A Guide to Finding a Reliable Remodeling Contractor
Embarking on a home improvement or remodeling project to enhance the beauty, functionality, and value of your living space is an exciting journey. However, the key to a successful renovation lies in finding a reliable home improvement contractor, which can be a daunting task. With so many renovation companies and individual contractors to select from, how do you choose?
This question is a common one, so our experts at Jones Home Improvements have compiled this helpful guide, backed by decades of personal and professional experience, to help you identify and hire a trustworthy contractor for your next exterior or interior home improvement project.
Define Your Renovation or Home Improvement Project
Before you start searching for a contractor, clearly define your home improvement project. For example, are you remodeling a master bath? What will it look like? Is it a total rip-out and redo or do you plan to leave certain elements and update others? Outline your design and functionality goals, do your best to come up with a budget based on preliminary research, and create what you feel is a reasonable timeline. This will help you communicate effectively with potential contractors, find those who have the availability you seek, and ensure that you receive accurate estimates.
Ask for Personal Recommendations & Get References
One of the most reliable ways to find a trustworthy contractor (and to avoid unreliable ones) is through personal recommendations. Ask friends, family, neighbors, or colleagues who have recently completed similar projects about their experiences and if they would recommend their contractors. Questions to ask include whether the project was completed safely, on time, and within budget, if they cleaned up after themselves, and if they encountered any issues. Word-of-mouth referrals provide valuable insights into a contractor’s workmanship, reliability, and professionalism.
Additionally, ask the contractors for references, and be sure to follow through by calling them. Ask the same questions as above.
Always Check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB)
The Better Business Bureau is a great place to learn if a business is reputable. According to the BBB website, “BBB ratings represent the BBB’s opinion of how the business is likely to interact with its customers. The BBB rating is based on information the BBB obtains about the business, including complaints received from the public. BBB seeks and uses information directly from businesses and public data sources.
“BBB assigns ratings from A+ (highest) to F (lowest). In some cases, BBB will not rate the business (indicated by an NR, or “No Rating”) for reasons that include insufficient information about a business or ongoing review/update of the business’s file.”
The Better Business Bureau is especially useful to learn about public complaints made against a company, which can be hard to find in online reviews since those can be deleted. If a company is ranked highly, you can feel good knowing that, though it is not a guarantee of performance, the company or individual you are considering is most likely reputable.
Read Online Reviews About Local Home Improvement Contractors
Online platforms, such as review websites and social media groups, can also provide valuable insights into home improvement contractors’ reputations. Visit reputable websites, such as Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor, or Houzz, to read reviews and ratings. Pay attention to both positive and negative feedback and look for patterns in customer experiences. Be aware that negative reviews on many sites can be disputed and removed, so use online reviews as one part of the equation instead of relying on them solely.
Check Contractors’ Credentials
Verify each contractor’s credentials before making any commitments. Ensure they are licensed, insured, and bonded and don’t have any liens against them. A licensed contractor is more likely to adhere to local building codes and regulations, while insurance protects you from liability in case of accidents or damage during the project. Ask the contractor for proof before you begin the estimation process and verify the details with local code authorities.
Review Home Improvement Contractors’ Portfolios & Past Projects
Given that most home improvement companies have websites, or at the very least, social media pages showcasing their work, it’s easier than ever to assess contractors’ portfolios to gauge the quality of their work. Look for projects like yours to see if they understand what you’re wanting to achieve. Look for written and/or video testimonials on online platforms and be sure to confirm that the work displayed was completed by them.
Conduct Contractor Interviews
Once you’ve narrowed your list of potential contractors, conduct interviews to assess their suitability for your project. This can often be done over the phone so as not to waste your time and theirs with a lengthy house call that doesn’t fit either of your requirements. Ask about their experience, expertise, and the specific services they offer. Discuss your project in detail and evaluate their communication skills and responsiveness.
Obtain Multiple Home Renovation Quotes
After thorough research, you’ve selected a few contractors you feel good about (we recommend three unless you feel absolutely certain you’ve found the exact right contractor in your first meeting), now it’s time to collect detailed written estimates.
