Thinking about a remodeling project but don’t know where to start? Hire a couple complete home remodeling contractors in Orange County. Here’s a few tips, and fair warning, unlike many of my articles that are written in my light hearted and comical style, this one is tough love! Over 90% of potential clients break the rules and then wonder why they can’t win.

First you need to understand the scope of your project. Is it a simple kitchen update or a complete remodel? Are there structural concerns? Do you need a professional design / build firm? Will it require financing?……. Next establish a budget. Too many times I am asked to give a ballpark estimate based on an hour long conversation and review of some magazine pictures pulled from a manila folder. In today’s economical climate self preservation dictates, that a contractor “lowball” the project in the initial phases, to remain in the game. Now I know how it sounds, but how many times have you heard from someone who has done a project, something like: “It started out at one price, but then it went up and up” Another question, “What’s the average __________remodel run?” Well, you’re not going to like the answer because averages take two extremes and use the mid point. In other words if we use, say a $200,000 rec room as a high, then a $35,000 rec room as the low, the average is, well still quite ugly. I always use this example, if you place one foot in a bucket of ice water, the other in a bucket of boiling water, on average you should be comfortable, but ……well you know the rest. This whole exercise originates from apprehension to share the budget because if the budget is shared, there’s this underlining worry that the estimate will come in at that number. Excuse me, but yeah! Isn’t that the idea? to come in on budget? Here’s another eye opener, if you don’t trust the firm your sharing info with……..DON”T HIRE THEM!!!! Now I warned you this was going to be tough love.

So how do you know who you’re talking to? Two words, due diligence! I suggest you start with organizations and associations. The Better Business Bureau will rate potential contractors from A+ to F. The BBB also has an upper echelon known as Accredited Businesses, the crem de la crem. (French for best) Next, check industry associations The National Association of the Remodeling Industry or NARI (pronounced “narry”) screens member companies and requires adherence to a Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. MBA or Metropolitan Builders Association also screens member companies. If the firm you’re talking with is not a member of these organizations, you may want to reconsider. Visit potential contractor’s web sites to see if they offer examples of your type of project. This should get you to the short list. Now, trust your gut, yes that’s what I said ….trust your gut! When first meeting with a contractor, I call it the romantic stage. It’s never going to get better than at that first meeting. This is as good as it gets, if you feel you aren’t communicating well here…….bail! Inevitably, there will be rubs and uncomfortable moments in EVERY project, good communication will be paramount during these times, if it’s not present in the beginning, it won’t magically appear as the project progresses.

Another thought I hear often, can you provide me with references. Here’s an industry rule that EVERY contractor abides by……….ready ………….” Don’t give potential clients bad references” Cats out of the bag! Sorry peers, I had to let it out! References don’t mean anything! No contractor is going to give you a bad reference to contact and, let’s face it if they do, they’re simply too stupid to work on your house! Here’s a good question, “How many industry awards has your company won?” Remodeling awards are typically based on these criteria: craftsmanship, compatibility with the home and ability to stay within budget. I’m guessing that maybe, just maybe, you could narrow the three major concerns any homeowner has when doing a project to some form of those three criteria.

Next, remember NOTHING IS FREE! If a contractor is offering free design, free material, free labor or free anything, someone is paying for it, and that someone is their paying customers……accountants call it overhead! Or as I like to put it “you don’t always get what you pay for, but you NEVER get what you don’t pay for. Another thought, if it’s free how can you hold them accountable if something does go south?

Remember remodeling is a practice. There are no remodeling schools or degrees one can earn in our profession. Remodeling contractors learn by doing. As a potential client, you must rely on the reputation, ethical conduct and reliability of the contractors you choose to deal with. Asking questions, is not enough, you have to ask the right questions. I know this was a little rough and I promise to lighten it up on the next one…..maybe faux finishes or textures 101! I think it was Mary Poppins that said something about medicine and sugar, but then again, she never punched a dormer out of a twelve pitch roof, to house a third floor full bath with a whirlpool tub, a 15 hole body spray, glass tiled shower stall and low voltage halogens.