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How to Hire the Right Remodeling Contractor for the Job

Jenna Jonaitis
Written by Jenna Jonaitis
Updated November 9, 2021
Contractor works on installing cabinets in a new kitchen
Kostiantyn - stock.adobe.com

We’ll walk you through how to be sure you pick the right contractor for the job

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Dreaming of a newly renovated space in your home? Whether it's your kitchen, bathroom, or home office, a remodeling contractor can bring your vision to life. Hiring a general contractor is almost always worth it because they coordinate subcontractors, handle permits, and manage the project from end to end.

How to Find a Remodeling Contractor

Find a vetted remodeling contractor near you by asking family, friends, coworkers, and neighbors for recommendations, especially from those who have hired contractors before.

Before Hiring a Remodeling Contractor

Understanding the scope of your project and required skills will help you choose a remodeler who can handle the job.

Plan Your Remodeling Project for Accurate Quotes

Get a clear picture of what your remodeling project will look like so you can match up with the best contractor.

  • Scope of the project: Do you want to add new outlets or recessed lighting? Do you want insulation, HVAC, or flooring work done? Knowing the scope and complexity of your remodeling project helps ensure you get a reliable quote and a contractor who can handle all the details. You can always adjust your plan, but it's important to have a vision for your finished product when looking for the right contractor.

  • Square feet: The size of the room plays a role in the contractor’s price and their ability and availability to take on the job.

  • Design work: Whether it’s an interior or exterior job, do you need help designing your new space and all the components? Ensure your contractor can design the work or can coordinate with a designer or architect for the project.

  • Style and finishes: Are you looking for a rustic farmhouse look or a modern design? Knowing your style can help determine if your contractor has done similar work and utilized those materials and finishes before.

  • Timeline: Is there a timeframe that works best for your family or a strict deadline you need to hit? Understand any time constraints and schedules that would impact your ability to work well with a contractor.

Check Your Remodeling Contractor’s Qualifications and References

Talk with potential contractors about their qualifications, similar projects they’ve completed, and references who can vouch for their work. Ask for a portfolio that showcases their remodel projects or see finished products in person if possible. You can also ask to talk with references, such as homeowners whom the contractor has worked with before.

You should also ensure that your local home renovation contractor is licensed, insured and bonded, and knows how to handle permit processes. You should also look online at local reviews of the contractor.

Questions to Ask Your Remodeling Contractor

Remodeled modern kitchen with white paneled cabinets floor to ceiling
tashka2000 - stock.adobe.com

Before you hop on the phone with a remodeling contractor, prepare a few questions. Here are some great questions to ask your remodeling contractor:

  • How many similar projects have you done? There'll be fewer snags and better quality work if they've completed similar projects before.

  • How long have you been a contractor? The number of years clues you in on their experience level.

  • Could I see a portfolio of past work and/or talk with recent homeowners you’ve worked with? A contractor’s past performances and references speak better than anything else.

  • How long will the remodeling project take, and when would you be able to start? Learn if your schedules mesh and discuss any necessary deadlines.

  • What hours of the day would you work on our project? Will they be at your house during family dinner or while your kid naps? 

  • What types of subcontractors do you regularly work with? Look for a general contractor near you who has connections with the type of subcontractors needed for your job, whether it’s plumbers, electricians, or flooring installers.

  • What is your process for remodeling? Understand if you can access the area or be home during the renovation process.

  • Do you provide a written estimate and contract? Avoid working with contractors who are unwilling to put your agreement in writing.

Tips for Hiring Your Remodeling Contractor

Hiring the best remodeling contractor for your job may seem daunting at first, but it can be fun to discover a great fit and onboard them to your project. Before signing a contract, interview your contractor and ensure they have the licenses to back up their claims.

Interview Your Remodeling Contractor

As you look for pros to handle your remodeling project, get quotes from at least three contractors. Discuss your project in detail to help them determine the most accurate cost estimate. Ensure you get your desired finished project by working with a trustworthy contractor, easy to get along with, and has the right skills.

Ask for a Background Check

Request to see a background check, so you feel comfortable with them entering your home and potentially being around your family. You’ll also want to make sure they have the proper licenses to do remodeling work. Your state, county, or municipality has rules about which licenses a remodeling contractor must carry.

Get a Contract and Arrange Payments With Your Remodeling Contractor

A signed contract ensures you some protection and helps you and your contractor get on the same page. Your contract should include details such as:

  • Project description and scope

  • Start and completion dates (plus penalties for missed deadlines)

  • Payment structure, timeline, and methods

  • Permits your contractor will handle

  • Terms for changing orders on the project

  • Outline of costs and materials, including total project cost

  • Verification of insurance and bonding, and licensure

  • Termination terms, such as if they complete poor quality work or impart long delays

  • Protection terms, such as a lien release in case the contractor fails to pay subcontractors

Have contractors you didn’t choose? Tell the contractors by email that they didn’t get the job but that you appreciate their time and efforts.

Keep Records of Your Remodeling Project

For your protection, make notes of your project’s progress, such as how many hours your contractor works, their progress, and any concerns. Take photos periodically, too, so you can keep up with your home’s changes. If you sell your home, it’s nice to have records of your remodel project and who did the work.

It’s also helpful to take notes about details like paint colors, so it’s easy to find the exact match when you need to touch up your walls or baseboards.

Look for Red Flags and Prepare to Troubleshoot

If you notice any warning signs when hiring your contractor, don’t wait to address them. Here are some red flags to watch out for:

  • No references or reviews

  • A desire for cash payment or a large down payment (such as over 15% of the total project price)

  • The quote coming in much lower or higher than other bids

  • They won't sign a contract

  • The contractor doesn’t show up when they say they will

  • They skip necessary permit processes

  • Low-quality work

Try talking with your contractor about any concerns and see if you can formulate a plan together. If it’s a quality-of-work issue, perhaps they can subcontract someone else to fix the problem (but ensure they don’t charge you for this). Before you make a final judgment on whether or not something is correct, consider getting another opinion from an expert in the field. 

As a last resort, you can bring your case to small claims court, but most contractors can resolve issues far before that point.

After Your Remodeler Wraps Up

Check out the remodeling work thoroughly from top to bottom. If you have concerns, discuss them with your contractor and reference your contract if needed. Give your contractor an opportunity to make any issues right. Once you're satisfied with the work, make the final payment and leave a positive review to help your contractor meet other great homeowners.

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