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How to Choose a Kitchen Remodeling Contractor

Choosing A Contractor For Your Kitchen Remodel

The most important choice you will make when planning your dream kitchen is the contractor who will bring it to life. You can’t choose a contractor from a catalog, unlike kitchen fixtures and finishes. It’s easy for you to become overwhelmed by the sheer number of options available. Rushing through this decision can be the worst kitchen remodeling mistake of all. You’ll end up spending more money, time and frustration if you rush to make a decision or choose a low-quality kitchen remodeling contractor.

What to look for in a kitchen remodeling contractor?

It is an expensive undertaking to remodel your kitchen. It’s not always one thing that makes a contractor stand out from the others when you are looking for kitchen contractors. Often, it’s a combination. These “Five C’s”, as we like to call them, are the core of any checklist, when looking for a contractor.

  • Competence: An experienced kitchen remodeling contractor should have a proven track record of success on similar projects.
  • Credentials: A contractor with good credentials will hold a valid contractor’s license, along with any other licenses required by your locality, like a residential contractor special license. Your state’s Consumer Protection Agency can provide information on the requirements for contractors in your area.
  • Coverage: An experienced contractor will be able to provide proof of personal liability insurance, property damage coverage, and workers’ compensation.
  • Communication Skills: An effective contractor will listen to you and communicate with you effectively so that they can confirm your vision.
  • Comfort Level: You should feel comfortable working with the contractor for as long it takes to complete the project.

The “Five C’s”, while not a guarantee, can help you eliminate contractors who are less qualified or disreputable so that you can concentrate your search on professionals with the skills to complete your project successfully.

How to find a kitchen remodeling contractor in 4 steps

It’s time to begin your search for a contractor. Once you have decided what you want from your kitchen remodel, and what you are looking for in a contractor, you can start. Here are some insider tips that will help you avoid the most common mistakes.

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Step 1: Find candidates in your area

Shop local when looking for the best general contractor to work on your kitchen project. Local kitchen remodeling contractors will be familiar with local codes, permitting procedures and other important information. Their business is also dependent on their reputation in the community. Here are a few helpful tips to help you get started if you ask, “How can I find a local contractor?”

  • Word of mouth: Good news (and the news of great work) spreads quickly. Ask your friends, family members, co-workers, and neighbors about their favorite remodeling contractors.
  • Online services: Although not as personal or as personalized as a recommendation by a friend, services such as Angie’s List and HomeAdvisor specialize in everything home-related. You can also search by zip code or browse reviews. This is a great way to find contractors in your locality.
  • Search engines, directories, and member organizations: To cast a wider virtual net and still sort results by the closest to you (and to cast a larger virtual net), turn to search engines such as Google or directories such as Yelp to find leads and contractor reviews. You can search for contractors near you by searching trade associations like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry or consumer-facing groups like the Better Business Bureau.

Step 2: Research contractor crededentials

Congratulations if Step 1 produced a large number of local candidates for kitchen renovation contractors! If you don’t have the time to spend months interviewing contractors, it will be necessary to narrow down your list to only a few candidates. Now it’s time for some detective work in order to narrow down the list of candidates. How to tell the difference between good and bad contractors:

  • Visit their website. Find out how long the contractor has been in business by checking out their About Us or History pages. You can find a portfolio of previous work that shows similar jobs in terms of size, complexity and style.
  • Check for certifications. Most contractors adhere to the same standard of maintaining current and appropriate licenses. Contractors must complete extensive coursework and tests to become certified by some professional associations. Look for top associations’ designations on the contractor’s website. These include the National Kitchen and Bath Association, the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, or the National Association of Homebuilders.

Step 3: Interview Candidates

After you’ve narrowed down your list of candidates, it’s now time to interview your top choices. It can be difficult to decide how many contractors you should consider at this point. There is no magic number, except for the one you can manage. Here are some tips to get the best (and most) from the contractors that you interview.

  • Prepare questions and meet face-to-face. Even if you get all the information over the phone or virtually, meeting a candidate in person can reveal more than the answers they give.
  • Choose the most important questions for your project. For example, what is your business background? How many similar projects have you completed? Who will be on the site? What are your terms of payment? What insurances do you have? How do you deal with change orders? You should be able to get a good idea of the overall project and how it will go.
  • References should be checked thoroughly. Ask for three references from each candidate. You’ll probably only be able to access references who will give glowing reviews, but by asking the right questions you can learn more about a candidate than they would have willingly revealed. Asking a reference to tell you what they wish they had done differently could give you valuable insights into how to improve your project.

Request written estimates and proposals from each contractor. This request has three parts:

  • Give as much detail and information as possible about the project.
  • Ensure that each candidate gets the same information.
  • Each candidate should be able to provide a breakdown of the costs for materials, labor, margins, and any other expenses. When you compare the quotes of each contractor, only their costs will be considered. This may help to make a more accurate comparison and an easier decision.
written contract with the contractor

Step 4: Get a detailed written contract

After you have chosen the right contractor to renovate your kitchen, you need to get everything down in writing to start building your dream kitchen! The contract is just as important as a blueprint or design. The contract helps to ensure that everyone is on one page and focused on the goal. If, for instance, your contractor takes too long to complete the job, you’ll have a plan to deal with it before it happens. Look at your contract carefully to ensure you can answer the following questions:

  • Is the contract accurate, professionally executed and well-written? It should not contain any typos or spelling mistakes, and only include the information that you have agreed to. Contractors often use templates, so make sure to double-check that there are no details about other clients.
  • Does the contract outline all important project details? Remember that the contract exists to both benefit you and your contractor. The more clear it is, then the better. It should include key details such as: contact information for the correct person, products and materials to be used, dates of start and completion, scope of work and daily hours of work, site plan, terms and payment schedule (including any payments that are contingent upon completion of specific work), and how change orders will be handled.
  • Make sure to have proof of worker’s comp, liability insurance and a written contract that states the contractor must obtain lien releases from subcontractors and vendors (which will protect you in the event the bills are not paid).

After you hire a contractor

The signing on the dotted line is an important milestone for any kitchen remodel project. You can celebrate this first step, but you still have work to do to keep the project moving forward. It’s just that your role as a client has changed.

You have every right to visit the construction site at any time. Try not to get in the crew’s way or hover over them. Take photos of any project parts that you find problematic so you can discuss with your kitchen remodeling contractor.

These records are also useful if any discrepancies occur during or after the construction. Create a folder for important documents such as contracts, change orders and records of payments. Note important conversations or calls so that you can keep a record for future reference. It may not be as exciting as choosing paint colors or researching the latest design trends but it is just as important to a successful kitchen remodel.