What Type of Contractor Do YOU Need?
You know that you need to find an experienced contractor for your home remodeling project in Phoenix, but which type is right for you? Did you know there are a few different types of contractors out there? Depending on the size and complexity of your project will determine which is right for you.
Specialty or Trade Contractor
This type of contractor, also known as a Subcontractor is very specialized in their knowledge and scope of work they offer. An example would be a contractor that does cabinetry. Their focus is on cabinetry alone, so this would not be a contractor that you would choose expecting that they could effectively perform or manage an entire kitchen remodel from start to finish. Same holds true for electricians, plumbers and flooring contractors for instance.
This type of contractor designs projects such as full homes, garage and room additions or other major renovation project. Typically an architect is used for projects involving structural changes and where construction blue prints are needed for building and required city building permits. They are proficient in building codes and structural details to ensure that your project is designed properly and safely.
This type of contractor manages all aspects of a home remodeling project from start to finish. They likely will be the ones responsible for required city approvals and obtaining building permits. Many general contractors are management firms meaning they will hire out all of the needed subcontractors to perform each specific scope of the project, will coordinate with them the building schedule and supervise their workmanship on the job. Scheduling third party and/or city inspections along the progress of the remodel will be part of their responsibility as well. Rarely does a general contractor self-perform any of the trade work on a typical home remodeling or renovation project.
Of the four contractors that we are explaining, this is the most versatile of the bunch. This contractor is also referred to as being full service because they have the ability to provide all of the services that a Specialty Contractor, Architect and General Contractor do. Your Design/Builder Contractor possess the skilled labor force to self-perform specific specialty tasks, such as drywall, paint and stucco, while utilizing relationships with others to Subcontract other tasks to such as electric and plumbing. Together all scopes of work are covered between the Design/Build Contractor’s own employees and Subcontractors. He will also have a designer(s) on staff to properly design the home remodeling project with the customers’ needs in mind and be able to manage the project in its entirety allowing the homeowner one point of contact for the duration of the job.
The key to a successful home remodeling project is selecting the right contractor for the needs of your project. No matter which is your perfect fit, always check for qualifications before hiring any contractor to work in your home. We’ll go into more detail later, but just for starters proper contractor’s license(s) and sufficient insurance coverage are a must for any contractor in Phoenix or other Arizona municipalities.
5 Questions You Should Ask BEFORE Hiring Any Contractor
You know that you need a General Contractor or Design/Build Company to complete your home remodel project, but how do you find the right one for you? You can start by researching various referral networks online such as Angie’s List, utilize Google or Yelp for local reviews, or better yet ask your friends and neighbors who they have used in the past for their remodeling needs. Surely you will get a lot of options recommended to you, but that’s not to say that you still shouldn’t do your due diligence though. When it comes down to choosing the right contractor for you, here are 5 questions that you can ask to save you time before continuing your research or interview.
Do you work in my neighborhood?
TWD services the entire Phoenix area, but not all contractors service such a broad expanse. Asking up front makes sure you don’t invest in an interview and then find out you are talking to someone who wouldn’t want the job if you offered it to them.
Do you regularly do this kind of work?
General contractors may list bathroom remodels as one of their skills, but if you need something out of that scope of work, such as taking out a wall or adding a window, they may not have the skills or licensing to perform the extra task. Additionally, the contractor may be restricted by insurance, so let them know specific details, like the location and style of building you are in, along with the tasks you need completed, so they can answer appropriately.
Are you available when I want to do the job?
It takes time to obtain city building permits (if necessary), get contracts signed and materials ordered, so it is unrealistic to expect the job to start the next day. If you are doing a bathroom remodel that absolutely must be done before your mother comes to town for the holidays, make sure that the contractor understands the job must be completed by your set date. If they cannot commit to your completion date they may not be the contractor for you.
Do you handle design and permitting or will I need to hire an architect?
Both of these tasks require valuable time and experience. At TWD, we have nationally certified professional designers on staff making the entire process easier for our clients. With contractors that do not include these in their contracts, this leaves you having to then hire yet another company to correspond with.
Do you charge on a time and materials or per project basis?
