How to Find Kitchen Contractors Step-by-Step
Once you know what you want for your kitchen renovation and you know what you’re looking for in a contractor, it’s time to start your search. Below are insider tips to help you avoid common pitfalls.
Step 1: Find Local Candidates
When it comes to finding the best general kitchen contractor for your project, “shop local” is great advice. Not only will area kitchen renovation contractors be more familiar with local codes and permitting procedures (always a huge plus), but their business depends on their reputation within the community. If you’re asking, “How do I find a good contractor in my area?” and you don’t know where to begin, here are some helpful suggestions to get you started:
- Word of mouth -- Good news (and news of good work) travels fast. Take advantage of that by asking friends, family, coworkers and neighbours for their best remodeling contractor recommendations.
- Use online services -- Though not as personal as a recommendation from your own network, online services like Angie’s List, HomeAdvisor and Houzz specialize in all things home-related, including remodeling contractors. Plus, you can search by zip code and browse reviews, so they’re a great resource for finding contractors in your area.
- Search engines, directories and member organizations -- To cast an even wider virtual net (and still sort by results nearest to you) turn to search engines like Google or directories like Yelp for contractor leads and reviews. You can also search trade organizations like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) or consumer-facing organizations like the Better Business Bureau for a list of contractors in your area.
Step 2: Research Contractor Credentials
If Step 1 yielded plenty of local kitchen renovation contractor candidates, congrats! But unless you have nothing better to do than spend months interviewing potential contractors, you’ll still need a way to whittle your list down to a few good leads. It’s time to do some more detective work to zero in on the most promising contenders. Here’s how to find out what separates good contractors from the rest of the pack:
- Visit their website. A good contractor should have plenty of compelling info on their website to help convert curious visitors into clients. Check out the About Us or History page to find out how long they’ve been in business. Look for a gallery showcasing prior work to see if there are jobs similar to yours in size, complexity or style.
- Look for Certifications. Maintaining current and appropriate licensing is important, but standard among most contractors. However, in order to get certified for some professional associations, contractors must undertake extensive coursework and testing. So look for designations from top industry associations on the website, like the National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) or the National Association of Homebuilders (NAHB), which can indicate a contractor’s dedication to going above and beyond the bare minimum for their craft.
Step 3: Interview Candidates
Once you narrow down your list, it’s time to set up interviews with your top picks. But deciding just how many contractors to consider at this stage can be a challenge. The truth is there’s no magic number except the one that is most manageable for you. Here are some tips for getting the most (and the best) out of the contractors you interview:
- Meet face to face and come prepared with questions. Even if you can get all the information you need over the phone or virtually, meeting face to face can tell you even more about a candidate than their answers do.
- Research common interview questions and choose the ones that are most critical to your project, such as: What’s your business history? How many projects like mine have you completed? Who will be working at the site? What are your payment terms? What types of insurance do you carry? How do you handle change orders? By the end, you should have enough information to paint a picture of how smoothly you can expect the project to go and any potential issues you may need to address.
- Check references thoroughly. Ask each candidate for at least three references. Though you’ll likely only get access to references guaranteed to give a glowing review, with the right questions, you may be able to find out even more about the candidate and their work style than the candidate was willing to volunteer on their own. A simple question, like asking a reference what they wished they could have done differently, could provide valuable insight about how to improve your own project.
Ask each contractor for a written proposal and estimates. There are three important parts of this request:
- Provide as much information and detail about the project as you can.
- Make sure each candidate receives the exact same information.
- Ask each candidate to break down the cost of materials, labour, profit margins and other expenses. That way, when you compare each contractor’s quotes, they are the only variable, which may make for a clearer comparison and easier decision.
Step 4: Get A Detailed Written Contract
Once you’ve decided on the perfect contractor to remodel your kitchen, it’s time to put everything in writing so you can get your dream kitchen underway! In many ways, the contract is as important as any blueprint or design schematic. It helps ensure everyone is on the same page and stays focused on the same goal. So, for example, if your contractor is taking too long to finish the job, there’s a plan for how to address it before it even happens. Take a close look at your contract to make sure you can answer these questions:
- Is it accurate, well-executed and professional? A sound contract should contain no spelling errors or typos and only the information you’ve agreed upon. It’s common for contractors to use a template, so double check to make sure there’s no information about another client that was left in accidentally.
- Does the contract specify all important project details? Always remember that the contract is there to benefit both you and your contractor. And the clearer it is, the better the result. It should contain key details including: correct contact information, materials and products to be used, start and projected completion dates, scope of work, daily work hours, site plan, payment schedule and terms (spelling out any payments contingent on completion of certain work) and how change-orders will be handled.
- Be sure you have proof of liability insurance, worker’s compensation payments and a written agreement that the contractor will obtain lien releases (which protects you if the bills aren’t paid) from all subcontractors and suppliers.