How to Choose the Right Remodeling Contractor

Milwaukee's best remodeling contractor: Joseph Douglas Homes

You’ve finally decided to do some major renovations in your home. How do you hire a reliable contractor? How can you be sure you won’t be defrauded or left with a half-finished job?

For most homeowners, finding the right remodeling company is more difficult than choosing the perfect kitchen cabinets or floor tile. Renovations can be expensive and stressful and sometimes uncover unwanted surprises like leaky pipes, rotting sub-floors, or sub-standard electrical work. Choosing the right contractor will make the difference in whether you have a successful remodeling project or a nightmare.

Depending on the size of your project, you may need a general contractor or just a handful of tradespeople such as electricians, plumbers, or carpenters. Some homeowners decide to be their own contractors, and while this may save money in the short term, it can also be time-consuming and more expensive in the long run.

Taking the following steps will help you find the Milwaukee’s best remodeling contractor, stay on time and budget, and keep your project running smoothly.

remodeling contractors

Decide What the Project is Going to Be.

Before you call any contractors, decide what you want to be done. Look at catalogs, shop at big box stores, and choose a few finishes. Your estimates will be more accurate if you can be specific.

Get References

Ask co-workers, friends, or neighbors who have had similar work done. Would they hire the contractor again? Were they easy to work with? Was the work area clean? Is the final product satisfactory?

Interview Several Prospects

Find companies who do the work you want to be completed. Just because someone did a great job remodeling your neighbor’s bathroom doesn’t mean they can build your addition. Compare written bids from every prospect. They should all include the same projects and the same materials. Ask for a list of employees; find out if subs do any of the work. Be prepared to negotiate price and never sign a contract until everyone is satisfied. And don’t be surprised if the contractor you choose can’t start immediately. The best ones are busy!

Make Sure to Check References

Check References and Licenses

Although rules change from state to state, most subcontractors and all general contractors should be licensed. Check the Better Business Bureau, Yelp reviews, and court records for potential litigation or problems. Look at their license and talk to recent clients.

Signing a Contract

Be sure the contract lists what work will be done, the exact materials used (including model numbers), deadlines, and payment schedule. Unless everything is documented, it’s nearly impossible to prove if it’s been done correctly. If you don’t feel the contract is detailed enough, write your own and have both parties sign it. A change order should be written listing new materials, cost, or work if there are any changes during the project. Put in writing when the workers can enter your home, what bathroom they’ll use, how often the boss will be there, and who to contact in case of problems.

Payment Schedules

If expensive materials are needed immediately, contractors may ask for 30 percent up front. If not, don’t pay more than 10 percent before the job begins. The contract should include a timeline of payments. Be prepared to spend at least 10 to 15 percent more than what was agreed by the end of the project. No matter how careful you are, hiccups happen.  And never make the final payment until the job is finished and you’re completely satisfied.

Communication is the key to a great finished product. It’s easier to fix a problem sooner than later, so speak up if you notice something. You may need to talk to the contractor every day, and frankly, it’s better to hire someone you feel comfortable with.  Even if it means spending a little bit more money.

Following these steps will create a much smoother remodeling project.