The process of hiring a professional contractor to tackle your bathroom renovations can make your head spin pretty quick. First, there are many bath renovation companies out there. Look under 'General Contractors' or 'Bathroom Remodeling' in the phone book and you will see what we mean...there are hundreds of bathroom remodelers and general contractors in each area. On top of that, there are hundreds of other great contractors that remodel bathrooms but are not in the phone book. Second, it is pretty easy to go around calling yourself a professional bathroom remodeling pro. People don't necessarily need an office or a lot of fancy equipment or tools to start a business. Therefore, individuals that have done some repairs on a few houses or rooms can try to trick you into believing they are a highly skilled and experienced bathroom remodeling professional. If they have a truck, a tool belt, and a business card they could fool a lot of people! Finally, there are many different types of contractors that remodel bathrooms. There are handymen, general contractors, builders, construction companies, and companies that specialize in only bathroom renovations.
So what do you do when looking for a contractor to remodel your bathroom? We recommend:
- Asking your friends and neighbors to see if they have had good or bad experiences with local contractors. Simply knowing that another person has had a good experience with a contractor prior to calling them lessens your chance of hiring a problem.
- Call 3 or 4 companies to bid on your remodeling project. This will help you determine fair market price for your job. This does not mean you should always go with the lowest price. You should go with the company you feel most comfortable with and who you feel will do the best job. If an individual is offering a real low price you should ask yourself, "why?".
- Decide exactly what you want to do to remodel your bathroom. At a minimum you should have a few general ideas before calling a contractor. They can help you make some final decisions, but you need to be able to explain your basic needs before letting them talk you into things.
- Try to decide if your work can be accomplished by a handyman, or if it is more involved. If you are simply laying some tile, painting, and changing some fixtures you should feel confident that a quality handyman could handle this work. If you are talking about tearing things up and changing the entire bathroom around, then your best chance of success is by hiring an experienced general contractor.
- Make sure the company has insurance. There is a chance for injury and for destruction of your house when remodeling a bathroom. As mentioned above there are many fly-by-night contractors that may not be insured. Ask them for their insurance company's phone number and call them to prove they are insured. If you skip this part you could be held liable for an uninsured worker's injury while working on your house. You could also be left with the bill for tons of repairs if an uninsured contractor leaves you with a destroyed bathroom or house!
- Ask if the bath remodel contractor will be able to handle all of the work you require themselves, or if they will have to sub some of the work out to other companies (such as a plumber). If they are subbing jobs out, make sure that their contract states that they are still directly responsible for all work. In other words, you will not have a situation where a plumber installed your new toilet incorrectly and the contractor is telling you that it is not his problem. What happens if you can't get in touch with the plumber they hired after the job is complete? You want one person to be held responsible.
- If your bathroom remodel requires a general contractor, or you simply decide to hire a company that states that they are general contractors, make sure they have a valid General Contractors License o Always get a statement of work performed in writing. Keep this filed away. Make sure the statements clearly state what work is to be performed.
- Ask if the bathroom remodeling comes with guarantees. These are factors to weigh when looking at the total cost estimates left by different contractors.
- Some contractors require an upfront payment. Agree to a payment schedule (which is a written document that clearly states how much and when payments are due). Make sure your payment schedule is discussed and documented on your contract prior to beginning work. Stick to this schedule even if the contractor asks for early payment. You do not want to get into a situation where you have paid for the majority of the bathroom remodeling work, but the majority of the remodeling in your bathroom is not completed!!...these situations often end in unfinished or poorly finished jobs.
- Check in on your bathroom remodeling progress regularly- try to catch potential problems or misunderstandings before it is too late. Good luck with your bathroom and remodeling needs!