Some general contractors will give you a lump sum price up front that is tailored to your specific project and selections, like TWD. Others will charge by the hour at a set rate then tacking on the cost of materials leaving you in the dark as to what the final invoice will amount to. Worse yet, others may just factor in material allowances, which gives them the opportunity to turn around a quick bid that appears to be low cost. An example of this can be $500 for plumbing fixtures included or up to $3 per square foot of tile factored in to the price. You may think this is a good deal or an ample budget to work with, however once you blindly visit one of their recommended showrooms to pick your selections, you’re likely to fall in love with the “upgraded” materials that are showcased or that they show you instead. Plus, remember at those showrooms they don’t sell to the public, thus will not divulge the price to you because of it being an agreed upon contractors discounted price. This type of situation can be deflating to any homeowner because most situations result in you unknowingly blowing the minimalist allowance they gave you. These types of bids result in change orders costing you more money for the overall project that you hadn’t planned on originally.
Tips & Tricks For Choosing the Right Contractor for YOU!
Whether you are doing a basic bathroom remodel or updating the whole house, home remodeling is an undertaking that is important enough to make it worth the effort to find the right remodeling contractor. That may sound like it is easier said than done though, if you are not familiar with the industry. A good contractor can make the entire process go smoothly, and the contractor will stay on time and on budget. On the other hand, a poor contractor can turn your Phoenix home remodeling dreams into a living nightmare.
We’ve put together this list of tips and tricks to help you gather the information you need to know in order to determine which remodeling contractor best meets your needs.
Make Use of Referrals
If you work with a designer, they probably have a relationship with at least one remodeling contractor. They will be a great source of information because they will have experience with different companies and know who does good reliable work.
Referrals from friends and family are also valuable. They won’t have as much information as someone who works in the industry, but if there were problems with their remodeling project, they will definitely let you know about it.
Talk to Several Contractors
Don’t make the mistake of hiring the first contractor you run across. Instead, take the time to talk to several contractors, get an estimate, and ask a lot of questions. (See examples in #3)
Set Meetings With the Prospective Contractor(s) and Conduct an Interview.
Ask as many questions as you can. Examples of some questions could be …
- Are you licensed and bonded?
- How long have you been in business?
- What sort of experience do you have that’s similar to my project?
- Do you belong to any professional associations?
- How long have you worked in Arizona?
- Do you have a portfolio for me to look at?
- Do you do background checks on your crews?
- Will there be an onsite manager/foreman present?
- Is there anything missing from your estimate?
- Do you have any concerns about this particular job?
- How will you protect my belongings?
- How much do you require for an upfront deposit?
It is important that you have a copy of their portfolio (if they have one) that you can scan during the interview. Communicate directly with the contractor to know about their work experience, their skills and their work ethics. Be sure to ask them about their credentials, their standing with the BBB and with the ROC. Good questions also include discussions about previous projects, problems encountered while doing a project, solutions provided and references.
Verify the Business Is Licensed, Bonded, and Insured
If the contractor isn’t licensed, you may be held responsible for illegal activity on your property, so only work with licensed contractors. Protect your investment and your home by making sure that any contractor you do business with is insured and bonded in addition to being licensed. You can make sure that the contractor holds a verified license from the state and from professional associations by checking with the Register of Contractors (ROC). Take hold of their ROC license number and verify online or through phone. Apart from a license, a trustworthy contractor should be able to show you his liability insurance and bonding insurance as well.
Check Credentials and Certifications
It is important for remodeling contractors to stay up to date and to get training on materials and technologies, not to mention staying abreast of the ever-changing rules and regulations related to buildings and construction. Ask potential contractors what certifications they have earned. It’s also a good idea to find out what professional associations they are a member of. Some of the major ones to look for are the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), National Association of Remodeling Industry (NARI), National Kitchen and Bath Association (NKBA), and American Subcontractors Association of Arizona Inc. (ASA).
Look at Ratings and Reviews
The Better Business Bureau is one of the most respected and long-lasting resources for information on service providers, so be sure to check your contractor’s history there. The internet also has many review sites where customers leave reports of their experiences. You have to use good judgement to decide which reviews will influence your decisions because there are always people online who blow things out of proportion or simply like to rant. The uncensored nature of the internet draws them like flies. The majority of reviewers try to be fair though, so you can get a lot of good information from them. Yelp, Houzz, Angie’s List and Customer Lobby are all good sources of reviews. The easiest way to find them is just to do a Google or Bing search for “XYX contractor reviews.”
