So we hired our first contractor to help us create an open floor plan in our kitchen/family room. The work involved knocking down a wall, installing a window, new flooring etc. Didn't seem like much, just not something we were willing to try do ourselves. We started with an estimate in mind.. but having no experience we had no idea what to expect.
I started by picking up the Home Improvement Guide at our grocery store.. picked out a few names of contractors and Googled them. Checked out their website, saw if they had any reviews or complaints and then made phone calls. We had a total of six contractors come out and give us estimates. You don't need to get six estimates.. but I would recommend getting at least three.
We met an interesting mix of people. Of the six two declared our wall, separating the kitchen from the family room load bearing (this makes it a bit more pricey and difficult to knock down, but still doable). And then there were four. Our estimates ranged from the ridiculous $24,000 to $8,000. Now from our reasoning and from what we gathered online, the highest price does not necessarily mean the highest quality nor does the lowest quote mean poor work.
My instincts and gut also played a role in our decisions. The contractors punctuality in both arriving to meet appointments as well as replying back to emails and phone calls. If you are going to be an hour late, pick up the phone and give me a heads up. When we spoke, how many of our ideas seamlessly merged together, how agreeable, knowledgeable and helpful he was were all important factors when choosing who to hire.
When receiving quotes make sure they are not just a number but a detailed written contract of everything that is to be done, it is very easy for things to be overlooked. Make sure everything you discussed and want done is mentioned. Know what is included in the price and what is extra. For example, the cost of window and flooring was extra but the cost of installation was included. Be sure on what materials will be provided by the contractor and what must be provided by you.
Once all the details are decided upon it's time to shop for windows and flooring. Meaning more estimates and mind boggling options.. make sure the contractor knows the measurements and specifications of everything you are going to order so that it meets the requirements, know the delivery times of those materials to create a better timeline.
Lastly, negotiating a price. You don't want to haggle to the point that the relationship between you and your contractor is now uncomfortable, your contractor is your ally. Ask if he can do better? Ask if paying cash would knock make a difference? Ask if there are some jobs you can do to knock off a few bucks? Ask if he has any suggestions to make the project more cost effective? Do not go ahead with anything that makes you uncomfortable.. make sure all your questions are answered before you sign the contract.
Any tips to add? Let me know in the comments.
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