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Get everything in writing to prevent disputes if the contractor tries to overcharge you.

Before you remodel your home, you’ll have a specific vision for how you’ll want it to look; therefore, it’s important to work with someone who can effectively implement your ideas. Cold-calling from the Yellow Pages probably isn’t the best way to make sure you’re getting top-notch quality, so how should you go about finding the best contractor for your needs? There are several steps you can take before entrusting your project to the care of a stranger.

Get References

Ideally, you’ll know someone who has worked with this person before and can tell you about their experience. Barring that, you can request contact information for previous clients. When making enquiries ask about the contractor’s reliability, workmanship, flexibility, and willingness to communicate. It’s also worth doing a quick web search of their name along with the words “remodeling” or “contractor” and “review” to see if anything comes up. If a client was quoted one price and then gouged for twice as much when the project was completed, chances are they won’t be staying quiet about it.

Check Credentials and Experience

According to Robert Irving Burns contractors are required to be licensed, so ask to see a copy of an up-to-date certification. Ask how long they’ve been involved in remodeling work and whether they’ve had any projects similar to what you have in mind. It’s likely that contractors with years of experience will cost more, but they’re a safer bet than a rookie who’s been in business for six months.

Ask to See a Portfolio

This step is important. Every contractor is different; therefore, before you hire someone, you should be 100% sure that you like their work. Many factors go into remodeling—style, design, materials, level of detail—and everyone has their individual strengths and weaknesses. You wouldn’t go to a cardiologist to get a migraine checked out, so don’t choose a contractor specializing in Victorian architecture to redesign your ultra-modern contemporary home. Also, if it’s not too far a trip, go visit the contractor’s previous work sites yourself. Photos are great, but they’re generally taken when the finished product is new and shiny; by actually seeing the physical location, you can determine whether the work stands the test of time.

Get a Full Cost Breakdown

Between materials, labor, and subcontractor costs, the total price for your remodel project can climb very high, very fast. Instead of asking for a vague, general estimate, get specific quotes for each aspect of the job—how much will the plumber cost? How much for this type of window? Knowing how much you’re paying and what you’re paying for will help you avoid getting scammed by a padded bill.

Cover All Your Bases in the Contract

Start date, target end date, payment schedule, details about exactly what type of work has been agreed upon, specific materials that will be used, a procedure for what will happen in the event of a dispute—get it all in writing. Too many people have had horrible experiences with contractors that are never resolved because they don’t have the proof. Paperwork can be tedious, but if you end up having problems, you’ll be glad you took the time.

When in doubt, go with your gut. If something rubs you the wrong way when you have a conversation with the contractor, it’s probably best to keep looking. It’s crucial that you are able to trust your contractor and their team, and if you get a bad feeling, even due to something as small as shifty eye contact during a handshake, it’s better to trust your impulses rather than end up kicking yourself over it later.

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