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Kitchen and Bathroom Remodeling Checklist: How to hire the right contractor

Updated: Jun 8, 2023

Remodeling Contractor Checklist

Kitchen and bathroom remodeling can be a very overwhelming and intimidating task, and finding the right contractor is often the biggest challenge most homeowners will face.

While many contractors are skilled professionals who take pride in their work, there are just as many who can cause problems for homeowners, leaving them frustrated and disappointed.

So, we’re going to take a minute to address some of the common problems homeowners face when working with remodeling contractors before we dive into what you should consider when hiring a contractor.

Poor Communication

Communication is key when it comes to any construction project. Unfortunately, most contractors fail to communicate effectively with their clients.

They may not answer or return phone calls and emails promptly. They may say they’re going to show up to work, but then you never hear from them. Or they may fail to provide updates on the progress of the project.

This can lead to misunderstandings, delays, and frustration on the part of the homeowner.

Going Over Budget

One of the most common complaints from homeowners is that their project ends up costing more than they anticipated.

This can happen when the contractor fails to provide an accurate estimate, when unexpected problems arise during construction, or when a contractor places a low bid to win the job.

There are a number of reasons why this can happen, but a good contractor should plan accordingly, or be willing to accept the loss on their end, not the homeowners.

Missed Deadlines and Delays

Homeowners often have a general timeline in mind for their remodeling project, and ideally, there should be an estimated timeline discussed before a project ever gets underway.

However, contractors often miss deadlines due to unexpected delays, poor planning, lack of manpower, underestimated time frames, or a number of other issues.

This can be especially frustrating for homeowners who are living in a construction zone and need the work to be completed on schedule so their family can get back to living in peace.

Poor Quality Workmanship

Homeowners expect high-quality workmanship when they hire a contractor, and they have every right to.

Unfortunately, some contractors may cut corners or use subpar materials to save money or time.

This can result in shoddy work that needs to be redone or repaired, adding to the overall cost and timeframe of the project.

This is also where low bids can come back to haunt you.

Unprofessional Behavior

Some contractors behave in an unprofessional manner, like showing up late to appointments, telling you one thing but doing another, not cleaning up after themselves and leaving a mess, or using inappropriate language on the job site.

This can be especially problematic for homeowners and their families who are trying to live in their homes while the remodeling work is being done.

To avoid these problems, homeowners should do their due diligence before hiring a contractor.

The “right” contractor is going to be different for everyone, but here are a few key points to consider to help you get started.

Evaluate the price and everything included with it.

First off, beware when a contractor bids really low. When you are offered a price that sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

There are a number of expenses that go into a remodeling project and running a remodeling business, and profits for contractors are very small to begin with.

Therefore, you may run into instances where a contractor cuts a few corners, uses low-grade materials, and/or raises prices as the project goes on in order to make a profit on the job.

If you’ve heard the horror stories of projects going way over the expected amount, this is usually why. Contractors bid low to get the job, then end up going over budget and expecting the owner to pay the difference.

It’s good to check with a couple of different contractors, but just remember, don’t make your decision based on price alone.

If you want a contractor who can provide you with a high-quality service and pain-free experience that falls within your budget, consider all aspects of what they have to offer, including the other points listed in this article.

Are they insured by a legitimate company?

This may seem obvious, but check to make sure your contractor and their subcontractors have insurance from a credible company, and make sure their coverage is greater than the value of your home.

If not, you may be stuck with the bill if an accident happens and you lose your home.

Do they offer a warranty?

Most contractors will offer some type of verbal “warranty”, assuring you that if you have any issues down the road they will fix them.

But, a lot of times they won’t actually follow through, or if they do, it’s so far down their list of things to do, it could be months before they have any time to fix it.

Others may offer a 1-year warranty in writing, but these will typically include dozens of stipulations that let them off the hook. Or in most cases, they are too busy to handle your repair in a timely manner.

Contractors are human, so mistakes are bound to happen. But it’s important to find someone who will stand behind their work and right any wrongs for an extended period of time.

If a contractor can’t stand behind their work for more than a year, that may be a red flag about the quality of their work.

How do they handle workers and subcontractors?

It’s no secret that the more workers involved, the less control the contractor has over the people and the project. Especially when most of them don’t actually work for the contractor.

It’s important to consider how your contractor will complete the work. Will they handle most of the work themselves, or will they hire subcontractors to do it for them?

While there are benefits of using subcontractors, for instance, they can be specialists in certain areas so they may be able to do their work faster and more efficiently, they can also add a lot more uncertainty to a project.

