Choosing a great contractor takes a lot of work and consideration—learn how to find the best fit every time.
A home renovation is an exciting investment, but there will eventually be a moment when you realize the extent of what you are investing in—and this can be scary. Home renovations are a big deal, and they are very expensive. If you want to have a successful renovation, you will need to be able to work with a team that you can trust.
“I want to renovate my home. This contractor seems like a good fit.”
“You won’t really know until you stalk them.”
“Let us explain.”
Choosing your next contractor is not something that can be done lightly. We don’t want you to just hop online and choose the first one. Don’t talk to someone, think they sound okay, and then jump right in. Finding a good contractor is a job that you must take seriously to ensure that you are going to get that perfect home renovation. To do this successfully, you might need to get a little… well, creepy. Let us explain.
Stalk Them—Yes, We’re Serious
Before you ever consider working with a contractor, you need to stalk them. Now, we don’t mean follow them to their cars and look through their windows to make sure that they have a nice kitchen—but we will say that you need to pull out everything that you could ever learn from a private investigator or crazy ex. Being thorough is key, and it can take some work.
“Did you know this contractor worked on our neighbor’s ugly new kitchen?”
“We are definitely not working with them. That thing is so bad OUR home’s value dropped.”
When stalking, it is important to take a tip from the ex-girlfriends and boyfriends that just can’t seem to let anyone go. You need to hop online to find out everything that you can about them, and social media is a really great place to start. Look at their online brand, explore their pages, and see how frequently they engage in work. Social media can tell you a lot about modern companies.
“Wow, this group has the most beautiful Instagram aesthetic I’ve ever seen.”
“You’re not joking. Let’s add them to the ‘maybe’ list.”
Scouring the reviews of your general contractor is a great way to learn what kind of opinion their customers have of them. We don’t expect you to find someone that has never had a bad review—and frankly, if you do find someone like that, it might be a red flag—but we do expect you to actually read through them.
“Is it bad that every review of this company basically says the same thing?”
“It does look a little bit like a review bot got loose on their page…”
Reviews give us a way to check the pulse on the public opinion of a brand. It allows us to see what kind of experience people have had with them, and people are generally fairly vocal about concerns. Read through to find obvious red flags.
Most contractors keep a running collection of previous jobs, and this is another reason that social media is so important. Looking through their previous jobs can tell you a lot about skill level, but it can also tell you whether or not they are going to be a good fit for the design that you want to see.
“These other remodels are amazing. I think I’m in love.”
“Same. I can honestly say that I would leave you for that kitchen.”
Find the Designer
Designers gatekeep the vision of a project, and every contractor will have one. A designer is responsible for the actual design of your renovation, so finding a company with a talented designer is important. You should be able to determine who their designer is, whether they are in-house or third-party.
Look Online to Find the Designer
Going online is a great way to find a designer, particularly if their designer is third-party. Most contractors (at least the good ones) will list their designer or tag them online. This should make it fairly easy for you to explore their work.
“I found their designer, and their designs look really cool—but not really our style.”
“Keep stalking. Maybe there’s more to find.”
Explore the Designer
Once you know who the designer is, you can start exploring what they offer. You should be able to find their background, how they got started, and what they work on. Designers play a key role in the overall build, so working with a talented and experienced one is very important.
“This person has been designing kitchens for twenty years.”
“Wow, they must be great at keeping a pulse on what is relevant—just looking at their page.”
Stalk Their Portfolios
Yes, we are back to stalking again. Like contractors, a good designer will have a portfolio that you can look at. Exploring their portfolios is a great way to learn more about what their style is, or how versatile they are. It should give you a good idea regarding whether or not they are going to be able to bring your vision to life, but that isn’t the only benefit. As you look through their portfolio, you might just find yourself inspired by what they can offer.
“I thought I wanted that Pinterest kitchen, but I think I just want them to remake this exact kitchen for us instead.”
“Fine, but if anyone points it out online, we’re telling them that we got ours first.”
After you have done all of your stalking—you know all about the contractor and their designer—you can move forward with actually making contact. This is the part of the process that can get a bit serious for you. You should already know a lot about them, and during this phase, you will be trusting them to fill in the gaps.
