A remodeling project can give your friends and family a space to enjoy throughout the year. For example, LivingSpace’s customers often remark that their sunrooms are the most popular rooms in the home. So a new remodel is an exciting prospect! And working with a skilled, responsible contractor on your project can be a truly satisfying experience. That being said, working with a difficult contractor can be a serious headache, with cost overruns, delays, and unreturned phone calls causing you unneeded aggravation.
Thankfully, today there are more tools than ever to find a skilled, highly reviewed contractor with the right skills and credentials for your project. To help you take some of the guesswork out of picking the right company for the job, we’ve compiled six different tips to help you choose a contractor who’ll build your project just the way you imagined it.
Tips to Choosing the Right Contractor
1. Seek referrals
- Talk to friends and family who have already been through the process
- Check out online reviews for the company
- Ask contractors for references
- Visit showrooms
If a friend or family member had a recent remodeling project that sparked your interest, reach out to them to learn about the buying process. Their experience can be invaluable. Hopefully they had a positive experience with a local remodeling company, and can point you in the right direction. Most local contractors deeply appreciate customer referrals and by letting a prospective remodeler know they came recommended, you can skip some of the awkwardness of an introduction and quickly establish greater mutual trust. Similarly, if someone you know had a bad experience, it might convince you that a company isn’t worth the hassle and you can narrow down your list.
Once you have a list of candidates, set up a meeting. Here, you can determine if the contractor is equipped to accommodate your plans and ideas. Also, you can ask the contractor for further references to make sure it’s a firm you want to work with. Just be mindful that you’ll be talking to some of the contractor’s most satisfied customers. Nonetheless, ask the references direct questions about their experience and satisfaction. It’s important to understand what they would have done differently, if given the option.
Some contractors have showrooms that allow customers to see their work up close. If this is the case, check it out and see if the end-product is something you could envision for your home. The absence of a showroom shouldn’t be a red flag, however, as some top-quality firms direct their efforts less towards marketing and don’t have the budget for a showroom.
2. Focus on quality and trust instead of budget and timeline
- Low price means low quality
- Look for comprehensive pricing breakdowns
- Develop a relationship with the contractor and their crew
Since your home is probably your single largest investment, try to avoid companies you suspect of using low-quality materials or inexperienced workers. The saying “you get what you pay for” applies directly to the remodeling industry. Be cautious of builders that quote extremely low prices. Unfortunately, they are likely to build low-quality products.
Additionally, contractors should be able to provide detailed estimates with a comprehensive breakdown of the costs. Typically an estimate should have line by line entries for: products and materials, shipping, labor, permitting, and subcontractors (such as plumbers and electricians). If a contractor can only offer you a single number with no description of how the costs break down, you should press them for details. Contractors who don’t disclose how they calculated a cheap quote may end up overcharging you down the road with hidden fees.
Instead, focus on developing a relationship with the contractor. Learn about the materials he or she uses to build, and emphasize getting the exact details you want in a project. You may have to adjust the project to meet your budget, but it’s worthwhile to establish a reference point for what you would build in an ideal scenario. Build trust that you are working with the best builders for the job, who understand and value your personal vision.
One way to learn about the company is to check their profile at your local Better Business Bureau (BBB). The BBB promotes marketplace trust within a community, and customers can file complaints that will be kept on file (LivingSpace Sunrooms BBB page). Check your local office to see what complaints, if any, are stored. Take note of how the company resolved these complaints.
3. Make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured with a reputable firm
- A licensed company protects you from delays, permitting problems, and future roadblocks when selling your home.
- A bonded company protects you from being stuck with unfinished work and shoddy craftsmanship.
- An insured company protects you from liability for damage to your property or contractors’ injuries.
All reputable contracting firms should be licensed, bonded, and insured, as it’s a common requirement to bid on large projects, enter the market in different states, and hire employees. Contractors without licensing risk fines, closures, and delays. Worse yet, a contractor who is not aligned with a licensed firm may be legally defined as the homeowner’s employee when working on a project. Most customers are rarely aware that they could be on the hook for worker’s compensation and other expenses if working with an unlicensed contractor. So ask for credentials.
When a company is bonded, they’ve paid into a surety fund, which protects a homeowner from financial liability if a project is not completed or the final product does not meet regulations. Working with a company that isn’t bonded leaves homeowners with few options to recoup their investment when a contractor doesn’t meet their end of the bargain. If a project is simply left uncompleted or is built so poorly it can be considered dangerous, a paid bond helps protect the customer.
A common scam among conmen posing as contractors is to approach homeowners directly, offering to repair a roof or build a deck. They ask for an up-front payment, or final payments made in the middle of construction, then simply vanish without completing the project. This is especially common in areas that have recently experienced a natural disaster, such as a flood or hurricane. It’s your right to ask for proof of a funded surety bond before handing over any of your hard-earned money.
Similarly, an insured firm protects homeowners from being held financially responsible if a worker is injured on a job. Insurance also protects both the firm and customer from high bills because of incidental property damage. Uninsured firms place their customers at considerable financial risk and should be avoided at all costs.
4. Ask questions, Expect Answers
Don’t assume the contractor is qualified because of a flashy presentation. Be sure to formulate and ask direct questions. Pay attention to their response, as it will indicate their willingness to work with you. It will also provide better insight into the quality of their product. Those that build excellent products shouldn’t be worried about providing you enough information to make an educated buying decision.
Also, firms have the opportunity to be members of home building and remodeling associations. These associations educate contractors in the area on current building practices so they can best answer any questions you might have.
5. Learn who will be installing the room
The contractor’s firm should use their own crews to install your home addition. Also, the contractor or project foreman should supervise with regular, on-site visits. If there are any delays or changes to the building schedule, you should be notified immediately.
Likewise, the company should take care of obtaining building permits and scheduling the final inspection. It is their responsibility to do so. This is a critical step in the process. If ignored, you could have future problems if you ever try to sell your home.
The company should provide you with a complete and thorough walk-through inspection of the finished product. This will ensure your complete satisfaction with the project while providing a time for last-minute questions.
In some special cases, contractors will need to hire a subcontractor to finish unique jobs, such as plumbing or laying concrete. Don’t be alarmed if this happens. Instead, learn why the contractor needs the additional help.
6. Pay attention to the warranty
A home addition’s warranty demonstrates the contractor’s confidence in the product’s quality. Therefore, you should look for companies that offer excellent warranties. For example, LivingSpace Sunrooms markets custom vinyl sunrooms that can withstand the most inclement conditions, including 150 mile per hour winds. Due to this, it is unlikely that you will ever need to use a warranty. Nonetheless, we offer a Limited Lifetime Warranty on each sunroom. This warranty covers the vinyl framing lineals, windows, doors, roof panel system, and decking.
Important questions to ask about warranties are:
- What is the length of the warranty?
- What’s the coverage of the warranty (i.e. does it cover all manufacturing defects and failures)?
- Is labor warrantied (i.e. if the product was installed improperly, is that covered)?
A home addition can make you feel like you have a new home. At LivingSpace, we work with the top contractors in your area to ensure each step of the process exceeds your expectations and desires.