Pre-Qualifying a Kitchen Contractor
Before you invite anyone to your home, we hope you read through our first series, Kitchen Remodel Guidelines – The First 5 Crucial Steps. If you did, then you should have already pre-qualified the contractor (designer or architect) to be sure he (or she) is qualified to remodel your kitchen before you even met. If you skipped that article please make sure to qualify any professionals before inviting them to your home. The list below explains what we mean by “qualifying” your contractor.
- Make sure you are reaching out to the right type of contractor (ie: restoration contractor, specialty contractor, general contractor, design-build contractor)
- Check their license on the Contractors State Licensing Board. (www.cslb.ca.gov) – This is where you can verify the contractors license is active and the contractor has active workers compensation insurance. Under “personnel list” at the bottom – find out what the owner’s name is & verify it matches what the website says.
- Check their online reputation. Do not just see stars and move on – read the reviews! Don’t just go to one site – go to multiple. Guild Quality and Angies List are currently the most reputable sites for contractor reviews.
Schedule an appointment with 3 different contractors. We highly suggest not getting more than 5 estimates (even that is a little extreme!)
Scheduling an Appointment for a Kitchen Remodel Consultation
When you schedule to meet with a Contractor, Designer, or Architect they are all going to want to know the answer to some basic questions.
What type of kitchen remodel are you looking to build:
For example: Do you want to update only, reconfigure, expand your kitchen? This question is asked so they know the size of project and decide if they are the best fit for you.
Have you met with anyone else yet:
This question is typically asked so they know how serious you are and so they can gauge how quickly you will need an estimate and design turned over to you. It also opens the door to explore why you have not already hired the person you already met with and/or to discuss whatever designs you have already created with that company.
What is your budget
Many homeowners are reluctant to share that information with a professional. If you would rather not share your budget, provide the professional with your “not to exceed” number so they can design the space appropriately.
When would you like to begin construction:
This information lets the specialist know two things. A) How serious you are about getting started B) If they are available to assist you with their current customer base.
TIP: You will want to ask the specialist if the consultation is free and if they could give you a rough budget range over the phone (so you can verify you are a good fit for one another). You may also want to ask them if they have a minimum project price (some contractors have a minimum purchase price of $10,000 while others have a minimum of $50,000 – it just depends on the company)
The Kitchen Remodel Consultation
Most kitchen design professionals will come to your home for the first visit. Most professionals will ask to meet with all decision makers. They are not asking to meet with everyone so they can hard-sell you. They want to meet with everyone involved in the decision making because they will need everyone’s feedback so they can design the kitchen “right” the first time. Designing a kitchen takes several hours and preparing a quote takes even longer. The last thing the kitchen professional wants to do is spend all that time and create something your spouse hates.
The professional will generally spend 1-2 hours with you finding out what you want to accomplish in your remodel. They will take measurements and sometimes photos so they can prepare an estimate for you. Many times, there will be a second appointment to present you with a written estimate and/or a design rendering (3D image). If the company has a showroom they will invite you to meet them there for the presentation.
How to Prepare for the Consultation
- Be prepared to answer a lot of questions about your cooking and entertaining style. They will also ask questions about your preference in design and colors.
- If you have photos of kitchen remodels that you love from Pinterest or Houzz – show them (or email them) to the designer.
- Know what your “must haves” and “wants” are for your kitchen remodel. For example – must have vaulted ceiling; would like to have a pantry. Knowing your needs versus wants will help the designer know what they can potentially cut out if your budget is not aligned with your ideal kitchen design.
- Don’t be afraid to speak up during the meeting. They are the professional and can offer suggestions – but how can they design your dream kitchen if you don’t tell them what you want?
- Be open to suggestions. They have been in hundreds of homes and will know what is trending and may have some ideas or suggestions for you to consider.
- Have pets put away and children entertained. A designer needs your full attention for at least one hour so they can do their job properly.
Ask each contractor the same questions and write down their answers so you can compare them.
When you are meeting with several contractors over a span of several days or weeks – you may mix up their answers so writing them down is important.
- Ask for a business card and verify the license number is the same as the website
- Ask for a copy of their general liability insurance (remember – you already checked their license and worker’s compensation on the CSLB website!)
- Will you be pulling permits for my kitchen remodel?
- How often will you bill me and how quickly are the payments due?
- What kind of problems do you normally have on remodels like this and how do you handle them? (ie: will you just take care of it or will you tell me about it?)
- What is the process from here – if I decide to hire you?
- How long will it take between signing the contract and starting the work?
- Who will manage my project and how many projects is that person managing at the same time?
- How will you communicate with me?
- How often will you communicate with me?
- Can I meet the owner?
- Are there any fees outside of this contract that I should expect to pay?
- How do you handle extra work orders and unexpected costs?
- Will you provide me with a schedule?
- How long will it take you to build my kitchen?
- What will I have to do to prepare for construction?
- What do you need from me before construction starts?
- What is your warranty?
Reviewing and Comparing Estimates
Each contractor should provide you with a complete written estimate that dictates what is included and excluded in their prices. When comparing estimates do not just compare price – make sure to go through the scope of work to be sure everyone is including and excluding the same items. Have the contractors review and revise their quotes as needed. Each contractor or designer may have a different idea for your design. Take the one you like the best (or combine what you like the best) and share that design with the other contractors. This will allow them to provide you a competitive bid on the exact design you love.
Many websites suggest you should ask for an itemized estimate either by line item or broken down between labor and materials. Most kitchen remodel contractors will not do this for you. These are the reasons why kitchen remodel contractors will generally decline to provide that information:
- Kitchen remodeling quotes are typically all inclusive – which means you do not break out trades (electrical, plumbing, etc)- so (from a contractor’s perspective) there isn’t a reason for contractors to provide that information unless it is for the homeowner to dispute or negotiate per line items.
- Many kitchen remodeling companies are small and do not have a sophisticated way to prepare estimates so they don’t know how to break up the costs without potentially opening themselves up for a substantial loss of profit if you decide to remove a line item.
- The sum does not equal all the parts – which means if you added up each line item it would not add up to the total dollar amount without exposing company profit information, which is proprietary information.
Choosing Your Kitchen Remodel Contractor
This is a big deal and it is not a popularity contest. Don’t forget that the person you hire for your kitchen remodel is not necessarily the person you will be interacting with on a daily basis. You may want to ask to meet the project manager and/or license holder for the construction company to be sure you feel comfortable speaking with that person, especially because this will be a 6-10 week relationship where he is in your home daily. Make sure the contractor you hire is someone you feel comfortable with because this is the dating phase. There may be a day during your relationship that you are upset about something and you want to make sure this is a contractor you feel you could have an open conversation with if that happens.
Are You Ready To Schedule An Appointment With One Of Our Design Consultants?