Tips on Selecting a Contractor
Is Your Home Improvement Contractor a NARI Contractor?
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) is a not-for-profit trade association with more than 50 years of industry experience. NARI represents professional remodeling contractors, product manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, trade publications, utilities and lending institutions. The association is committed to enhancing the professionalism of the remodeling industry and serving as an ally to you, the homeowner.
Select a Professional, Reliable, Remodeling Contractor
Finding a qualified professional remodeling contractor for your home improvement project doesn’t have to be a difficult task. By following these guidelines you will make the selection process easier and be better prepared to make an informed decision that best suits your needs.
Employ a home improvement contractor with an established business in your area. Local firms can be checked through references from past customers in your community or through your local better business bureau. Local remodelers are compelled to perform quality work that satisfies their customers for their business to survive.
Many states, but not all, require contractors to be licensed and or bonded. Contact your state or local licensing agencies to ensure the contractor meets all requirements. Ask the remodeling contractor for a current copy of their license.
Check with the government Consumer Affairs Office and the Better Business Bureau to ensure there are no complaints on record for the contractor.
Ask to see a copy of the remodeling contractor’s certification of insurance for the name of his or her insurance agency to verify coverage. Most states require a contractor to carry worker’s compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance. Make sure the contractor’s insurance coverage meets all the minimum requirements.
If you solicit bids from several different home improvement contractors, be sure they are bidding on the same scope and quality of work. Discuss variations in bids and beware of any bid that is substantially lower than the others.
Proper Planning is Important
Think your renovation project through from start to finish. Careful planning of your home improvement projects will enable you to update your home, increase the value of your investment and customize your living space • all for a lot less than the cost of a new home.
Look over your property carefully. What repairs are needed? What improvements would you like to make? Think ahead and determine your future needs. Professional remodeling contractors can help you in your planning by outlining options and discussing the improvements you can make within your budget.
Be sure to review your homeowner’s insurance policy and make adjustments for the added value of the work being done.
Financing Your Remodeling Project
There are various financing options available to homeowners. Among the most popular is the equity line of credit that bases the loan amount on the equity in your home.
The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) has loans specifically for home improvements. They are available through many banks and lending institutions. The FHA, however, requires the lender to approve the contractor. The FHA does not guarantee the remodeling contractor’s work.
Some institutions will allow you to borrow against the anticipated equity in your home once your home improvement project is complete.
A professional remodeling contractor is familiar with financing options available and can help. Research various sources of funding to compare individual qualification guidelines, interest rates, terms and tax considerations.
Think About Design and Function
Design and function should be foremost in your mind if you’re thinking of adding a room or converting an existing room.
When planning a larger, more complicated project give thought to details such as, intended use of the space, flow of the space, where you want electrical outlets, telephone jacks and cable hook-ups located, the type of lighting required: your current and future storage needs, and whether you want to include luxury items. These details will enable your home improvement to better suit your needs and your lifestyle.
A professional remodeling contractor or design service should be consulted about design and function of any remodeling project. He or she can also help you with time and money-saving hints.
Comply With Local Codes and Permits
Building codes have been established by most cities, towns and counties. They vary considerably from one jurisdiction to another.
A building permit generally is required whenever structural work is involved or when the basic living area or footprint of the home is to be changed.
A professional who works in your city or town every day will know the local requirements.
A Well Written Contract is Essential
Remodeling contracts and paperwork don’t need to be a mystery. All you need is a little patience, common sense and organizational skills combined with some basic knowledge.
The contract is a critical step in any remodeling project. This is the one item that holds the job together and ensures that all parties involved agree to the same vision and scope for the project.
You should be aware of all the details in your remodeling contract before you sign. Here are some key areas you should look for:
- Be sure the contract includes the contractor’s name, address, phone and license number (if applicable).
- Detail what the contractor will and will not do.
- Your contractor should detail a list of materials for the project in your contract. This includes size, color, model, brand name and product.
- The contract should include the approximate start date and substantial completion dates.
- Study all required plans carefully. Insist that you approve them and that they are identified in your written contract before any work begins.
- Federal law requires a contractor to give you written notice of your right to, without penalty, cancel a contract within three business days of signing it. This is provided it was solicited at some place other than the contractor’s place of business or an appropriate trade premises such as your home, for instance, or has financing provision.
- Make sure financial terms are understood and spelled out in the contract. The total price, payment schedule, and any cancellation penalty should be clear.
- A warranty covering materials and workmanship for a minimum of one year should be written into the contract. The warranty must be identified as either “full” or “limited.” The name and address of the party who will honor the warranty (contractor, distributor or manufacturer) must be identified. Make sure the time period for the warranty is specified.
- A binding arbitration clause is also a good inclusion in the event a disagreement occurs. Arbitration may enable you to resolve disputes without costly litigation.
- Thoroughly review the entire contract and be certain you understand it before signing it.
- Consider the scope of the project and make sure all items you’ve requested are included. If you do not see a specific item in the contract, consider it not included. Never sign an incomplete contract. Always keep a copy of the final document for your records.
- Consider having a legal professional review the contract before it is signed.
Working With Professionals
Before work begins, ask your remodeling contractor what inconveniences may occur while the project is underway and plan for them accordingly. Be sure your contractor is aware of vacations or special events so that he or she may schedule their job site time appropriately.
Consider moving personal property from construction areas and declare all work zones off-limits to children and pets.
Be sure to put all changes in writing if your remodeling project is modified while work is being done. Both parties should sign the amendment.
Keep a job file including contract, plans, specifications, invoices, change orders and all correspondence with the contractor.
Request a contractor’s Affidavit of Final Release be provided to you at the time you make final payment and a final waiver of mechanic’s lien. This is your assurance that you will not be liable for any third-party claims for nonpayment of materials or subcontractors.
Choose a Course of Action
Depending on your needs and the size complexity of your intended remodeling project, there are several different options for you to explore before finalizing your plans. Attempt to define which of the following alternatives represents the best approach for your project.
The General Contractor
Many home improvements may not require professional design services and can be handled by an experienced contractor. Again, be sure to work with a professional. Even small jobs need careful planning, as their successful completion is important to you.
The Design/Build Contractor
Design/build is a concept developed to benefit the homeowner with their remodeling project by providing both quality design and construction services within the same company. Design/build contractor will be able to see your project through from start to finish, keeping design, engineering and budget in mind.
Major remodeling projects require construction drawings to define contracts and permits procurement. If your professional remodeler does not provide design services, you can use a professionally trained architect. It is best to work with an architect experienced in remodeling, as he or she will be more sensitive to the special challenges that remodeling represents.
Finding Good Contractors
Choosing your remodeler is the most important decision in a remodeling project. Take your time and be thorough in your search. Here are just a few places to start looking for the best contractor for your home improvement project:
Nearly half of all projects signed by a remodeling contractor are the result of client referrals. An additional 22 percent of jobs are the result of word-of-mouth. These are your best sources for leads:
- business colleagues
- real estate agents
- local material supplier (lumber yards, specialty product providers, etc)
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