So last week we shared our very expensive lessons learned with everyone. It was hard admitting our mistakes but it had to be done. A Weddingbee friend saw the post and asked for some advice. She’s remodeling her bathroom and was in the process of meeting with contractors to collect bids. After I emailed her our advice, I thought maybe I should share it with everyone.
Please note, this doesn’t just apply to bathroom remodels, but any work you have done in your home by someone other than yourself.
1. Always make sure the contractor, plumber, etc. is licensed, insured and bonded. They should be able give you their license number and you can use it to look them up on your State’s Department of Labor and Industry website. A professional will have their license number printed on their business cards, normally. Make sure the person you are talking to is the insured contractor or works for them. Dadtractor says he’s seen people try and used a family member’s license to do work.
2. Check if they have complaints against them and if they have canceled their bond a lot. When clients aren’t happy and try file complaints with requests for refunds or damages, a contractor’s bond goes up. Those contractors then cancel their bond and try shopping around for another bond company or get it under a different name but same license number. Dadtractor has been in business for almost 30 years and never had a complaint. He has never canceled his bond and has only used 2 bond companies.
3. Ask if they have reference and when you call reference, ask if you can see the work. I’d be happy to have people come over and look at the siding. I’ve had Dadtractor’s potential clients come through and look at our wood floors. Dadtractor did an amazing job on them. If only I could keep them paw print free (Izzy, I’m talking about you).
4. Permits are big. I would call your local version of the Department of Planning and Development at an off-peak time, explain to them what you want to have done and what permits will be needed. Usually they can tell you off the top of their head. Getting it in writing (via email) is better but sometimes they don’t respond. Once you know which permits are needed, write into the contract that getting xyz permits is required and you need a copy of them before payment. You should always have a copy of your permits just in case an inspector gets a complaint and makes a visit when your contractor isn’t around. They might think this is overkill or that you are high maintenance but a responsible business owner will appreciate your thoroughness.
5. Have them detail all the materials that will be used. If you are picking elements out yourself like bathroom fixtures, have them go over it with you. There is a lot more to buying a faucet than the hardware you see on the outside. It might require special valves and things which could cost a lot more than you expected, especially if they are from a European company. If you show your contractor the faucet you want, then he can tell you everything you need for it and maybe even help you get the parts at a cheaper price. We had to get all sorts of adapter pieces because our tub faucet was from a German company.
6. Be as clear as possible. If you have a certain vision in mind, show them pictures. Remember our tile mock-ups (here, here and here)? I think we got exactly what we wanted (minus the caulking color – for another post) despite the language barrier because we had clear pictures.
7. If you are in a hurry and need to get the job done fast, go with someone who has done similar work in the last 6-9 months. Codes, permit requirements and regulations change all the time. If your guy hasn’t remodeled a bathroom in a few years because he’s been doing mostly kitchens, then it’s possible he may not know if codes are different. Our first cement guy didn’t know about the triangular exterior step code (triangular steps outside = big no no) and that cost us money and time.
8. Go with your gut. If he/she seems sketchy, they probably are.
I’m sure we have more advice but this is what comes to mind. Any other pieces of advice to share?