Within the remodeling industry, there are some areas of specialization that may be relevant to your job, and a contractor with certification and experience in that area will be able to meet your needs much better. For example, universal design is one of our specializations, so we have certified professionals on staff to help with your remodeling design, so that you will have the latest and most stylish elements incorporated to assist anyone with disabilities and to facilitate aging in place. This is beneficial for you if you are intending to stay in your home for a long time, and especially here in Phoenix, where many homebuyers are retirees, it makes your home much more desirable when it comes time to sell.
Verify Quality of Work
Once you have selected your most likely candidate, you need to confirm that their work is of good quality and that they complete it in a timely manner. It’s a good idea to find out if they have done work similar to yours. Include the size and scope in this query; don’t just ask whether they have done a kitchen remodel. It isn’t necessarily possible to contact past clients personally because of respect for their privacy, but the contractor can show you photos from the job and should have records indicating whether timelines were met and if cost estimates were exceeded.
Get everything in writing.
Contracts should not be the only one in writing. Proposals should be written too in order to make every detail as clear as possible. It should include things like hourly or daily rate, or an overall labor rate. Make sure you get a construction calendar as well, so you know when workers will be at your home. Be sure to ask for receipts as payments are made and keep good records! Many home improvements have added tax benefits as well. Consult with your tax professional for any claim opportunities.
Once you decide which home remodeling contractor you want to hire, your new contractor should produce a written contract for you to sign. This contract will include items such as the scope of the work, payment terms, and how change requests are handled. If your contractor gives you a generic contract that’s light on details – or no contract at all – then walk away and find someone who is more professional and trustworthy.
Inquire about Exclusions
Make sure you find out what is not included in the work— and the price—you are contracting for. This is especially important when comparing bids to make sure you make a fair comparison and understand what the overall cost will be. One of the benefits of working with an experienced contractor is that they are aware of all the little things that make up a big job. Each task involves a cost, and if these are overlooked or omitted from the initial discussion and cost estimate, you will end up paying much more than you expected to when it is all said and done.
Take your time to do it right.
Always allot ample time when choosing a contractor. Never rush things because it would just force you to make hasty decisions due to time pressure. Proper planning and time management is the key. As soon as you find a trustworthy and competent contractor never let them go.
When you check out TWD, you will find our A+ rating with the BBB, appropriate licensing in good standing with the Registrar of Contractors, numerous consecutive service awards from Angie’s List and Houzz, community involvement in several chambers and community outreach programs. Plus, you won’t have to ask around too much before you stumble across a past customer who will assure you that TWD completed their project on time and on budget.
Now it’s time to dig deep and ask yourself a few questions now. Before you hire any type of contractor, ask yourself (and answer honestly):
Does this remodeling contractor do good work?
Clearly this is the first point of elimination. No matter how much you like someone, you can’t afford to do business with them if their work isn’t up to par. Home remodeling is different than just having a few minor repairs done and requires more expertise.
What do their customers say about them?
Testimonials on a contractor’s website give you a great sense of confidence in the ability of the company and its employees, but you won’t get the full picture, because obviously, they will only publish great reviews. Look for reviews of the company on neutral platforms like Yelp, Google and Angie’s list. For a general overview of the company simply type their name into your Google search bar. This will pull up a list of all websites that company is listed on or referenced in, along with any review ratings for quick reference. You’ll get a much bigger overview since nobody gets to filter out any bad reviews (if there are any) showing the average star rating on each website. If your search result comes up with a long list of 5 star ratings, you know you’re on the right track to continue your research.
Is there enough information about them available to make a confident decision?
Look for a large number of reviews on reputable sites. We reference “reputable” sites because those are the websites or referral networks that validate their review submissions to make sure they are not coming in fictitiously. That they are from real people.
