Meet with multiple remodeling contractors before hiring one
Prepare in advance by doing research and setting a budget
A consultation helps identify project opportunities and limitations
Whether you’re just freshening up the kitchen or bathroom’s look or completely altering your entire house, remodeling can sometimes seem overwhelming. That’s why it’s so important to choose the right contractors so that you can be confident that the technical details are taken care of while you focus on the big picture. After doing a little research to identify local remodeling contractors, schedule a few consultations with the best candidates to hone in on which pro can most effectively help you execute your vision on a budget that works for you. Here’s how to prepare for the consultation—which may take place at your home or via an online video chat platform—and what to expect during the meeting.
How to Prepare for Your Consultation
Before contacting remodeling contractors for a consultation, take these steps to plan for your project conversation.
Look for Inspiration
This is the fun part. Even if you have a fairly concrete vision, consult magazines and blogs, social media, and your favorite home improvement series to expand your sense of the possibilities and get a feel for how similar projects have turned out. Your conversation with the contractor will be a lot more productive if you’ve already taken the time to really consider your options.
Set Your Priorities
After widening your scope during the research phase, it’s time to narrow things down again and solidify the primary goals of the renovation. Maybe the guest room looks a little dated, and you want to end up with something more modern or practical. Perhaps you need to deal with the hazard presented by those chipped bathroom titles. Whatever it is, the more specific you are during the consultation, the better the contractor will be able to serve your needs.
Establish a Budget Range
While you shouldn’t set your heart on a particular price point until you’ve had a chance to speak with contractors, you need to have a range of what you’re able and willing to spend. The budget will be one of the most important factors in any contractor’s proposal.
Visit a Showroom
Many residential designers and other remodeling pros maintain brick and mortar showrooms, where you can see first-hand how different products and design schemes look. If any of the contractors you’re considering have showrooms, you should visit and browse before an at-home or virtual consultation.
Investigate Permit Requirements
It’s helpful to figure out early in the process whether the scope of your remodel will require building permits. Many contractors can handle the process for you—but typically at an additional cost. If you want to investigate the permits yourself, you can contact your municipal building department for more information.
Armed with a better sense of your options and limitations, it’s time to start researching pros you can trust to do the job. Keep in mind that some companies may charge for a consultation, so avoid any surprise fees and ask before scheduling. It may also depend on the scope of the consultation—if you’re just expecting a conversation plus a home or virtual walk-through, you will not likely be charged. If you need more detailed plans or renderings, the contractor will require payment for their time.
What to Expect During an In-Home Consultation
Once you’ve finished your research and contacted contractors to schedule consultations, the specifics of the discussion will largely depend on the nature of the project. For example, project details and questions for updating a kitchen differ significantly from those that arise when finishing a basement.
During the consultation, a good contractor will focus on your needs, wants, and budget. A contractor who’s more interested in telling you what you should do rather than listening to what you’re saying is probably the wrong choice.
A remodeling contractor should also provide you with information about their company and how they plan to execute the project. Some of the details may include who will be working on your remodel project, including subcontractors.
You should expect to see samples of the contractor’s previous work. Ask about their availability, project timeframe for completing the project, and any project references.
Once the preliminary discussion has concluded, the contractor will walk through the space, take measurements, examine the area, and look for utility lines or red flags. If your project involves removing or changing walls, the contractor will likely check the basement and the attic.
What to Expect During a Virtual Consultation
With advances in video call technology and more meeting options available to suit the comfort-level of customers, many contractors now offer virtual consultations as an alternative to a home visit.
The process is similar to an at-home consultation with the necessary digital adjustments. The contractor will send you a link to their preferred online video conference platform, accessible from a laptop, tablet, or smartphone.
The consultation will likely include a virtual walk-through, so make sure to prepare the spaces that you’ll be remodeling for clear display. Tidy up and move any furniture that could obstruct or distort the contractor’s view. Make sure to illuminate the space as well as possible, opening your curtains and turning on lights. It is also helpful to take a couple of well-lit photographs in advance, to share with the contractors via email, and illustrate any subtleties that may be lost to the video call.
To conduct the virtual walk-through:
If you’re using a tablet or smartphone, use the rear-facing camera for the walk-through so that you can easily see the image on-screen too.
Start outside the entrance to the space, walking the contractor through it.
Go to the center of the room or the area, and make a slow 360-degree pan around the space.
Select a few areas of the perimeter from which to capture different angles, making another slow pan across the room.
Pan up slowly from the floor to ceiling.
Bring the camera close to specific details or areas of concern, pointing out and describing any issues.
The contractor may then ask for close-ups or an additional look at key areas.
Once the contractor has seen everything they need to make a recommendation, they will likely share their computer screen to show you reference images for some of the ideas they have in mind.
After the Consultation
In most cases, after the initial consultation, there will still be a few additional steps to take before selecting and hiring a contractor. The contractor may send you product samples to review and consider, such as materials, appliances, and fixtures.
They will also prepare an estimate, quote, or proposal. An estimate or proposal should provide a reliable projection of the final cost. In most cases, a bid or a quote is the final price you’ll pay. The more specific you can be about your project at this stage, the more detailed and accurate the estimate will be. A fuzzy plan always means a fuzzy estimate. Make sure to get multiple estimates and learn how to read them—too low of an estimate should be a red flag.