We’ve all heard stories from homeowners about contractors who were absolute nightmares – they ended up charging far more than the original estimate, they took forever to get the job done, or they simply abandoned the job and left the homeowners with untiled floors or wires dangling from the ceiling. In many instances, finding a reliable contractor can be one of the hardest parts of a kitchen or bathroom remodel. Where do you start? How do you decide this is the right person for the job? We’ve drawn up a list of some of the best strategies to make sure you get a trustworthy contractor so your dream kitchen doesn’t turn into a nightmare.

 

Be Certain About What You Want Out of Your Remodel

 

Before you start calling contractors to set up interviews, establish your budget and determine what materials you want for each part of the remodel. You can make an online kitchen design or online bathroom design, for example, which will be useful for both you and the potential contractors. By coming to the table with a clear vision of your project, you won’t get influenced by the different contractors and wind up with individual projects for each.

Ask around

Instead of just randomly picking somebody from a directory of local contractors, check out what people you know have to say. Don’t hesitate to turn to your family and friends who have had a recent remodel to find out who they hired and how their experience was with their particular contractor. You can also ask people who work in the industry, in real estate, or even at the local hardware store for recommendations.

 

Call Up a Few Different Candidates

 

Once you have 8-10 names, give each one a call for an initial impression of their work ethic and your ability to communicate well with one another. Describe your project briefly and get a feel for how enthusiastic they seem to be about your remodel and when they estimate they would be able to get started. Also ask if they meet the licensing requirements for your particular state and whether they have insurance.

 

Consider a Specialist

 

If you’re focusing on a specialized project such as new cabinets or flooring, find out which contractors in your area are the best match for your project. There are countertops contractors, kitchen-bath remodel contractors – if you’ve got one particular project in mind, there’s likely a contractor who specializes in it. If your project is a bigger one like a complete bathroom remodel, you’ll want to go with a general contractor to get the job done.

 

Find Out More About the Contractor’s Reputation

 

After you’ve checked with friends, family, and professionals for recommendations, look up the contractor on the Internet to see if they have a website or if there are any reviews or testimonials of their work online. Sites like yelp, houzz, and homecontractors feature pages with reviews of regional contractors so you can get a sense of a contractor’s professionalism and ability to deliver quality work within a reasonable period of time.

 

Interview Your Top Four Candidates

 

After your initial phone calls, narrow the number of your candidates down to four and invite them over for an interview. Ask all of your candidates the same questions and ask them for a written bid that includes the same materials. Consistency is key. You might be surprised how different the interviews go with the different contractors, and whether it’s just the right “fit” or the best bid to fit with your budget, it’s a good idea to shop around and give yourself a few different options. During the interview, write down their answers so as to jog your memory later. Important information to find out during the interview includes how long their company has been in operation, how many projects like yours they’ve completed before, and whether your project will require any permits. If you’re going for a cabinet remodel, for example, it makes sense to go with someone who knows the ropes already, especially if you’re getting custom work; but it’s also a good idea to consider the do-it-yourself route and look into RTA cabinets. As you interview your contractors, don’t hesitate to ask them questions that allow you to imagine yourself as your own contractor. You may wind up being able to take on a lot of these jobs on your own.

 

Final Steps

 

If you are hesitating between two candidates who both seem to be a good match, set up a second interview. This is also a great opportunity to ask any questions that you may have overlooked the first time. Once you’ve decided on a contractor, be prepared to negotiate the payment terms. One good rule of thumb is to agree to make payments following the successful completion of individual stages of the project. Again, don’t discount the possibility of undertaking some of the jobs yourself – you might be surprised at how much money and time you can save by looking into options like ready to assemble kitchen cabinets online. Nelson Cabinetry provides free consultation and online design options to ensure that you have the best possible experience as your own contractor.