January 18

Planning Your Renovation: Choosing a Professional

If you are following along with my series on preparing for your home renovation, you have identified the goals you are trying to achieve with your home and you’ve built a high-level budget for your renovation.  Today I am going to cover some considerations you should make when you are choosing a design & construction professional for your project.

Get Recommendations & Referrals

There are so many design & construction professionals out there, it can be hard to know where to start finding qualified professionals.  The most reliable way to start is to ask close friends and family if they know and have used anyone they would recommend.  Be sure to prioritize recommendations of friends & family where someone actually worked with that professional.  If you are a member of a community Facebook group, you can post an inquiry there to try and find local recommendations – you will even find some professionals who live in the community will likely offer their services.  If neither of these sources is going to work for you, you can always search home improvement directories such as Yelp or Houzz.com, which is a great resource for almost every type of trade out there.

Do Some Homework

When you have identified some names, a good, old-fashioned Google search should be your first stop to get some more background on that professional.  Google itself sometimes offers ratings from real consumers & customers on businesses.  Also see if the professional has a website or active social media presence containing images and/or videos of projects they’ve done.  This is probably the most important as it will help you begin to judge the quality of their work and whether their style is a fit for you and your project.  For example, if you are looking to add a room onto your home, it wouldn’t make sense to focus on kitchen and bathroom specialists. 

Also, not all contractors offer design services, which help you to avoid costly mistakes later.  Some contractors will need everything “spec’d” out for them, while some will offer full design services prior to the construction phase of your project.  If you absolutely LOVE a particular contractor, but he or she doesn’t offer design services, consider looking for an interior design professional to help you plan and design the space.  When choosing an interior designer, make sure they are able to capture and reflect YOUR personal design style in your space rather than THEIR preferred design style.  Spoiler-alert:  Many interior designers only choose and/or steer projects that “help” their own portfolios rather than prioritizing their clients’ needs.

 Finally, always make sure the professionals in which you are interested are licensed, insured and if necessary, bonded.  If they are licensed with the state or local municipality, you can also check the licensing bureau’s website to ensure they have not had any complaints or grievances filed against them.

Interview Your Short List

Narrow down your list of professionals to no more than 3 who meet all of the qualifications so far, and schedule them to come in for an interview and to provide project estimate.  I would not recommend interviewing more than 3 as you could become overwhelmed and confused.  In addition to discussing the project and your desired scope, you should make sure to ask him or her the right questions to ensure they are the right professional for you.  Some example interview questions might include:

  • Have you ever completed a project of this size?
  • How long does a project like this one typically take to complete?
  • How many other projects do they anticipate working at the same time as this one?
  • When can you start?
  • What obstacles do you foresee with this project?
  • Do you self-perform the work or do you subcontract it out?
  • If you use subcontractors, how long have you worked with them and are they licensed?
  • Are they willing to provide references from past clients who can attest to the quality of their work?
 You are going to be working with this professional for likely several months, so it is important that you feel comfortable that they are a good fit for you and will have your best interests in mind.

Get Everything in Writing

While this process might be emotional and personal to you, remember that this is a business relationship, so it is imperative that you get everything in writing.  Make sure that when you are communicating your vision, expectations and scope to your construction professional, everything is in writing.  Be sure to provide your contractor with a written project scope, blueprint or other design drawings to ensure there is NO miscommunication or misinterpretation of your vision.  Also make sure that the contractor is accurately capturing your vision and scope in his or her estimate.

Finally, be sure to read the professional’s contract carefully.  (If you have interviewed a professional and they don’t provide you with a contract, reconsider working with him or her, as every qualified design & construction professional should have you sign a contract prior to commencing the project).  When reviewing the professional’s contract, look for*:

  • That the contract states the project’s value or price – at the very minimum, it should contain a “not-to-exceed value”,
  • The name and contact information for the contractor’s insurer,
  • A detailed outlined of the project’s scope – what is included AND what is excluded,
  • A clause describing how changes to the project will be handled – remember that any additions or deviations from the project scope can significantly cost you, so this is SUPER important!
  • An express limited warranty for the work,
  • A clause describing how disputes will be resolved.

Home renovation and working with construction professionals can be a significant source of stress and overwhelm for a lot of people.  I hope this overview has given you a good place to start when you are looking to hire a professional to help you with your home improvement project.  This article certainly doesn’t cover everything, but hopefully gives you an idea of things to consider, that are sometimes overlooked, when hiring a home improvement professional.

*The information contained in this article is provided for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject matter. You should not act or refrain from acting on the basis of any content included in this site without seeking legal or other professional advice.

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Bathroom Remodel, Home Design, Home Improvement, Home Renovation, Home Staging, Homeselling, Interior Design, Kitchen Remodel, Renovation and Remodeling, Renovation Budget, SketchUp

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