Michael James Remodeling
How to find and choose the best remodeling contractor in North Georgia
So, you’re ready for a new dream kitchen or a master bathroom oasis. Perhaps you’re in need of a mother-in-law suite or you’d like to remodel the basement into an entertainment hub that will be the envy of all your neighbors.
You’ve got some ideas, maybe even a vision for your remodel project. So how do you find the right person to do the work in North Georgia? How can you find someone, for example, in Gainesville or Cumming who is not only skilled, but will stand behind their work and deliver an experience that won’t turn your dream remodeling project into your worst nightmare?
Remember when you choose a remodeling contractor, you’re not only hiring someone to do a job, you’re inviting someone into your home. That person (or persons) have the potential to reshape the way you live and experience your home, not just for the duration of the remodel, but for years to come. It’s important to narrow down your choices and consider more than price. Unfortunately, this is not always easy. In fact, finding and choosing a remodeling contractor can be more difficult than the project itself.
Don’t fret. We’re here to help guide you though the process. At a minimum, you should expect to examine portfolios of previous work, check licensing, listen to referrals and gather competitive bids before you make a final decision. Let’s walk through the steps.
Start by gathering recommendations
The first step in finding the right remodeling contractor for your project is to make a list of North Georgia contractors near you who have the right expertise. Use the internet to search Cumming, Gainesville, Forsyth, Dawson, etc. to find someone that services your area. Compile a list of more names than you think you’ll need. Ask your friends and neighbors for recommendations. Be sure to check online reviews and social media as well.
A good contractor will make it easy for you to find and contact them. It should be easy to find reviews and examples of their work. Be wary of contractors who are difficult to find or lack basic information such as a decent website, social media presence, and online reviews.
Ask about both design and construction
Unless you already have a designer, engineer and/or architect, your remodeling contractor should be well-versed in both functional, beautiful design as well as safe construction. Ideally whoever you hire either has an on-staff team of designers, engineers, 3-D modeling experts, and architects or has a close relationship with outside specialists who can be pulled in when needed. A one-stop remodeling contractor is often referred to as a design-build contractor. This type of contractor keeps you from having to search for different specialists and ensures those specialists already have a working relationship. However, it’s important to determine that both design and construction work are up to your standard. Ask the same questions of your design-build contractor that you would ask an architect or designer and a builder. Ask about their design style, construction team, and subcontractors. Examining portfolios and viewing previously completed projects in-person, can help assess the design and construction capabilities of your remodeling contractor.
Compare each contractor’s portfolio
Choose a contractor who specializes in the type of remodel you need. A remodeling contractor with a creative eye can be very helpful for certain projects. For instance, if you want to lay a wood entryway with a detailed mosaic, build custom cabinets, or install metalwork, you’ll need a contractor experienced in those areas.
Once you start to narrow your list, ask each contractor for a portfolio of projects. They may have a physical portfolio, or they may direct you to a website.
Be wary of contractors with too few projects or poor quality, hard-to-see images. Also keep in mind that home improvement contractors only include their best work in their portfolios. If any completed project is not up to your standards, it’s likely their average work is worse. But also remember tastes vary. If the portfolio includes a variety of styles, even if you don’t like them all, chances are good the contractor will be able to accommodate your individual tastes.
Ask for licensing and certification
Once you’ve narrowed your list to five or six names, an easy way to narrow it further is to ask for contractors’ licensing and certification and proof of liability insurance in case they damage anything during the course of the project. Workers should also be covered by worker’s compensation. Ask for a copy of their insurance policies and check that they’re up to date.
Any reputable contractor will expect you to ask for a list of references. A typical contractor reference list includes the names, addresses and telephone numbers of each customer, as well as the project dates. Call each reference. If the list is long, select a few recent projects and a few older projects. Keep notes on your conversations for future reference and determine if you can visit any of the homes to see the projects in person.
Some questions to ask references include:
Did the contractor communicate effectively and frequently?
Was the job site kept neat, clean and safe?
Did the contractor stay on schedule?
Did the contractor respect you, your home, and your furnishings?
Were any problems promptly addressed?
Was the contractor or employees of the contractor on time for appointments and workdays?
How has the remodel held up and how were any issues handled?
Was the cost reasonable and clear?
Reviewing finished renovation projects
When visiting a project, here are some warning signs to look for:
Bathrooms: Uneven floors, cheap materials or fixtures, inadequate lighting.
Kitchens: Obvious seams on countertop, cheap materials, inefficient kitchen layout, poor lighting, inadequate storage or counter space.
Paint: Runs, streaks, imperfect lines and edges, splatter on the floor.
Tile: Crooked tiles or lines, tile or grout cracks, excess grout or caulking along edges, inconsistent grout lines, uneven surfaces.
Decks and patios: Wavy or swollen boards, unaligned edges, gaps between boards or windows, separation between the side of the house and the deck, concrete cracks.
Get bids for the job and evaluate compatibility
Ideally you should get bids from the top three or four contractors on your list. Have each present you with a brief proposal and estimated cost for the project. Depending on the type of renovation, the bid may include details on the project timeline, material recommendations, as well as the total cost.
Keep in mind, sometimes the materials, amount of work, or even quality of work will differ between contractors. The choices they (and you) make at this point can have a big impact on the final product, so be sure to consider more than just cost. Think about your goals for your renovation and choose the proposal that best suits your needs. You may be working with your remodeling contractor or design-build team for an extended period of time. You will also be working together on a project that is important to you—your home. It is vital that you feel that you can effectively communicate with your remodeling contractor and that you will be able to effectively work together to bring your vision to life.
Finally, it’s best to avoid any contractor who tries to pressure you into accepting a bid. Some might try to tell you their bids are only good for a limited time. You should always have the option to think about the proposal for a few days or more. A good contractor will let you take your time and be gracious if you should choose someone else.
Doing all this research may sound like a lot of work, but when you consider the investment, the potential upside as well as the potential risk, it’s worth the extra time and effort to make sure you choose the right remodeling contractor. Remember, once you’ve made your decision, signed the contract proposal, and have written the check for the deposit, you’re one step closer to your dream home.
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