How to Find the Right Contractor for Your New Kitchen Remodel

By Sean Walsh

So, your dream kitchen is finally going to come true! The kitchen design is done, you’ve chosen your materials, and the cabinetry is ready. Congratulations! But you’re not home yet.  Now you need a contractor. Not just any contractor—the right one.

Find the Best Professional by Any Means!

Your design is not divorced from the building aspects, in the very best situation your kitchen designer and contractor will work closely together.  You have the dream, your designer plans the dream, the contractor builds the dream.  But you all need to work together. This provides synergy.

One of the very best ways to find a top contractor is to ask your kitchen designer. She or he is used to working with contractors in your town and can advise you better than anyone.

Call friends and family members who have had work done and ask who they hired.  Get as many personal recommendations as possible. Depending on the size of the town you may have one name pop up more than once.  If he comes with good recommendations put him at the top of the list, if the news isn’t good, take him off the list.

If you can’t find personal recommendations, there are a number of online services that provide contractor information and reviews, one of the most popular is Angie’s List.  Others are HomeAdvisor, Houzz, and the National Association of the Kitchen Remodeling Industry (NARI).

Check Reputation (AKA Reviews)

Customer reviews are one of the best sources of information. Also make sure the contractors on your list are insured and licensed.  Licensing varies depending on the state, but most states have websites that verify whether your contenders are properly licensed.

Naturally, you’ll take note of any complaints written in a review. Does the contractor respond? Is he polite and professional? Does he try to resolve the customer complaint or just place the blame on the homeowner?  These conversations will give you an idea of their communication style (will he be easy to talk to)?  And, also. their customer service. Does he stand by his work?

In order to get good accurate quotes from the contractors on your list, provide each with the same information about your kitchen project. Give as much detail as possible.  Tell them the kind of materials and brands you want to use.  The clearer you communicate your kitchen project and goals, the more accurate your quotes.

Ask Questions

Interview your prospective contractors.  You and he will be sharing your kitchen and making decisions so it’s important that you feel comfortable with this person. Choose a pro who communicates well and allows you to communicate too.

Ask about business history: how long? What percentage is referrals and repeats? Membership of trade associations? Ask if he’s certified, bonded, insured, and licensed. Ask for a list of references from the past three or four projects.

Also ask: Do you provide a detailed written contract?  What is your process for change orders?  What are your payment terms?  Do you provide itemized pricing?  Who will be working at the site? Ask for a list of the subs that will be working on the job with him.

Let The Games Begin

Request at least three bids from the contractors that you like and feel good about. Ask what the estimated start date and finish dates are. Ask them to include a breakdown of the price.

Many people simply accept the lowest bid. It seems sensible to spend the least amount of money possible.  Do not ever let it go to the lowest bidder.  As with most things, we get what we pay for and you may be paying for poor work and many sleepless nights.

Find the right combination of price and qualifications and you will ensure the smoothest remodeling experience possible.

READ Before You Sign

When it’s time to sign the contract read every word before you sign. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or haggle over details. A contract should include things like contact information on material suppliers and labor. Daily work hours. Start and finish dates Itemized pricing by materials and labor. Payment terms. The contractor will secure permits. Cleanup and disposal of debris. Ask for documentation of insurance, licensing.

Be Communicative

Make yourself available for questions. Keep a close eye on the project but please don’t get in the way or hover. Don’t engage in long conversations with the workers.  If an unexpected problem turns up be cooperative and ready to work with the contractor to come up with a reasonable solution.  Be friendly but firm.

In Conclusion

We know hiring a contractor can be a daunting task for someone who isn’t familiar with the process.  After all, this dream kitchen has been a long time coming, it’s costing a fairly large amount of cash, and you’re naturally afraid something could go wrong.  You are not really alone in this however. Your designer can help. Your contractor wants the job to be successful as much as you do—his business depends on it. Relax. Take it one step at a time. You can do this!