing, and HVAC personnel are not state licensed. They may intend to cut corners somewhere and don't want the city inspector to find out about it. They may be trying to give you a competitive price at the expense of your safety and project quality. Have them get a permit; it is for your own protection. If they refuse, move on to another company.
- Ask the company how many pages their contracts are: A large project (kitchen, bath, or basement) will definitely require a contract longer than one page. The contract must contain not just a short description of the project and the total cost, but it must contain a payment schedule based on specific benchmarks, a specification document detailing materials, and installation details if necessary. Preparing a detailed contract with specification documents not only takes more time, but forces the company to commit to specified products and installation techniques for a fixed price. This prevents budget overruns. Your contract must contain a "Notice Of Right Of Cancellation" as well. This document must contain an address where you can send your cancellation in writing if you wish to do so.
- Lien Waiver: Ask the company if they are willing to provide you with a lien waiver at the end of the project. Without a lien waiver you have no way to know if the company paid all their suppliers and subcontractors.
- Beware of the low-ballers: If you obtained three estimates for the same project with identical material and installation techniques, and one of the estimates is a lot lower than the other two, this should be a warning sign. Legitimate companies charge comparably for similar specifications. If one is a lot cheaper than the others, that means they are cutting cost somewhere most likely in the quality of the material and installation.
Every remodeling project has three essential pillars: time, cost, and quality. Make sure you understand which one you are sacrificing when choosing a low-baller.
- Finally trust your gut feeling.
- Choose a company.