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How to Choose the Right Remodeler

Choosing the right person to make major changes to you home can be daunting. How do you know where to start? Want to learn more? Check out these home construction pictures!
David Sacks/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Whether you've outgrown your home, your appliances need updating, you'd like to improve the value of your house, or you're just plain bored with your outdated layout, you'll want to look into remodeling. But remodeling is no small task, and as your home is probably your biggest investment, it may justifiably turn into an expensive endeavor. Unfortunately, overspending and shoddy work is all too common. The important thing is to find an experienced remodeler who will give you a reasonable price. Picking out a new design is difficult enough without having to look over your remodeler's shoulder every second to ensure a job well done.

The first step in choosing the right remodeler is to ask friends about their own experiences. A good personal recommendation is invaluable. Ask if the contractor was prompt and organized, and if he returned your calls quickly. You'll also want to ask friends about their bad experiences as well as the good. Is there anything they wish they'd known before starting the process? However, be careful if a friend recommends his or her relative, or if your own relative asks for the job. If you're not confident in someone's work, beg off as politely as you can instead of being pressured into an expensive mistake. For your own relatives, try telling them that you don't really like to mix business with family.

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Aside from friends, you can also drive around your neighborhood looking for houses that have posted remodeler advertisements. Don't be afraid to knock on the door and ask about the remodeling experience. Incidentally, this is also a great way to meet neighbors.

Experts recommend being skeptical of drive-by contractors who knock on your door peddling their services. If you do have interest in hiring someone without a personal recommendation, you can protect yourself. First, ask for references of former clients you can call. You can also ask the contractor for a list of recent projects with their start and end dates -- you can confirm this data with the references. Find out how long the contractor has been in business, and avoid contractors who have a short history. Even consider asking for their address and social security number to obtain a credit report.

What else should you find out when deciding on who will change the look and feel of your home?

Trust is one of the most important values when considering a remodeler.
Trust is one of the most important values when considering a remodeler.
David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images

Another factor in finding a quality remodeler is asking for their certifications. The National Association of Home Builders sponsors the certified graduate remodeler (CGR) certification, and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry grants Certified Remodeler (CR) certifications.

If you find friends who had a bad experience with a remodeler, they will most likely tell you they wish they had taken more precautions with the contract. This important document can be your salvation or your ruin, so consider it carefully. It should include a detailed description of all the work to be done, as well as the pay schedule. Some experts recommend not signing the standard contract the remodeler gives you, but rather adapting a sample contract from the American Institute of Architects (AIA).

Also, talk with the remodeler ahead of time to work out a pay schedule that you both can agree on. Experts say to avoid paying too much too early in case the contractor skips town or you're simply unsatisfied with the work. Consider paying 10 percent of the costs after each 10 percent of the work is done. If the contractor lacks funds for materials, purchase them yourself or go with the contractor to purchase them together [source: Howard].

Make sure the remodeler has adequate insurance and licensing for your project. Some states require licenses for such work. Ask if he has workers' compensation insurance and a liability policy. If he doesn't have adequate insurance, make sure that you have enough from your homeowner's insurance policy. Don't just trust the documentation given to you, but call to confirm the term of coverage for the insurance and check that your remodeler's license is current.

Also ask your remodeler for lien releases. Sometimes, homeowners will pay a contractor to purchase materials, but the contractor pockets the money. In this case, suppliers and subcontractors can come after the homeowner for the payment again. When you get suppliers and subcontractors to sign lien releases, you can protect yourself by making sure they won't place a lien against your home for payment.

Obviously, there's a lot to consider in a remodeling project. But when you invest some time into these precautions, you assure yourself peace of mind and avoid even worse problems later. For lots more information on home remodeling, see the links on the next page.

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Sources

  • Howard, Clark, Mark Meltzer. "Get Clark Smart." Hyperion. 2002. (April 27, 2012) http://books.google.com/books?id=rBMbqu0tSCkC
  • Johnston, David, Kim Master. "Green Remodeling." New Society Publishers. 2004. (April 27. 2012) http://books.google.com/books?id=gZrUnaensdoC
  • Kraeutler, Tom, Leslie Segrete. "My Home, My Money Pit." Globe Pequot. 2008. (April 27, 2012) http://books.google.com/books?id=ZzT-WezQVacC

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