“Alright, I’m going to call them and pretend I don’t know anything about their incredible kitchen designs or that one blue bathroom that I’m now obsessed with.”
Can I Have a Reference?
Your first question after you get through the general discussions should be asking for a reference. References are very important in the contractor world because they show you what a team has actually accomplished. Ask them for examples of their work, and then pose any follow-up questions that you might have in response.
“Can we have a few references?”
“Absolutely. Here are five of our remodels.”
Make Sure the Reference is Recent
When someone hands you references, you always want to make sure that the reference is recent. Contractors can go through big changes, ultimately leading their teams to change as well. Just because a contractor used to be a top provider, it doesn’t mean they are now. Ask them for examples that have been completed within the last year to ensure that you are investing in the best that they can offer.
“These examples look amazing. When were they done?”
“1999. Our best year yet.”
“Uhm, do you have anything from this decade maybe?”
If They Don’t Offer a Reference—Run
References are a very important consideration when partnering with a contractor, and contractors know this. If you are working with a contractor that can’t seem to be offer you references, you should see this for what it is: a big old red flag!
“We don’t offer references. Our reputation speaks for itself.”
“I’m not comfortable with that, but thanks for making crossing you off our list nice and easy!”
A good contractor will always be happy to share their successes with you. If they don’t want to offer you any references, there is probably a really good reason for it—or, rather, a bad reason. Anyone who is secretive about what they offer likely isn’t doing good work.
Build Trust and Put Your Mind at Ease
Talking with a contractor to learn more about what they can offer is a wonderful way to build up trust. Seeing their work and looking through their references can allow you to feel a lot better about what you are walking into. Like we said, this is a huge commitment. You want to enter the process with a team that you can trust. Being thorough will make that possible.
“After talking with this group, I like them even more.”
“Agreed. I think we should do it. Let’s allow these people to bring a bunch of dangerous machinery in to destroy part of our home. I really think we can trust them.”
Ask About Their Process
Every contractor has a different process. There is a lot of work that goes into home renovations, and that means that there will be parts of the process that you see and quite a few that you don’t. As a homeowner, you are well within your rights to ask them what the process is—and what you can expect every step of the way. Knowing what you have to look forward to will make for a more seamless process.
“So, what is your process exactly?”
“It can differ a little from one person to the next, but let’s go through a general breakdown.”
What Can I Expect?
To start, ask your team what they can expect. Consider what steps are involved in the process. Will they be sending you paperwork? Are they going to schedule a meeting for the discovery phase? You should know what is going on in the process so you can feel comfortable. Asking for a complete breakdown of the process can help you to stay comfortable and informed.
“So, what should we expect?”
“Let me direct you to our schedule.”
Do I Need to Do Anything?
There are times throughout the process where your contractor will need help from you, and it is important to understand these needs. Your role might be different than your contractor’s, but it is still important to be involved in order to ensure that you receive that perfect home renovation. Asking your contractor what you can do to help the process is a wonderful way to establish your role in the process, and they will appreciate your willingness to play your part.
“Is there anything that you need from me?”
“Actually, there is—and thank you so much for asking.”
How Can We Be Successful?
Success is something that looks different to every homeowner, but in general, it means that you have a positive experience and end up with a renovation that meets every standard that you were looking to meet. You and your contractor can work together to make this possible.
“I really want this home renovation to be amazing. Is there anything that we can do to make sure that it is successful?”
“Actually, there are a few things. Communication is easily the most important component, but you being actively involved can make a really big difference. Let’s discuss how we can collaborate to make sure that the final renovation is exactly what you want to see.”
The best home renovations happen when you and your contractor work together. While you won’t be the one raising a hammer or tearing out old cabinets, you do have a part to play. Your first job will always be to find a trustworthy team, but once that is done, it can be beneficial to know what you can do next after you find them.
Choosing a contractor is a process that can take a lot of time and hard work. We won’t lie to you and say that it is simple, but we will say that it is worth it. You might feel a bit silly internet stalking a company, but it is a decision that can ensure you receive a home renovation that is well and truly worth the investment. The work that you put in today can define the experience that you have tomorrow, and it is important to remember that. You’ll be glad that you put in that extra work, we promise!
Contractors can provide wonderful home renovations, but only if you know how to find the best ones. Learn how to choose the perfect fit for your next remodel.