Hiring the right kitchen contractor is arguably the most important decision you’ll make, especially on major remodels. While most home contractors out there are legitimate and do quality work, the rogues gallery of bogus builders, careless carpenters, and plundering plumbers is a vast one. Here are the rules to live by:
Don’t rely solely on user reviews. Online ratings services of pros can be convenient, but they’re not always impartial. For example, contractors on Angie’s List who buy advertising get increased exposure. For the site Porch, reviews are selected for posting by the professionals themselves.
Do use word of mouth. It’s always the best way to find reputable pros. If possible, inspect past projects in person to see how the work is holding up. And check the Better Business Bureau and your state’s attorney general’s office for complaints before making your pick.
Don’t fall for the lowball. Even if he’s not playing fast and loose, a contractor who underestimates project costs will have to make up the difference elsewhere—maybe on the installation.
Do shop around. Interview multiple contractors to gauge the going rate for your project. That will also help you find someone with whom you’ll have good rapport and communication.
Don’t allow for “allowances.” Those are open-ended amounts in the contract that could end up blowing the budget. Once the work is under way, stick to the terms.
Do get everything in writing. The contract should include a complete description of the project, all associated costs, and a target completion date.
Don’t apply for your own permits. That is the job of the contractor. If he asks you, it could be a sign that he’s in poor standing with the local building department.
Do check the paperwork. That includes up-to-date license and insurance and workers compensation policies. Go to the Contractor’s License Reference Site, at contractors-license.org, for more information.
Don’t pay cash. That is a common tactic used by fraudulent contractors, who take the money and run. A reputable pro will accept a check made out to his contracting company or a credit card.
Do set up a payment schedule. It’s common to put down 30 percent upon initial delivery of materials. Make the final payment only when you’re fully satisfied with the work.
—Daniel DiClerico (@dandiclerico on Twitter)