Whether you’re in the planning stages of remodeling your worn out kitchen and bathroom, designing an addition to accommodate a growing family, or simply looking to transform the cabinets around the house, a residential remodeler is just the professional you’re looking for.
A residential remodeler are a type of contractor primarily focused on completing projects to existing structures such as condos, single-family homes, and duplexes.
In many cases a General Contractor can be used for these types of projects.
Before you hire just anyone for your next project though, make sure to ask the following questions.
1. Are you a licensed contractor, or a handyman service?
Although both professionals can do work on your premises, the handyman service will be limited in the scope of work it can perform.
That’s not to say that reputable handyman companies don’t exist; they do. But legally, some home improvement trades require specialized licensing. For example, at All Climate Painting & Remodeling, we hold CA Contractor License #886275 (Classification C33, C39, General B).
Handyman services are good for relatively small repairs, but you really need a contractor to handle projects that require coordinating several services.
For example, hiring a handyman is appropriate for a leaky sink or toilet, but bathroom remodeling should go to a contractor.
A residential remodeler will require personnel from many trades including demolition, plumbing, and drywall; and there’s permitting and building codes to contend with.
Some companies do both types of work. And a reputable handyman will gladly refer you to someone with the proper expertise if they can’t perform your work.
2. Who will be performing the work onsite?
Before work begins on your home you’ll likely meet with company representatives several times.
You’ll negotiate and finalize things like designs, financing, and scheduling. But these associates usually aren’t the personnel who will work in your home.
A residential remodeler generally employs a staff of skilled tradesman to complete jobs, but sometimes they use sub-contractors instead of doing the work themselves.
Sub-contractors are companies that your primary contractor hires to do the work on their behalf.
Hiring a sub-contractor is a fairly common practice, and contractors usually have a relationship with a few of them.
Problems can occur though, if your remodeler fails to pay the sub for their work.
In many cases you, the homeowner, will be held responsible for those unpaid bills and the sub can place a lien on your home.
Laws relating to construction liens vary by state. You may or may not be notified of a lien being placed against your residence.
Such claims interfere with processes such as refinancing or selling the home.
Asking who will be working on your project also helps ensure the safety of your family and belongings.
Many companies perform background checks on employees who enter clients’ homes, but not all do.
Each company follows different protocol, but typically people with domestic violence, burglary, robbery, or other abuse charges won’t be hired.
3. What associations does the residential remodeler belong to?
Membership in industry associations as well as earning certifications from trade organizations shows a dedication to continuing education.
As technology advances, the materials and skills to finish the job also changes. Trade organizations help members learn the industry’s best practices.
Some of the most common certifications and associations are:
- Certified graduate remodeler (CGR),
- Certified aging in place specialist (CAPS),
- Local Building Industry Association membership (BIA)
- National Association of Home Builders membership (NAHB).
It’s best to verify your remodeler’s credentials by contacting the organizations or checking their online databases.
Organizations usually provide members with a printed Certificate of Completion for attending seminars and participating in other activities that further industry knowledge.
A remodeler will usually keep these Certificates on file.
4. Can you show me a visual portfolio?
Looking at a contractor’s portfolio is preferable to just reading a list of impressive clients. Seeing the work gives you a better idea of the company’s quality and capabilities.
Seeing other projects that the residential remodeler has completed may also give you a few ideas of your own.
Many contractors will keep a portfolio of before and after photos of the projects they’ve completed.
Some companies only photograph their larger more intricate jobs, while others prefer to photograph all their work.
Most portfolios are really available on the company’s website, but you may want to ask for additional photos if you have a specific idea in mind.
Be wary of a company who boasts impressive clientele or large opulent projects but has no visual portfolio.
While it’s plausible that some clients denied permission to take photos, it’s highly unlikely that every client would have.
5. What are the ground rules for working at the home?
You should expect to feel a bit frustrated during the renovation process; homeowners rarely find it easy to deal with workers and machinery constantly being moved throughout the house.
And large-scale projects can last a week up to several months.
But setting ground rules with your residential remodeler before the job starts is a good way to reduce the overall impact that renovating will have on your everyday life.
Decide with other members of the house whether you want someone on premises while workers are there, or whether you’re okay with them being in the home alone.
Discuss what areas of the house workers will have access to and make that request known to your contractor.
Find out what time the contractor plans to begin work and what kind of noise you can expect. People who work from home may need to make other arrangements during the renovation. And those with young children may have to prepare the kids for loud disruptive noises from strangers.
It’s also a good idea to find out what kind of dust and debris to expect during the process.
A relatively small isolated project could finish in a few days; each day the workers may leave no sign they were ever there.
But that’s not the case for large projects such as a kitchen remodel.
But you and the residential remodeler can agree to a specific level of clean-up so that the work causes as little disruption as possible.
No matter what project you’re thinking about having done, it pays to do your research and hire the right personnel.
Doing so saves you valuable time and money, but also hours of frustration.
Before hiring a residential remodeler to do work on your home make sure to discuss the issues we described above.