If there are only one or two people weighing in with a review, you will get very limited feedback and they will only reflect on a couple of job types, which may not be the same type of project that you are considering. If people you know can relate their personal experience working with the contractor that’s always valuable, so ask around to your family and friends for recommendations too.
Do you trust this remodeling contractor?
This one may take a little more thought.
The answers to the previous questions will give you the information you need to make a wise decision, however independent community organizations are a wonderful resource to look at for more insight. You should feel safe working with a remodeling contractor before finalizing any agreements, so look for membership in, or certification from, any organizations that you already know and trust. This could be your local building associations, community outreach programs or even your local city chamber of commerce. “Fly by night” companies that are not in it for the long haul typically do not make the time or effort to become involved within the community to build trust.
These general questions will help guide you in your search for a general contractor that fits your needs and your project. While this may seem overwhelming, choosing the right contractor should be the top priority to ensure the success of your project. Now that we’ve covered some of the basic questions to ask while researching and interviewing your contractor and you’ve received the bid(s) for your project, how do you decipher between them and feel confident that you’re making the right decision?
Top 3 Reasons Not to Choose a General Contractor Based on Cost Alone
Once you have decided to remodel your home, whether it’s just a kitchen remodel or the whole house, you have to find a general contractor to do the work for you. You will find that you have a wide range of possibilities, from nation-wide operations to a guy with a pickup full of tools. In making the decision who to hire, cost and quality will be primary considerations. Nevertheless there will be a wide variation between the cheapest quote you can get and the highest you will receive if you have well established companies bid the job. So how do you make the final decision? Here are a few things you should consider.
When you pay a general contractor for a remodeling job you are making an investment in your home that should have long lasting value. Cheap materials save money on the up-front costs, but in the long run, they don’t hold up and the work may have to be redone sooner than you would have hoped. Worse, poor-quality materials can fail and lead to expensive damage. For instance, cheap fixtures may look just fine, but a leak, especially in an unseen place can damage walls and floors, or lead to a mold infestation before you realize it.
Eco-friendly materials are a great option to consider. While they do tend to cost more than their more basic counterparts initially, they will save you money on utilities, and that small monthly savings adds up to a lot over time. Plus you get the satisfaction of helping the environment while making your home just the way you want it.
As with any industry, more experienced skilled craftsmen do come at a cost, so the best contractor won’t be the cheapest; however, they aren’t necessarily the most expensive either, so it’s not always beneficial to go with the highest bidder. There are several ways working with an experienced contractor pays off.
Skills come with the experience, and tradesmen learn the best ways to get a job done. By planning and having the right tools and materials available they save time and complete the project right the first time.
Unforeseen problems happen when tearing into closed walls or ceilings, but an experienced contractor will know the proper solution and keep the project on track.
One of the more subtle benefits of an experienced contractor is that they have worked in the industry and have had a chance to build relationships with suppliers and other contractors. They may be able to get better prices on materials, and will be able to find the right person for specialized work such as electrical and plumbing, if they don’t have someone on their crew with the right skills already.
When a builder or general contractor receives certifications from a professional association, it shows that they have gone the extra mile to keep up with the latest innovations in materials and building practices.
A certification also gives additional verification that the contractor has been trained, and in most cases, passed an extensive examination endorsed by the organization. This really makes a difference because there are many “handymen” out there that are not certified and have only had on-the-job-training by a fellow co-worker, who may not be the most qualified teacher or up to the most current building practices.
Simply put, the effects of these three key details create a level of trust which is a necessity when considering letting someone work within your home and giving them your hard earned money. We know the low cost bid is enticing and we all want to save money. Unfortunately, you get what you pay for and there is a reason (or many reasons) why the price is lower than the bids from the industry professionals. Read on as we expose the most common corners cut that you should beware of.
Beware of the Cheap Contractor: Risks Revealed
You may think that a reputable licensed remodel contractor will cost you more to complete your project than hiring “Joe Smith” that randomly knocked on your door, and you’re most likely correct. Let’s be honest, it’s extremely tempting to go with the guy that works out of his truck telling you that he can remodel your home, paint its’ exterior or build you that extended covered patio that you’ve been wanting for 40% less than the written quote you received from your reputable local general contractor. In that moment do you wonder why there’s such a big cost difference or simply hand over your hard earned money to “Joe Smith” to start your job? Hiring that cheap contractor is risky business that every homeowner should beware of and we’re going to reveal why.
