Renovating your home can be a daunting and expensive experience, but many people still choose to renovate because the final product is worth all the effort. People who have renovated in the past will generally tell you they either had a great experience or a miserable one, and this is usually based on the home renovation contractor they hired for their job. Quite literally, the most important decision you’ll make in your remodel is which company you hire to perform the work.
In this blog, we’ll share some ideas and resources to help guide you in finding the best home renovation contractors.
Here at GreatBuildz, we speak with clients every day who are looking for a quality home renovation contractor. GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners with reliable, pre-screened contractors in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura & San Diego, then provides ongoing project support to ensure a stress-free experience.
How hard is it to choose a Home Renovation Contractor?
In Southern California alone (Los Angeles, Orange County & San Diego), there are over 20,000 licensed home renovation contractors. On a positive note, that sure provides plenty of companies that can perform your renovation project. But, on the other hand, how can you possibly choose the right renovation contractor when there are so many options?
Having spent many years vetting, choosing, and hiring contractors, I’ll give you some insights and tips on how to choose the best ones.
Is there a list of home renovation contractors near me?
Finding and selecting a home renovation company would be a lot easier if you could get a shortlist (3-5) of reputable, local companies that are experienced, affordable, and available to do your project. Unfortunately, that doesn’t exist. Although you can go online and sift through a long list of contractors in your area, you won’t know anything about their quality, service, costs, reputation, etc.
Your best bet is to get recommendations from people that you know who have hired good contractors in the past (like real estate agents, insurance professionals, etc). If you can’t secure a list of at least three recommended contractors, you can reach out to a company like GreatBuildz, who can match you with multiple pre-screened home renovation contractors in your area.
Your ideal contractor would be local, experienced with your scope of work, and a good personality fit. You’ll also want to make sure the contractor’s rates fit your budget and of course, ensure they are fully licensed, bonded, and insured. Alas, no list of contractors that you find online would perfectly match your parameters and desires. For a complete resource on how to narrow down your contractor search to the best few, check out this blog about how to find the right home renovation contractor.
Since there is no good list of “good home renovation contractors” out there, there are a few things you need to know in order to track down a reputable company. Let’s start with the things you need to beware of.
Lots of home renovation companies are really sales companies that happen to be in construction. Their goal is to sell you on the project. Once they do that, they sell your ‘information’ or hire another contractor to perform the work…and they keep a part of the fee. Other companies have a large staff of salespeople and they run ads in magazines, send you junk mail, and even go door to door offering their services. As you can imagine, these types of home renovation companies are not ideal because their goal is to bring in as much business as possible with less emphasis on customer service.
Finding Good Home Renovation Contractors
Although it’s not always simple or straightforward, finding and choosing a reputable contractor is possible. Let me offer you a few tips and things to look for.
- Make sure you are talking to the owner of the company. There is nothing wrong with meeting with a salesman or project manager, but you should be able to speak to the owner of the company before you hire.
- Make sure the company has a license that’s been around for ideally, at least 3 years. You can also check to see if the owner is affiliated with other companies that were previously closed. If so, check the reviews of these companies.
- Ask for their references and call them. People are generally truthful about their experience and won’t give you a glowing reference if the contractor did a poor job. We like to ask them how their contractor handled issues during the project – this is an excellent way to distinguish the good from the bad contractors.
- Check online reviews and the BBB website. You can assume not all good reviews are legitimate, but bad reviews likely are. Contractors are not perfect and a small number of reviews about ‘missing an appointment’ are not uncommon, but if you see more than a couple of negative reviews about communication or quality of work, that’s a red flag.
- Spend some time with the contractor over several meetings. Although they will be on their best behavior because they are trying to sell you their services, spending an extended period of time with them will give you insights into their personality.
- Keep track of their responsiveness. Although contractors are very busy right now and can’t always respond right away, someone that responds in 3 days is certainly better than someone that takes 2 weeks to get back to you.
What Qualities to Look for in a Home Renovation Contractor
In general, home renovation contractors should hold a California State Contractors License from the CSLB. Ideally, they would have a General Contractor license (B-license) which allows them to do any and all trades required for your home renovation, including things like electrical, plumbing, drywall, paint, flooring, etc. Under state law, a handyman can only take on projects up to $600 in cost, and beyond that you’ll need to hire a licensed contractor. It might be tempting to hire an unlicensed contractor because their price may be lower, but you are taking a significant risk that the work will be sub-par or they wont even complete your project.
A qualified home renovation contactor will also maintain an active insurance policy which includes both General Liability Insurance and Workers Compensation insurance to protect both their company and you as the client. Again, you might find a cheaper contractor who is uninsured, but hiring them would be a mistake because of the high level of risk you would be taking on.
Although its not a perfect gauge of the quality & reliability of a contractor, its always good to know how long they’ve been licensed. Someone with a brand new license may have less experience with both construction and with customer service. A contractor that’s been licensed at least a few years (or more) has some experience with a variety of projects and has experienced some issues that they are now better equipped to solve. And a contractor that’s been in business for a large number of years can signify that they’ve weathered many challenges and are still in business.
How to Tell a Good Home Renovation Contractor from a Bad One
The most important part of selecting the right, reputable contractor for you is to do a thorough vetting process as described above. In addition, there are other items that you will want to look for that aren’t as easily quantifiable as online reviews, etc. I often like to say that when you’re interacting with potential contractors, you should be on the lookout for certain red-flags about them, their personality and their working style. If you notice one or more of these red-flag, you might want to think twice about hiring this company. So what are these red flags:
Responsiveness. Does the contractor respond to your questions/requests in a reasonable amount of time? Do they schedule an appointment to bid your job within a week? And do they provide you with a cost estimate within a reasonable amount of time? If they are slow to respond with any of these, that may be a bad sign that they are too busy to take on your project or they are just not very responsive in general.
