Remodeling a kitchen is one of the biggest (and most expensive) moves a homeowner can make. As important as prior planning and design work are, ultimately, it all comes down to the execution. That being said, choosing the contractor to turn your vision into a reality is the most important part of the process.
Finding a reliable, trustworthy contractor puts you in a great situation for ongoing work. However, a poor choice can be one of the costliest and most stressful mistakes you can experience as a homeowner.
Let’s talk about some things you can do to make sure you get the perfect contractor for your remodel.
1. Clarify Your Vision
For any remodeling project, all parties involved need to be on the same page in terms of the vision. Regardless of the contractor you choose, you need to make sure you are in the driver’s seat throughout the length of the project.
In order for this to work, there needs to a clear and completely transparent image of what the final product is going to be. Misalignment of expectations can turn any client-contractor relationship sour.
Before reaching out, you need to have crystal clear goals mapped out in extreme detail. This is the most important aspect of a kitchen remodel. At the end of the day, you are the one calling the shots. The contractor is the one who makes it happen.
2. Research Credentials
Before making contact with a contractor, you need to do some preliminary research. This involves some surface level investigation on their website, checking up on the licenses they hold on state and local levels, understanding what each certification means, having a valid business license, workers’ comp, actual employees (rather than part time help), ect.
Additionally, be sure to check if they have received things like awards for outstanding business. In many cases, you can find this type of information on platforms like Yelp and Angie’s list.
3. Look at Their Past Work
Every contractor has their own style and way of getting projects done. As previously mentioned, it’s absolutely vital that you and the contractor share a common vision for your remodel. This is why you need to look carefully at their work history.
For instance, the cabinets are more than likely going to be the most expensive part of the job. If you are planning to tear your current ones out and start from scratch, you’ll want to look at their previous cabinetry work.
Have they worked on similar styles you are shooting for in your remodel?
What types of materials are they most familiar with?
If you are electing to reface your cabinets, rather than completely replace, look at the work they have done in this regard.
It never hurts to reach out to past clients, if possible. Good contractors will happily speak about their previous work and should not have a problem connecting you with their old clients. When you are in contact, there are a lot of topics to clarify.
How well did the contractor stick to timelines?
Did they respect your home?
Was there clear and open communication throughout the project?
These are just a few jumping off points. The contractors body of work should fall in line with the vision you have.
4. Ask the Right Questions
In many ways, hiring a contractor for your kitchen remodel is similar to a typically job interview. While there will always be a certain level of unknown when making a selection, there are many questions you need to ask beforehand to give you an idea of the person carrying out your project.
How will you set your schedule?
Being as how the kitchen is one of the primary rooms in your home, the schedule for a remodel is everything. Upon meeting with the contractor, you need to have your goals and expectations laid out in full. While it’s tough to make guarantees, a good contractor will give you their best estimates, along with a backup plan if certain challenges get in the way.
What about this project concerns you?
Every single project has a number of unknowns. One of the worst answers to get for this question is “absolutely nothing!” Quality contractors will have done their homework and identified a number of challenges. Typically, this includes processes in relation to selective demolition and worst case scenario numbers.
When will you be here?
As the contractor will be in your home, you need to know what their day-to-day schedule will be so you can plan your own accordingly.
Where is your shop?
The shop location can have big impact on timelines. If the logistics are complicated, it may even affect how and when they will be working on site.
Who will be here every day?
If you are meeting with a company, this answer can vary based on size and structure. There may be multiple people coming through, like the project manager, carpenters, or subcontractors. If this is the case, you should definitely ask to meet the supervisor before they begin.
How will we communicate?
All contractors have preferred means of communication. Whether it’s email, cell phone, texting, etc., you need to have a clear understanding of how you will exchange information throughout the project.
How do you go about billing?
Contractors should have a defined billing structure. Typically, billing is broken up into manageable cycles with a modest deposit.
What happens when the project is complete?
Any remodel will require a good deal of paperwork. Whether it’s markup plans, lien releases, inspection reports, photos, and so on, you need to confirm what exactly you will get once the project is finished. Essentially, this helps to ensure your goals are met.
These are just a handful of the major questions you should be asking a potential contractor. There will inevitably be more that pertain to your specific job.
5. Look for Red Flags
Unfortunately, there is a lot of negative stigma surrounding contractors. The harsh reality is there are a lot of sketchy ones to watch out for. The key is knowing the red flags. Here are some of the big ones:
They are pushy with recommendations.
Remember, you are in the driver’s seat. Contractors should give you their professional advice. However, if they are ruthlessly pushing certain materials or concepts, they likely have ulterior motives.
They demand huge sums of money upfront.
As previously stated, trustworthy contractors usually break billing up into small, reasonable chunks. If they ask for a majority before starting the project, steer clear.
You cannot verify references.
Contractors can go on about their own work. But if you can’t confirm their claims, do not trust them.
They act sketchy when asked about insurance.
If you detect any uncomfortableness in this area, walk away!
They tell you there is a “special price” if you sign the contract right now.
Don’t sign a contract unless you have days to look it over and come up with questions. Impulsiveness is never good in a kitchen remodel.
They don’t listen.
Client-contractor relationships are built on open communication and mutual respect. If you aren’t getting this, don’t hire them.
6. Get it in Writing
Verbal agreements, unfortunately, mean very little. In regards to anything related to work being done, materials being bought, rates, payments, timelines, legal documents, proof of insurance, etc., you need to get everything in writing.
Failing to do so can come back to haunt you. For example, if there is nothing in writing pertaining to insurance, and the contractor gets injured in your home, you potentially have a lawsuit on your hands.
Having all the proper paperwork in order before the remodel begins is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle.
Finding the perfect contractor can be tough. Keep in mind, the good ones are usually busy; they probably won’t be readily available. For this reason, you need to plan ahead and make sure you aren’t rushed in making your choice. The end result should ideally be a long lasting relationship for future projects.
San Diego Kitchen Pros has over 100 years of combined experience in remodels and custom cabinetry. We even received an Angie’s Super Star award in 2016! So much of our success stems from our ability to make good impressions on clients throughout the entirety of projects. This has led to a great deal of repeat customers throughout our business lifespan.
If you’ve got a kitchen remodeling vision in mind, let us know and we will do everything we can to ensure it turns into a wonderful reality!