Renovating the kitchen is one of the biggest projects homeowners ever take on. They can be time-consuming, complicated, and expensive, and if you have no contractor experience of your own, they can be confusing and overwhelming at times.
The most important decision you’ll make is not your color scheme or choice of appliances. Your most important decision starts when you choose your contractor, the person who will learn your priorities, work with your budget, manage permits and inspections, make your design come to life, solve problems, ensure safety, and supervise work crews. Without the right contractor in charge, a project can become disorganized, more expensive, and more time-consuming than you thought possible.
So how do you avoid regrets? How do you choose the right contractor to remodel your kitchen?
Here are some tips:
- Make a list of the things about your kitchen that don’t work for you. How do you and your family use the space now? What kinds of changes would you make that would make the space work better?
- Next, make a list of your goals and wishes. Do you want more windows? A kitchen island big enough for the family to share? Top-of-the-line appliances? Increased cabinet space, a new pantry? Do you want to change the backsplash tile, or add a hardwood floor instead of the linoleum that’s been there since who knows when?
- At this point, you’re ready to interview contractors. Don’t worry about solving all the problems – that’s what he or she is there to help you do. Get names and recommendations from people you know – friends, neighbors, co-workers who have had work done, and friends on your social media feeds. Read consumer reviews online. If you know someone who works in one of the trades, ask who they would recommend.
- Have a budget in mind, but it shouldn’t be the first thing a contractor asks about. His or her first questions to you should be more about the first things we listed here – how you use the space, and what your goals are. The contractor may have ideas on how to solve problems or design solutions that you haven’t thought of. Then talk about budget – and remember, if you’re not regularly involved in the building community, you probably are going to be surprised about how much things cost.
- Ask your potential contractors to see examples of their work– a gallery or a portfolio – especially of projects that are similar to yours in scale. Ask for references, and check them. And ask your possible contractors if you can see their remodeling contracts, which will include a work schedule, a site plan, a payment schedule and lien waivers.
- Choose the contractor who you felt was most in line with your goals and most transparent about the budget. While every project needs a contingency fund for things that come up, you should go into a project feeling comfortable with what the finished product will look like, how long it will take, and how much it will cost. When problems arise – and they will – you want a contractor who helps you solve it, not one who makes the situation worse.
Every remodeling project brings some stress and surprises. But the right contractor helps you manage both, and delivers, in the end, that kitchen you’ve been dreaming about. It’s worth the work to find the best contractor for you.