Hiring A Remodeler - Manalapan
Few home improvement projects generate excitement, suspense, and uncertainty quite like remodeling - and for good reason. A beautifully remodeled interior can improve your quality of life and, in some cases, increase the value of your home. On the other hand, a shoddy build could mean years of dissatisfaction, not to mention thousands of wasted dollars.
Put simply, hiring the right home remodeler is a big deal. It's a decision you want to get right.
With an eye toward experience, professionalism, and expertise, let's explore the nuts and bolts of choosing a home remodeling contractor. Finding the right remodelers probably won't be an easy decision, and that's ok! You should challenge yourself to identify the best talent with the greatest likelihood of success. By the time you arrive at a hiring decision, you should feel confident that the team you selected will either meet or exceed your expectations.
After all, your home deserves only the best. And so do you.
Determine What Type of Remodeler You Need
The home remodeling market generates over $300 billion annually, but that's divided among several different categories. From kitchen remodels and bathroom expansions to top-to-bottom interior redesigns, “remodeling” can mean lots of different things, and different types of projects require different types of expertise.
An abundance of options obliges you to identify the type of home remodeling contractor you need. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) offers a useful breakdown of different types of home renovation contractors and explains why you might hire one or another for your project:
- Design/build contractors: These firms provide an all-in-one remodeling package. Teams consist of designers and/or architects, consultants, and builders, all of whom you can hire at once. Design/build contractors handle all sorts of projects, large and small, and some may specialize in kitchens, bathrooms, or another type of remodeling.
- Architects: Big remodeling projects - as in “reinventing your house” big - require precise construction drawings for contracts and permits. In these cases, it's often best to hire an architect with remodeling experience. Though trained in design theory, the architect's primary role is to ensure structural soundness and efficient use of space.
- Designers: Whereas an architect is concerned with spatial constraints, structural issues, and building compliance, a designer's job is to create beautiful, inviting interior conditions. Colors, shapes, styles, lighting... these are the designers' chief concerns. Designers often specialize (think kitchen, bathroom, or living area designers), so take that into account before beginning your search.
- General contractors: While general contractors usually focus on materials and methods (i.e. building), experienced practitioners can often eliminate the need to hire additional help. The more straightforward your requirements, the more likely it is that a contractor can take care of everything - no architect or designer required. General contractors can also join the remodeling effort after you approve a floor plan or design created by someone else.
So, should you go the design/build route or start with an architect or designer? Can a general contractor handle the job alone? It's hard to say, and it all depends on what you're trying to achieve.
Generally speaking, you should hire an independent architect when modifying your home's exterior, restructuring an interior floor plan, or spending more than 5% of your home's value on a remodel. On the other hand, many design/build teams keep accomplished architects on staff and can take you from blueprints to hammers-and-nails construction with fantastic efficiency, no matter how large the scope.
In any case, choosing the right team doesn't always depend on the professional category under which a remodeler falls. A contractor's reputation matters, too, and often in a very big way. Speaking of reputation...
Read Reviews and Ask for References
Are you so in awe of a remodeler's work that you get goosebumps? Upon viewing a designer's portfolio, can you barely contain your desire make your home look exactly like what you see in the promo images? If you do, it's a great sign you've found the right remodeler.
But if you never bother to investigate, you'll never know.
A major part of the vetting process is getting a feel for who local contractors are, what they've done, and how former clients feel about the remodeling experience (and about the work quality, of course). Doing so will take some effort, so get ready to roll up your sleeves, crack your knuckles, and flex those research muscles!
While evaluating a remodeler's past work will definitely aid in your hiring decision, it doesn't always paint a complete picture. There's another step in the selection process: an objective evaluation of the remodeler's credentials and preparedness for your project.
Confirm Licenses, Insurance, and Bonding
For most home remodelers, obtaining and maintaining state-issued contractor licenses is mandatory. If required by law, the remodelers you consider for your project should hold any and all necessary business licenses - no exceptions! They should also carry certain types of insurance.
Licensing varies by state. Most states require some sort of license for home improvement contractors, but others don't require one at all. The National Association of Contractors Licensing Agencies (NASCLA) lists member licensing boards for most states, but it's possible that your state isn't a member. Visit your state's government website to determine whether local contractors require licenses.
Keep in mind that being licensed doesn't mean a remodeler will deliver great work. In some cases, a license just indicates that a business pays its taxes and carries the minimum required insurance. It doesn't guarantee you'll love how your new kitchen looks.
Licensed or not, home remodelers should, at a minimum, be able to show proof of the following insurance coverage:
- General liability: This coverage protects the remodeler from financial liability resulting from bodily injury or property damage at your home. Accidents happen, and you need to be sure a contractor can weather any ensuing financial fallout.
- Worker's compensation: Remodelers with employees should carry this coverage. If a worker is injured at your home, worker's compensation insurance shields both the contractor and you from lawsuits related to the injury.
A contractor should also show proof of bonding. Required for licensure in most states, bonding protects you if the remodeler delivers sub-par work, quits before a project is complete, doesn't compensate employees, or fails to pay supply bills. Are these scenarios likely? Of course not. Should you shield yourself from liability anyway? Definitely.
To be sure, licenses, insurance, and bonding are the bare minimum for being able to conduct business. Your remodeler will be responsible for your home's look and feel, so it's completely reasonable to ask for credentials beyond what the law mandates.
If you're looking for additional certification, the NARI-certified remodeler listings are a good place to start. According to the NARI, all certified professionals have been active for at least two to five years before earning the certification. They also completed a rigorous course of study and are subject to the organization's annual recertification review.
In other words, it's not just any old remodeler who gets a NARI certification.
As a final step in your objective evaluation, check remodelers' Better Business Bureau (BBB) listings to see if customers have made complaints. If they have, examine each complaint carefully. Do the problems seem valid? Were they amicably resolved? Did the complaints affect the remodeler's rating?
A record of BBB complaints isn't necessarily a red flag, especially if the complaints themselves seem suspect. However, a long history of similar grievances could be a sign that you should look elsewhere.
Ask About HOA Compliance
If you live in a condominium or house that is subject to homeowners' association (HOA) standards, confirm that prospective remodelers are able to follow the rules. HOAs typically regulate any remodel that modifies common property (for example, walls that connect townhomes or plumbing systems that serve multiple condos), involves noisy construction, or affects anything under the organization's control.
Not only will your remodeling require HOA approval, but contractors will have to accommodate specific HOA stipulations. These might include using noisy equipment only during certain hours of the day, using certain types of tile on the floors, or making changes that affect your home's exterior - it all depends on your HOA!
Look for remodelers who are accustomed to HOA rules. If you can identify a team with experience following your HOA's guidelines, even better.
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