So you’re ready to pick out a new shower, or you finally selected those new countertops for your kitchen. If you don’t have the time, patience, or resources to start a new DIY project, hiring a contractor can make your life easier. But there’s so much that goes into finding the right home remodeling contractor. What kinds of qualities do you look for to create a successful renovation project?

When you look for a contractor, you’re essentially hiring a new employee for a job. You wouldn’t hire the first applicant for a position at your business, so you shouldn’t choose your home improvement contractor without first interviewing the best candidates. Keep reading for our list of the top qualifications in a home remodeling contractor.

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1) Reputation

The first step in finding the right home remodeling contractor is to research local full-service contractors who have the best expertise. You’ll gradually narrow down this list to the top contenders and eventually use it to select your builder, so it’s best to add more names than you’ll need at this point.

There are a few ways you can organize your starting list:

  • Ask fellow homeowners for recommendations, especially those who have recently conducted renovations.
  • Check out online reviews of local contractors in your area.
  • Use social media to research local home renovation businesses.

Recommendations

Proven contractors will make it simple for you to get in touch with them and see their portfolio. Be wary of contractors who don’t have easily identifiable information, like a website, social media presence, or reviews.

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2) Capabilities

Choose a contractor who specializes in the type of remodeling you need. Someone specializing in kitchen remodeling might not be the best for your bathroom renovation. For example, if you want to lay a tile entryway with a detailed mosaic or paint a room with a faux finish, you’ll need a contractor who does that type of work well.

Ask each full-service contractor on your long list for a portfolio of their projects from at least the last year. They may have a physical portfolio, or they may direct you to a website with images. A good portfolio should contain at least ten projects. It should include photos of each space before work began, during the remodel, and after project completion. It helps if there are pictures of blueprints, sketches, or other plans so you can get an idea of how the contractor approaches a project.

Recommendations

Look out for a portfolio with too few projects, no photos before the remodel, or grainy, hard-to-see images of the final product. Also, keep in mind that home improvement contractors only include their best work in their portfolios. If any completed home addition project is not up to your standards, their average work is likely even worse. Take that person’s name off your list.

Woodland Contracting’s portfolio is a great example!
See Our Work

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3) Transparency

At this point, your list should have around six to eight names. One easy way to narrow it further is to ask for contractors’ licensing and certification. The specific licenses or certifications your home remodeling contractor should carry will depend on the project. Since legal requirements vary by state, call the licensing division for your community to ask for specific requirements.

Beyond ensuring contractors have the correct licenses and certifications to safely and legally complete the job. Make sure anyone on your list has liability insurance if they damage your home. Worker’s compensation should also cover the contractor and any other workers. Ask for a copy of their insurance policies and check that they’re up to date.

Recommendations

Cross any contractors off your list who don’t have the right credentials. We recommend marking off the names of anyone who is hesitant or takes too long to get this information to you.

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4) Communication

Now that you’ve narrowed your long list down to five or six top contenders, it’s time to make sure your contractor can communicate effectively. Any reputable home remodeling contractor will be available to you for a detailed breakdown of your budget and timeline.  It helps if there are estimated timetables for your project; if dates aren’t on the list, ask them.

Now it’s time to establish your main mode of communication. Phone, text, email, or an online project management platform like BuilderTrend are the way to go. If the list is very long, prioritize how you would like your contractor to reach you. Keep detailed notes during your communications; you’ll need to keep a record of the contractor’s benchmarks as you see the project unfold in-person.

Some questions to ask include:

  • Did the contractor stay on schedule?
  • Was the job site kept neat?
  • Were problems addressed promptly?
  • Was the contractor punctual for appointments and workdays?
  • How has the work held up?
  • Was the cost reasonable and clear?

Recommendations

Some red flags include too few references or significant time gaps between references. Ask about these before assuming the worst. A hole in the calendar doesn’t necessarily mean trouble; maybe they were injured or taking time off. The contractor’s openness and willingness to give you more information can help ease your mind.

If a client had a good experience overall, they’d be positive and upbeat about the contractor even if there were some small problems. If the experience wasn’t right, you might notice the person hesitating or answering indirectly. Try to read between the lines of what the person tells you; they may not want to say anything unkind. As you talk with each contractor’s references, eliminate any contractors that get bad or ambivalent reviews; you should be down to three or four contractors at this point.

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5) Skill

After you’ve called your contractors’ references, cross out any contractors who received low reviews. Then decide which of the remaining contacts to visit in person to see their contractor’s completed project. Choose people who seem open and forthcoming, whose assignments are similar to yours, and, ideally, who live close to you. It’s beneficial if the work was from at least a few years ago so you can see how it has held up. Visit at least one finished project from each of your remaining top contenders.

As you visit the projects, take a close look at the full-service contractor’s work. Ask the person if it has ever needed servicing or repairs. Check out the overall feel and the specific details.

Recommendations

Depending on the type of project, there are a few red flags to look for:

  • Bathroom remodels: Dark stains on the walls or ceiling, slanted floors, cheap materials, insufficient lighting.
  • Kitchen remodels: Obvious seams on the countertop, cheap materials, “kitchen triangle” (stove, refrigerator, and sink) not logically laid out, low lighting, inadequate storage or counter space.
  • Paint: Overspray, paint runs, streaks, imperfect lines and edges, paint splatter on the floor.
  • Tile work: Crooked tiles or lines, tile or grout cracking, excess grout or caulking along edges (meant to disguise poorly cut tiles), inconsistent grout lines, uneven surfaces, obvious transitions between characters.
  • Decks, patios, or pergolas: Wavy or swollen boards, mismatched edges, gaps between panels or windows, cracks in the floorboards, cracks or separation between the side of the house and the deck, concrete cracks.

The Right Home Remodeling Contractor in Hingham, MA

It’s up to you to do your homework to find a skilled and ethical contractor for your home improvement project. The candidate you choose should have a clear and measurable process for your home remodel project. Research on each contractor thoroughly, and feel free to take your time to make the best decision for your home additions. After you’ve reviewed and signed the contract proposal, you’ll write a deposit check. Now you’re one step closer to your dream home.

For more examples of our past work, follow us on Instagram @woodlandcontracting.

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