Unless home remodeling projects have been a frequent endeavor for them, most of our clients find the process of finding and selecting a contractor to be the most overwhelming aspect of the whole project.
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Regardless of the scope of the remodel, the contractor’s part in any project can make the whole thing flow seamlessly…or make you wanna pull out your hair!!   We have the opportunity to work with many different professionals, from the “one-man show” to the large crews and everything in between and are pleased to reassure clients that there are wonderful contractors out there…and here is how we coach them…
1.  Begin by talking to people you know that have done remodels in the recent past.  Word of mouth is often the preferred method of “advertisement” for the better contractors.  And talking with others will help you narrow the field in a hurry.
2.  Once you have gotten names, give them each a phone call and do a short “interview”…here are some questions to ask…
  • Do they take on projects like yours?  Some contractors specialize in bathrooms, kitchens or smaller projects…it is always ideal to hire someone who is very familiar with the needs of your specific project.
  • What level of finishes are they accustomed to working with?  (Don’t want the novice tile installer ruining hundreds or thousands of dollars worth of imported tile!!)
  • Are they willing to provide financial references, from suppliers or banks?
  • Can they give you a list of previous clients?
  • How many other projects would they have going at the same time? What is their preferred method of communication?  How do they handle delays?  *Read* Will they leave your project to go “finish” and for how long will they be gone?
  • How long have they worked with their subcontractors?  Can you specify subs if you have a preference?
The answers to these questions will reveal alot about the contractor and his/her availability, reliability, how much attention they’ll be able to give your project and how smoothly the work will go.  If their answers meet your specifications, then you are ready to move on to the next step!
3.  We recommend to every client that they personally interview two or three qualified contractors.  Just as every designer has an ideal client, every client has an ideal contractor.  One that “gets” you and your project.  Don’t be afraid to ask for a face to face interview.  During this interview, ask whatever questions you have on your mind…get everything out on the table.  Some of the most crucial questions are the most difficult to bring up…but this is not the time to hold back.  You need to know!  Discuss budget, payment schedules, timelines, bidding processes, all of the questions that will decide whom you hire…(And have in your home!)
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4.  As part of the follow up to the interview, we always tell clients to ask for examples of previous work, photos, and reference of clients.  Be sure you speak with clients who have finished projects recently…as well as 3-5 years out.  You want to know that the recent client was happy with the project while it is still fresh in their minds…and then you want to be sure that the “older” work is holding up…and how he/she handled any issues after the job was complete.
5.  Bids…each contractor has their own way of going about bidding projects.  Some charge hourly, some mark up materials.  Others charge a flat fee.  Some provide very detailed/itemized bids…others are more general.  Be sure you completely understand what your bid includes and what it does not!  This will help you as your compare between contractors.
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6.  Once the bids are in and the reference checks are done take a good long look at each contractor…Do not simply choose one based on price!!  The whole package is very important when selecting a contractor.   “Beyond technical competence, comfort should play an equal or greater role in your decision. The single most important factor in choosing a contractor is how well you and he communicate. All things being equal, it’s better to spend more and get someone you’re comfortable with.” -This Old House, General Contractor Tom Silva
7.  Communicate!!  As you make your decision and move forward into your project, communication only becomes even more crucial!  Get as much in writing as possible!  This includes the obvious signed contract a the beginning…but also can include details throughout the process.  This helps both you and the contractor remember those discussions that you would not think anyone could forget…but it is amazing what can get lost between the plans stage and the final coat of sheetrock mud!  One thing that the AsterHouse team does alot of is “summary” emails.  After most meetings with the contractor and/or client, we will send a list of items discussed and decided…this gives everyone a quick reference and has caught those details that one party thought had been decided one way, but in fact was another!!
Home projects are not without their hiccups…even the best thought out, most detailed plans will not be perfectly executed…but when your relationship with your contractor is one of trust and clear communication, even the biggest challenges can easily bring forth the most fabulous spaces!!  (And as always…we would love to help you navigate the wonderful world of constructions!  Give us a call!!)

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