- Ensure each contractor performs a comprehensive inspection of the area you’re remodeling first. If you’re getting a new roof or siding, or there’s an area you can’t see, like the attic, ask them to take photos of the area while you discuss your project. You can’t get a complete estimate without the contractor knowing what the job will entail.
- If the contractor brings material samples and makes recommendations to help you narrow your selections, that will go a long way to providing a more accurate estimate.
- Ask about financing and get the information in writing.
- When you receive the written estimate, a good contractor will also provide an architectural drawing.
Be wary of significantly low or high quotes, as they may indicate potential issues with the contractor’s reliability or quality of work. A reasonable and transparent estimate should include labor costs, material costs, a realistic contingency for additional costs, and a timeline for completion. This not only helps you compare prices but also provides a better understanding of the project’s overall scope.
Additionally, be aware of communication. Do you feel heard or are you being talked over? Do you feel the person you’re meeting with understands your style and budget or is he or she trying to get you to increase your budget? Clear communication is vital for a successful partnership. Ensure the contractor is responsive and attentive to your needs, addressing any concerns or questions promptly.
Down Payment: Use Caution
Be cautious of home renovation contractors requesting large upfront payments. A reputable professional will typically ask for a reasonable down payment and then schedule subsequent payments based on project milestones. This payment structure aligns with the progress of the work and ensures accountability.
Visit Ongoing Home Improvement Projects
If you’re ready to call the contractor of your choice and give them the good news, you may want to take one more step for complete transparency. If possible, visit a home improvement project that the contractor is currently working on. This is time-consuming, but nothing speaks for reliability like a work in progress. This visit will provide real-time insights into their workmanship, organization, and overall professionalism. It also allows you to interact with the contractor and their crew and potentially with the homeowner.
Learn the Warranties & Get Them in Writing
Reputable contractors will offer product and workmanship warranties. It’s essential that you ask about these and get the specifics in writing. Saying there is a warranty: “Just call us and we’ll be there to remedy it,” and backing that statement with a written warranty that holds legal weight is very different. Find out who to call if there should be any warranty work and if the contractor will help you when needed.
Review the Home Improvement Company’s Contract
Before signing any contracts, carefully review the terms and conditions. Ensure that all aspects of the project, including costs, timelines, and responsibilities, are clearly outlined. If there are any uncertainties or discrepancies, seek clarification before proceeding. This contract should also outline the payment schedule, warranties, and dispute resolution procedures. Be sure to get copies of receipts for all materials, plus lien releases from all subcontractors and the general contractor before you pay the final invoice.
“I used JHI to build a new deck. The team did such a great job! They showed up on time, worked hard, cleaned up daily, and were very professional. They secured all the documents I needed for code compliance, answered all of my questions, and kept me in the loop with what was next.” – Marsha W.
Trust Your Instincts & Notice Red Flags
Trust your instincts when selecting the final contractor. If something feels off during the estimation or hiring process, consider exploring other options. A reliable home improvement company values open communication, transparency, and a positive working relationship with its clients. Red flags and signs of concern may include:
- A lack of communication and no follow-up
- Refusal to provide written estimates
- A final estimate that’s vastly different from the original (without cause)
- Requests for substantial upfront payments
Trust your instincts and proceed with caution if something seems amiss.
Use These Helpful Tips to Find a Reliable Home Improvement Contractor
Finding a reliable home improvement contractor is a crucial step in ensuring the success of your project and now you have some helpful tips to make it easier. By investing time into research, seeking recommendations and referrals, and carefully evaluating candidates, you can make an informed decision.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau
- Get referrals and recommendations
- Ask for references and call them; visit home renovation sites if applicable
- Learn if the company is not only skilled but also communicates effectively, adheres to timelines, and prioritizes customer satisfaction.
- Require proof of insurance (Workers Comp, General Liability)
- Be wary of large down payment requirements
- Understand the estimate and final contract fully
- Trust your instincts
A solid renovation partnership will bring your vision to life, resulting in a home improvement project that exceeds your expectations, increases your home’s real estate value, and offers greater enjoyment of your home. If you have any questions about this article or home improvement services in the St. Louis, St. Charles, and Jefferson County areas of Missouri, contact us today.