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How to Hire a Kitchen Remodeling Contractor

Picture of a kitchen cabinet installer running a tape measure across the top of an upper cabinet

How do you find and select a kitchen remodeling contractor? When hiring a contractor or subcontractor, consider your timeline, the contractor’s experience with similar projects, and the final cost. Build a list of contractors after you have a detailed budget, a kitchen design, and have done some preliminary shopping. Then request bids and hire the professional(s) who will build your renewed kitchen.

Follow these steps to find the right installation partner(s) for you.

Step 1: Assemble a list of contractors

You want to select a professional contractor that will work with you, your schedule and family. While word of mouth referrals from family and friends are the way that many people have traditionally found a contractor, in this day and age, any respectable professional has a website with a portfolio and is a member of a trade organization like the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). Review their work and look for contractors who’ve completed projects of a similar size and scope to yours.

Search online for a contractor:

Step 2: Research reviews and business ratings

Research each contractor, starting with general internet searches, Angie’s list, and the Better Business Bureau.

Customer reviews are a great source of information and may suggest topics to address when you meet your potential contractor. Take note of any unresolved complaints written in a review. When you have a list of two or three contractors, contact each one and arrange a consultation at your home.

Step 3: Provide information to each contractor

In order to get bids for comparable work, provide each contractor with exactly the same information, in as much detail as possible. Start with:

  • A detailed kitchen design with cabinet installation notes
  • Your choice of cabinets
  • Placement of electrical fixtures, outlets and switches
  • The type of flooring and countertop you will be using
  • Your expectation for working hours and any other on-site issues
  • Your timeline

Step 4: Interview prospective contractors

Take the time to discuss the construction process with each candidate. You and your pro will be sharing your home and making decisions together for the duration of your project, so you definitely want to make sure you’re compatible with each other. Here are some standard questions you can use to start off your interview.

What’s your business history? Knowing a contractor or subcontractor’s history is important to make sure that they are a legitimate and reputable business.
– How long have you been in business?
– Are you certified, licensed, bonded, and insured?
– What percentage of your business is repeat or referrals?
– Are you a member of a national trade association?
– Do have a list of references from your past 3-4 projects, including a present project?

Do you provide a detailed written contract? Misunderstandings happen, especially with projects as complex as a kitchen. A detailed contract helps you and the contractor know what is expected from each other. The contract should be very specific and point out step-by-step what will be completed and an estimated date when the remodel will be completed.

What is your process for change orders? Change orders are part of every kitchen project because there has never been a perfect kitchen remodel. It is not possible for yourself or the Pro to account for every single detail in the initial contract. Make sure that each change order is agreed to by everyone and clearly notes the change, price, time and any adjustments that need to be made.

What are your payment terms? A contractor’s payment terms often depend on the scope of the work. Generally, the contractor will ask for an initial deposit of up to 30-50% of the total budget. It’s not recommended to pay the entire job up front. You should hold a significant portion of the money until the project is completed, and all details are to your satisfaction.

Do you provide itemized pricing? A quality contractor will provide a price estimate itemized with cost of labor, demolition, materials, electrical, plumbing, permits, and more. An itemized list is important because you may encounter unexpected expenses midway through your project. For example, say you discover mold in your walls. To properly clean it, you need to trim back your existing budget, so you decide to put in a less expensive countertop than the one originally discussed. It’ll be important to know the exact cost of the first countertop, to make sure you’re credited back the right amount.

Who will be working at the site? Your contractor will not be the only person working on site; in fact, they may not do any of the physical labor. It is very common for GCs to be responsible for supervising and coordinating multiple projects and job sites including your project. Ask your contractor for a list of subs that they are using. The subcontractors are the muscle behind the remodel, and you’ll want to know who they are.

Step 5: Request bids

Request bids from the contractors you feel comfortable with. Ask them to include a breakdown of the price and estimated start and finish dates. Ask for references to recent customers kitchen projects similar to yours. Call those references and ask them if the contractor stayed under budget, within the start and finish dates, and if there were any quality concerns or problems with having the crews working in the home.

Step 6: Sign a contract

Construction bids are not the place to bargain-hunt. The lowest bid may result in disappointing work, costing you in the long run. Evaluate bids based on the contractor’s competence and experience executing similar projects.

Read every word of the contract. Feel free to bargain over details before you sign. A contract should include:

  • Names, addresses, and phone numbers of material suppliers and labor
  • A detailed list of work to be completed with start and estimated finish dates
  • Daily work hours
  • Itemized pricing by labor and materials
  • Payment terms
  • Who will secure permits (this should be the contractor)
  • Documentation of insurance, bonding, and licensing

During the Remodeling Project

Be available for questions as they arise and keep an eye on your project as it comes together, but refrain from hovering or engaging in long chats with the crews. If you have a concern, be friendly but firm, and when an unexpected problem appears, be willing to work with the contractor to find a reasonable solution.

Learn more about hiring a contractor:

  1. Hiring a Contractor — The Federal Trade Commission
  2. The Step-by-Step Guide to Finding, Hiring and Working with Contractors — HomeAdvisor
  3. Top 8 Pro Tips on How to Hire a Contractor — This Old House
  4. A Consumer’s Guide to Hiring a Residential Building Contractor — MN Department of Labor & Industry

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