Insurance, Who Needs Insurance?
When you entrust a contractor into your home you are putting yourself at immense risk. Obviously carrying the proper coverage comes at a cost and “Joe Smith” could be skating by without being insured (or worst yet unlicensed) in order to save money and pass along that great deal to you. What you don’t know is that if he gets hurt while on your property working it is your responsibility. Accidents can and do happen. Is it really worth losing your home or life savings in a lawsuit?
Solution: Be sure that your remodel contractor carries the proper insurance coverage for both general liability and worker’s compensation. Ask for proof of coverage. A reputable company will be more than happy to provide current documentation to you.
Contracting Without a License is Against the Law
Arizona law simply recognizes that advertising to perform services requiring a license and/or acting in the capacity of licensed contractor without one is a violation with said penalties. In many instances these ‘con men’ are not caught and penalized until the worst happens and a homeowner(s) are taken for their money and/or left with sub-par unfinished work forcing an investigation and legal proceedings. Then not only are they now broke, but also left hoping that they are awarded restitution in order to afford to finish (or redo) the project properly. During these types of proceedings you are inconvenienced living in a home that may now have hazards from work being unfinished and/or done incorrectly as well. Keep in mind that “Joe Smith” makes his living working out of his truck going from house to house and has had plenty of practice misleading homeowners.
Solution: Before hiring any contractor to work in your home, do your research by visiting the Arizona Registrar of Contractors or registrar in your municipality to view the contractor’s license record and verify that the person you are working with is in fact an authorized representative of that contractor.
Low Ball Estimates Are Too Good to be True
In order to provide low cost service, something else in the project has to be the tradeoff. It could be cutting corners like using substitute materials, inexperienced labor, ignoring code enforcements or worse. These risks come at a cost and if the contractor isn’t covering that burden up front, you’ll be the one paying for it later. Cheap contractors cost homeowners just like you thousands of dollars in poor workmanship and penalties.
Solution: Always collect estimates from 2-3 reputable remodel contractors. This will help ensure that (1) you are getting a fair price for your project which let it be known is not necessarily the lowest price and (2) that everything necessary is included in the job scope. Double check that the cost of daily clean-up and haul off of debris is included in the bids, or you could have a real mess on your hands, and make sure that a warranty is outlined.
Talk is Cheap
By hiring a “Joe Smith” that knocked on your door you are putting 100% of your trust into his practiced sales pitch. He can be quite convincing, but talk is cheap and easy to do. A year down the road when you have a warranty issue that needs to be addressed do you think that “Joe Smith” will still be in business to remedy your problem? When you call his cell number to find it’s disconnected or calls are no longer being returned, you could find yourself in the position of having to then pay another contractor to fix what should have been covered as a customer service or warranty call, thus costing you more out of pocket.
Solution: Keep in mind that companies and/or “handmen” that work out of their truck can easily pick up and relocate to the next opportunity spot, which could very well be in another city or state. Those without storefront property have very little (if any) ties to the community to keep them there for years to come.
Due your due diligence by consulting with your local home remodeling industry experts, visit the Better Business Bureau for a quick background check on any company, ask for referrals or visit online referral sites (i.e. Angie’s List, Houzz, Google, Porch.com) to read about what other homeowners have to say about the company, their quality and customer service.
The cost of ignoring these red flags and hiring a cheap contractor could be exponential. That is why the team at Todd Whittaker Drywall Inc. (TWD) is your perfect solution. Being licensed, bonded and insured, we have been trusted since 1996 by homeowners in your very position. “Honest People. Fair Price. Projects Done Right.” That is a motto that we live by every day. Visit us online at https://www.twdaz.com for a full list of the repair and remodel services we specialize in. And while you’re there, take a look at the live feed of real customer testimonials to see what others are saying!