More subcontractors means more people in and out of your house. More challenges with scheduling and ensuring deadlines are hit. And more room for error and miscommunication.

Again, there are pros and cons to both options, just decide what makes you the most comfortable.

However, we would recommend that no matter what, a subcontractor is used for any electrical and plumbing. These trades MUST be licensed and insured to perform their work, so it’s important to check to make sure these subcontractors are legitimate.

Do they have written and binding agreements?

Contracts can be scary, but a good contractor will have an agreement that is in place to protect the homeowner, and themselves. This is not a one-sided deal after all.

Both parties are taking a huge risk, so make sure your contractor has an agreement that spells out the specifics of the project, their responsibilities, and specific clauses that protect you as the homeowner.

Do they respond promptly or fail to communicate effectively?

It’s unfortunate, but most contractors are terrible at communicating. Most of the time they are just too caught up in working in their business that communication takes a back seat.

But, communication is crucial for a successful project. As a homeowner, you deserve to receive regular updates so you know how the project is going, if the project is within the expected timeline and budget, if there are any potential delays, and so on.

If you have a difficult time getting ahold of a contractor or notice that communication is lacking before the project even starts, it may be best to find someone else. This will save you a massive headache later on.

Are they professional?

You are trusting these people to enter your house on a daily basis and use your hard-earned money to build the kitchen or bathroom of your dreams. It’s important to qualify your contractor using what most would consider basic human qualities.

But unfortunately, many contractors lack these basic qualities, putting additional stress on the project and the family.

Things to look for include, do they show up on time, do they communicate effectively, are they kind and respectful to you and your home, do they listen to your ideas, do they clean up after themselves every day, and so on.

While some of these qualities may not be apparent until the project actually begins, you should be able to get a good idea of what they are like before you sign a contract.

How many jobs do they currently have going on?

It’s important to know what a contractor's workload is.

On the one hand, they may have nothing going on, which may be a red flag that no one wants to work with them.

But on the other hand, you may find out they have a dozen other jobs going on at the same time and can’t give you and your project the attention it deserves.

Meaning a greater potential for poor communication, delays, and a decrease in overall quality.

This is the curse of the contractor, trying to get as many jobs as possible, and then failing to deliver on them because they have too much going on..

Now it may be tempting to choose a contractor based on the lowest price, but when comparing estimates, make sure you fully understand how they are different.

Don’t just assume you’re going to get the same level of service, the same scope of work, and the same quality for every contractor, because you’re not.

That’s like taking your family to Disney World and expecting to pay State Fair prices. Nothing is wrong with either of these options, but it all depends on what experience you are looking for.

The price of contractors can vary quite significantly based on the points previously discussed. But at least now you can use this as a way to compare contractors on the overall value and experience they’re able to provide, instead of automatically defaulting to the lowest bidder.

While it is possible to get the best option at the lowest price, most of the time you know what they get what you pay for.

Additional Contractor Insights

Now to give you some additional perspective when it comes to selecting a contractor, there are 3 common elements that homeowners look for when selecting a contractor.

They want a low price, quality work, and a great experience.

The problem is, it’s nearly impossible for a contractor to provide all 3 of these elements at the same time. And let’s be honest, most of the time they can only provide one.

So, your goal should be to pick the 2 that mean the most to you.

If you want high-quality work done at a low price, you will have to sacrifice the overall experience and expect major delays, poor communication, and no special treatment.

In order to offer low prices, but still perform a high-quality remodel, they won’t have any time or money to spend on your experience. More than likely, they’ll be back and forth between a dozen jobs trying to make up for their low cost with a higher volume of work.

Then on the other hand, if you want a low price, but also a great experience, it should be obvious at this point that the contractor may have to cut a few corners and use low-grade materials to keep costs down.

Since they will be spending more time serving their customers, they will usually have to find other ways to save time and money on the job, reducing the overall quality.

And lastly, if you want high-quality work with an amazing and pain-free experience, you’re going to end up paying more for it. It takes a lot of time and effort to serve customers at a high level, which is something a low-cost contractor just can’t afford to do.

With this type of contractor, they may have fewer jobs going at a time, allowing them to dedicate more focus to serving their current customers at a higher level.

They may even have a point person assigned to customers at all times to ensure effective communication and an overall smooth and easy experience.

So keep this in mind when it comes to your remodel and use the checklist discussed in this article to find the contractor that makes the most sense for your situation.

Ready to get started on your next remodel?



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