How to Vet a Potential Kitchen Remodeler on a Phone Call
Everybody needs a little guidance. In fact, during recent interviews with Modernize, 90 percent of homeowners requested a checklist to guide them in finding and vetoing potential contractors. In pandemic times, vetting contractors over the phone has become more important than ever. During that first phone call with a contractor, there are certain questions to ask that will either knock them off your list or impress you enough for a second call. It’s incredibly important that the contractors on your shortlist make you quite comfortable with their answers to the following questions.
- How long has the kitchen remodeler been in business?
- How much experience does the contractor have with kitchen remodeling?
- What is the kitchen remodeler’s project estimate, and what happens if it changes?
- Can the kitchen remodeler provide a list of references?
- Can the kitchen remodeler provide proof of insurance for personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage?
- Be Aware of Warning Signs
How long has the kitchen remodeler been in business?
When you hire someone to work on your kitchen remodel, you want to make sure they know what they’re doing. Longevity in the business is a strong indication of satisfied customers; a contractor won’t last long in a competitive market if they have a lesser reputation. If you hear they’ve been in business for decades, you can rest assured you’re in good hands.
With that said, someone with fewer years of experience shouldn’t automatically disqualify from them from your search. Less experience can lead to room for negotiation of lower rates and better warranties, so keep that in mind if everything else about that contractor checks out.
How much experience does the contractor have with kitchen remodeling?
A general contractor who works on all sorts of projects might have a good grasp of kitchen remodeling, but don’t ever assume that’s the case. Ask them specifically about kitchen remodels, how many they’ve done, how recently they’ve done it, and the scope of the project – was it a simple, minor remodel of installing new cabinets and changing out countertops? Or was it a serious undertaking that tore the kitchen down to the bare walls to start fresh?
You’ll also want a contractor who can guide you to choosing the best materials and appliances even as they keep your budget in mind. Speaking with them about what you want in your kitchen remodel can help you get a feel for the depth of their knowledge.
What is the kitchen remodeler’s project estimate, and what happens if it changes?
The project estimate should be very clear and concise. You should be able to understand each line item and what it means. If you have any questions at all, now is the time to ask them. Don’t worry about asking too many questions – this is your home and your money, and you should understand exactly what will happen to your home and where that money is going.
Get a formal agreement with the kitchen remodeler on unexpected project expenses; these should be presented in writing for your approval before any work is done. You’ll also want to make sure you and the contractor are on the same page in that if there are any changes in the scope of the work or the materials – such as flooring that is out of stock but another style of flooring is available at a somewhat higher price – that the contractor will seek your approval before proceeding.
Can the kitchen remodeler provide a list of references?
A good contractor will happily offer references so you can look into previous jobs and ask the homeowners what their experience was like. If it’s a general contractor, be sure to ask for at least a few references that are specific to a kitchen remodel. Remember that a good contractor will stand behind that great reputation, and won’t hesitate to give you plenty of names and numbers to call.
Can the kitchen remodeler provide proof of insurance for personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage?
Though the odds are good that everyone will come out of the kitchen remodel perfectly safe and free of injury, bad things do sometimes happen. The last thing you want is to compound an awful incident with questions about insurance, liability, and coverage for any property damage. That’s why you should always make sure your kitchen remodeler has the proper coverage for worker’s compensation, personal liability and property damage.
Warranties might be an addition to these things, but should never take the place of them. Warranties can offer added protection against faulty equipment, guarantees for installation, and coverage for potential damage to your home if something goes wrong. When offered a warranty, look at the fine print and make sure what is covered and what is not.
Be Aware of Warning Signs
It’s an unfortunate fact: Some contractors are not what they seem. To find an honest professional, always adhere to the suggestions of vetting your kitchen remodeler we’ve listed above. The best way to avoid being taken in by a scam is to go with a trusted, proven, local contractor for your kitchen remodel. Take your time to check their information, such as their physical business address, ensuring they have a valid license and clear industry credentials, and checking on their insurance status. Also check for their registration with the Better Business Bureau.
Sometimes things might seem a bit “off” but you don’t know why. If you have that feeling, always trust your gut. You know more than you think you do, and that strange feeling you have about a contractor is a warning sign demanding your attention.
Also look out for a kitchen remodeler who asks you to immediately sign a contract, an estimate that seems far too low, and anyone who requests the project fee or a large deposit up front. These are not good practice for any contractor, and can be big red flags telling you to steer clear.
Let Modernize help you find a trusted contractor in your area. To learn more about vetting contractors over the phone, look at our Modernize Contractor Checklist, which will help you narrow down the options and choose the kitchen remodeler that best fits your needs.