Common Mistakes You Should Avoid When Hiring A General Contractor
You probably are aware of the basics to hiring a General Contractor, but what things should you be wary about? You already know about doing your due diligence asking for a company that is licensed, bonded and insured, gathering quotes on your project from more than one company to ensure nothing has been missed and all pricing is in line, and researching past history to make sure there haven’t been any major complaints by visiting the Better Business Bureau website, Angie’s List and other online directories providing true and honest customer testimonials. Unfortunately there are other surefire signs that you should watch for. We’ve compiled a list of common mistakes that every homeowner should know before hiring a pro to work on their home.
Waiting Until A Need Arises
The smartest thing that any homeowner can do is have a local general contractor already picked out that you trust. Whether you have worked with them before, a friend or neighbor has referred you to them, or you have done your research in order to be prepared, knowing is half the battle. You don’t want to wait for a major fail in your home to start the looking process because you will then find yourself making irrational rushed decisions just to try to get the job done fast.
Hiring Someone That Just Showed Up
Everyone has experienced the notorious door-to-door salesman. Never hire a General Contractor that mysteriously knocks on your door. This is a red flag of fly-by-night companies and even common practice of “insurance chasers” or “storm chasers” that just go where the money is and then are nowhere to be found when you have a customer service issue or warranty need. Choose an established General Contractor with a storefront and that is actively involved within your community. A company that is vested within the community is more likely to be around for the long haul when you need them most.
Hiring a Pro Over the Phone, Without Diagnosing the Problem
Steer clear of a company that will quote you a price over the phone without making the trip out to your home to put eyes on the problem at hand. Without seeing the project first hand they will not properly be able to (1) show up to fix the issue with all proper and necessary tools on the first trip not knowing what they are actually getting into, (2) address any underlining issues that you may have such as mold, an internal leak, or a roof leak that could be causing other issues, and (3) fix the entire issue within the modest price quote that they provided if other factors are involved that you were not aware of.
Your home is your castle, and when it’s time to make changes, you don’t want to take risks. That’s why it’s so important to work with the right general contractor or design/build contractor that is specialized in remodeling projects like yours. Who you work with will be one of the most significant deciding factors in how the job turns out—not just in the quality of workmanship, but also in the quality of materials, timeliness, and safety during the job.
The Choice Is Simple: CALL TWD FOR YOUR NEXT REMODEL
We’ve covered a lot of great resources, tips and tricks when looking for the right contractor for your remodel. One thing that we tell all of our current and potential customers is to do their due diligence. Be sure that you are completely comfortable with your selected contractor because a home remodel is a personal and intimate experience. We say this because you will have someone learning your likes, your dislikes, your daily routine and more in order to design the absolute perfect space that impeccably fits your needs. Financials are discussed in order to create a comfortable budget to stay within. Not to mention, crews and workers will be trekking in and out of your home invading your domain in order to transform your house into the home of your dreams.
Your next step should be to visit the TWD website (https://www.twdaz.com). There you will find details about the full list of services that we offer and photos galleries of real projects we’ve completed, along with the ability to request an appointment. A member of our team will contact you to schedule an initial appointment in your home or in our Design Showroom, where you can explore material choices and ideas. What can you expect when you meet with one of the TWD nationally certified design professionals for your kitchen, bathroom or full home renovation?
- FREE design consultation in our showroom, located just north of Phoenix, AZ in Peoria, AZ with one of our kitchen remodeling experts.
- Full access to our designer home showroom to plan your entire project from start to finish. See the wood grain in the cabinetry, feel the touch of the stone, the glimmer in the countertop and coordinate your entire color palette all at one, convenient location, saving you time and money.
- A rough sketch of your dream kitchen remodeling renovation.
- A detailed estimate outlining all of the materials and inclusions for your kitchen remodeling project.
- 3-D renderings so that we can bring your kitchen remodeling plan to life, ensuring that you are going to fall in love with the layout, the look and the flow of your new space. Our team gives you a visual of how everything will come together.
- Superior customer service. Todd Whittaker Drywall Inc. is built on the philosophy that our customers are a part of our Arizona family, and our goal is to build a long-standing relationship with you as your general contractor of choice.
TWD has been consecutively recognized for our exceptional service for many years by Angie’s List, Houzz, recommended by local home builders and ranked in the top 100 full service remodelers in the nation. Isn’t it time that you experienced the TWD difference?