How To Select A Remodelor
Whether your project is a small maintenance item or a major
addition, it will not be inexpensive. Construction work requires
skilled labor, expensive materials, and experienced coordination
and supervision. The costs can mount quickly. The selection of a
remodeler is important.
Periodically there appear in the local newspaper wire service
articles on "how to select a remodeler". These are
somewhat helpful, but since they are written to cover the entire
nation they are overly general and usually have incorrect
information in them. As an example, these articles often suggest
telephoning the Better Business Bureau and also verifying that
the contractor is licensed. There is no Better Business Bureau in
Champaign County and there is no state contractor licensing in Illinois, thus a call to the BBB is a waste of long distance
charges to Peoria, and asking the contractor if he is licensed is
only good for catching him in a lie.
Small Firm vs. Large Firm
First think for a moment as to what it is that you want to
have done. A large firm is best for large projects. If you are on
a very tight budget it is likely that any company that has an
office already has too much overhead for your wallet. If
timeliness is important to you a small company is likely to have
too few resources to handle multiple customers in a timely
fashion. If you need help with design, conceptualizing, and
coordination then someone who works out of their truck during the
day likely does not have the time and ability to offer. Be wary
of anyone who never answers their telephone and only has an
answering machine and a beeper number. These are well known
devices to screen calls.
A Few Warnings
Now that you have thought a bit about what kind of company
might be a good fit for your project how do you find a good remodelor? A few more warnings first
- Remember that there is no state licensing for
remodelers or general contractors.
- Anyone can call himself or herself a
builder, or general contractor. It is one of the easiest
businesses to enter a hammer, a 7 ¼"
circular saw, and a magnetic sign for the side of the
vehicle and you are a contractor.
- There is no construction trade organization that
monitors or polices its membership.
- Remodeling is a different business that requires
different skills and knowledge base than new construction
often companies that primarily build new are not
the best choice for remodeling or additions.
- Avoid using close friends, neighbors, or relatives.
Remember this is a business deal and business deals need
to be handled in a business like manner.
- Everyone gives free estimates if you own the property
where the work is to be done; remember that there is a
difference between an estimate and a firm bid.
Champaign County the two best sources for finding a remodelor are
the Yellow Pages
and word of mouth.
- Show that the business has an address and has the
resources to pay for an ad.
- Donnelly Directory does not offer its advertisers a
selection under Remodeling. Thus companies must either
advertise under "Contractor" or "Home
Improvements" or both. This is a disservice to the
user of the Yellow Pages. In the construction industry a general
contractor does commercial work, a home builder
builds new homes, a remodeler does home
remodeling, and a general remodeler remodels both
residential and commercial.
- Donnelly Directory often offers cross listings in other
categories such as carpenter. If a company listed
in a small specialty category such as carpentry,
decks, or bathrooms is not also listed under contractor
or home improvements they are likely both very
small and very specialized.
- Donnelly Directory will take anyones ad. Being in
the telephone book does not insure quality or
- If possible check the current telephone book and the ones
for the previous two years. The largest ads often belong
to a start up firm trying to buy market share. Often this
strategy does not work and the firm lasts less than the
Word of Mouth:
- Be careful about asking close friends, near neighbors, or
relatives for recommendations. Remember this is a
business deal. Dont put yourself in a situation
where if something goes wrong you will feel odd towards
people you care about.
- Do ask friends, acquaintances, co-workers, your banker,
club or church members etc for recommendations.
- Regardless what their advertising may say, most large
chain operations do not routinely have knowledgeable
enough staff to recommend remodelers. Local lumberyards
can be a source for recommendations. However remember
they will be recommending their customers presuming they
will get the material sales. Ask at several lumberyards.
Most remodelers deal primarily at only one yard.
- For the same reason that you should not ask a Realtor for
a recommendation for a homebuilder, you should not ask
them for a recommendation for a remodeler. Many Realtors
who primarily sell lots and new homes are too closely
aligned with one or two builders to provide an impartial
CLEAR on what it is that you are looking for
when seeking a remodeler.
are a few suggestions:
- Check with your insurance company. If all aspects of the
work being done are not covered by your insurance make
certain that the company you hire is insured. Typically a
professional firm will carry a minimum of one million
dollars in general liability as well as commercial
vehicle, and workers compensation insurance. In
Illinois an independent self-employed trades person is
not required to carry workers compensation. This
can leave you unprotected however. For jobs of several
days or more ask the remodeler to have their insurance
company mail you a certificate of insurance. Do
not take a hand delivered one.
- It is important that you spend some time chatting to
determine if you have a rapport with them. For more than
small jobs this firm will be involved in your life for a
while. If you cannot get along now it will only be worse
later. Getting along means: do they listen to you, your
ideas, and your needs? Do they show respect: did they
smoke inside without asking, were they polite, did they
wipe their feet before coming inside, did they keep their
- It is unfair to ask for a "ball park price" in
the first meeting. It is grossly unprofessional to get a
firm bid at the first meeting. Remodeling is much more
complex than that. Remember that every building is
unique. Even the simplest applications such as installing
a new storm door have dozens of factors that can vary the
price. Off the shelf pricing will get you off the shelf
- You should not ask for references until you have decided
to go with a remodeler. Think of it this way one day you
will be a reference, would you like the remodelor to be
giving your name and number out at every job lead? Also
remember the remodeler will not knowing be using
references that do not sing his praises. All references
prove is that the remodeler has at least a few customers
who were satisfied.
- For the same reason as above do not ask to see previous
work unless you are prepared to start offering guided
tours of your remodeled bathroom or kitchen or basement
to all kinds of perfect strangers.
- You should never be the first one. Never be the first
bathroom remodel or ceramic tile job or hardwood floor
installation or window replacement or spiral staircase
installation or fireplace building for your remodeler.
You want experience.
- Do not ask what the hourly labor rate is unless you are
not seeking an estimate but rather are looking to only
hire by the hour.
- Remodelers make some of their income off of a mark-up on
materials. Expect that the labor will be higher if you
- Make certain that the bid includes everything
labor, materials, permits, hauling, clean up and removal
of debris or specifically states what is not included.
- A common error that consumers make is to ask several
different companies for pricing on a project that has no
detailed specifications or drawings. There is absolutely
no way possible to make a rational choice from bids so
obtained. They will inevitably be for different things.
- If your project is in any way complex the first visit
should be looked upon as an interview. Only if during the
interview you can decide that this is going to be your
remodeler should you proceed asking for a bid.
- Most articles suggest that you get three bids. Remember a
competitive bid for any project larger than routine
maintenance or upgrade can only be made off of a full set
of drawings with a full list of specifications. You are
flying blind otherwise. You are leaving the decision only
to price. If you want three bids rather than three
guesses you must assume the responsibility to prepare or
have prepared for you by an architect a full set of bid
- When you get estimates, they should be in writing and
provide as much detail as possible. Make sure all bids
are based on the same set of plans and specifications.
Discuss the bids in detail with the remodelers to make
sure you understand the reasons for any variations in
- You should not automatically accept the lowest price. A
higher price may be a better value if the remodeler
provides better service, uses materials of higher quality
or if the work is more extensive.
- Much more common today is the design build format.
With this you first select the remodelor you feel
comfortable working with and then work in partnership
with him on design, costs, options, choices, schedules
Back to Top >>>