Pushiness. Does the contractor not do a good job of listening to your project needs, but instead tries to push other ideas on you, especially those that are outside of your original budget. Does the contractor (or there salesperson) try to push you to sign their contract right away? Maybe they’ll even give you a “discount” if you sin today? You should be very weary of folks that push so hard to get a sale.
Ultra Low Price: We’ve all heard that “you get what you pay for”, so be very weary of a contractor who’s price for you job is considerably lower than that of other contractors. Ask yourself how that company can deliver such a low price. Will they be using cheaper materials, cheaper labor or both? An inexpensive contractor is certainly not necessarily bad, especially if you’ve fully vetted them. But, be aware that some ‘not so great’ contractors will come in with a low price in order to secure the job with the full intention of making more money on the job by charging you extra change orders during the project. And as a homeowner its hard to say no to these change orders because your only options are to pay them or have your project come to a halt because the contractor can’t proceed until they finish this specific item.
Will a Home Renovation Contractor need to get Permits for your Project?
The answer is…it depends. Home renovations can vary greatly in scope based on each homeowner’s needs. Minor projects such as flooring, paint, doors, cabinets, and other minor repairs usually don’t need a city permit. More significant projects which include work such as framing, electrical, plumbing, HVAC, windows, & tile will generally require a permit. Each city is different and you can check their requirements on their building department website (Los Angeles Building Department).
Some contractors will suggest that you don’t pull permits for any home renovations. Its up to you whether you decide to skirt the regulations in order to do this, but you will be taking some risks. When you get a city permit, it comes with a cost and these funds cover the city inspector that will come to your job to assess the work at various stages. It may delay your job a bit to involve the inspector, but its a great way for an expert to review your contractors work to ensure its high quality and up to code.
How Long does it Take to Renovate a Home?
Again, this depends largely on your scope of work. Minor projects like repairs, flooring a paint can take a week or two to complete. Alternatively, if you’re replacing major systems in your home like plumbing and electrical or renovating your kitchens and baths, you should plan for a remodel that lasts 3-6 months. Obviously, you’ll need to discuss your exact timeline with your chosen contractor, but its always advisable to assume that your project will take 10-20% longer than expected. There are invariably delays that arise during a project such as weather issues, inspector delays, material delays or simply when you change your mind about part of the remodel.
Do you Need Plans for your Home Renovation?
You wont need to create plans for your home renovation project unless you are doing work that requires changes to your foundation or wall framing or if you’re adding space to your home in the form of a home addition. So, even if you’re replacing your entire kitchen or re-pluming your whole house, generally plans are not required. But if you’re demolishing or removing walls as part of your project, you will need to submit architectural and structural plans to your city for plan-check. Because you’re affecting the structural elements of your home, the city building department will want to see that your plans for making these changes will maintain the home’s structural integrity. In general, if you’re changing or revising the spaces in your home (such as expanding a bathroom), you’ll be moving walls in order to do this.
Pro-tip: Some walls in your home are load-bearing while others are not. What does that mean? Load bearing walls are holding up the ceiling and roof framing and load bearing walls are not. All your exterior walls are load-bearing and some interior walls are load bearing. Removing a non-load bearing wall is generally as simple as demolishing the wall’s framing and drywall (and moving any utilities found in that wall). On the other hand, removing a load-bearing wall requires installing a ceiling beam or some other element to support the ceiling and roof framing that was sitting on top of that wall.
How to find a good kitchen renovation contractor
Home renovation contractors are usually experienced in doing kitchen remodels, but you want to make sure the company you’re considering has done more than just a few kitchens.
Although a kitchen isn’t necessarily a complicated remodel, you’re much better off working with a company that has the experience and access to a multitude of styles and options of cabinets and countertops. Kitchen remodeling specialists often have deep relationships with cabinet and countertop makers and might get better pricing or quicker turnarounds for these products.
Do home renovation contractors do bathrooms?
Most home renovation companies remodel bathrooms, although some won’t take on a single small bathroom remodel. So, make sure to ask upfront whether they take ‘smaller jobs’? Bathrooms are reasonably simple, quick remodeling projects.
But, selecting the wrong contractor can lead to project delays and most people don’t like living with fewer bathrooms than normal. A good home renovation contractor can often get a small bathroom remodeled in 2-3 weeks.
What kind of projects are right for a home renovation contractor?
As discussed above, these companies certainly do kitchen and bath remodels. And depending on the contractor, they might also do full house remodels, home additions, garage conversions, flooring, paint, windows, and Accessory Dwelling Units (ADUs). Really, every company is different and they each have their own specialty.
Ideally, you don’t want to choose a kitchen specialist to build your ADU and you wouldn’t want to hire an ADU specialist to build your pool. Thus, by doing your research and asking the right questions, you can quickly filter your options down to the best candidates for your project. Alternatively, give us a call and we can match you with the right contractors, specifically for your project needs.
When it comes to finding the best home renovation contractor in Los Angeles, Orange County, Ventura or San Diego – GreatBuildz is simplifying the contractor search. GreatBuildz is a free service that connects homeowners with reliable, thoroughly screened general contractors and provides project support from start to finish.
Call now (818.317.3567) to chat with a real person about your next renovation project or visit our website for more information: www.greatbuildz.com