Tips to Picking a Good Contractor

All the information on this page is to help homeowners avoid hiring a contractor or remodel contractor who will not deliver the job he or she expected, or leaves the owner with a half finished job.

number 1 about contractors bids and work

Choosing the lowest bid is often a bad choice.

Most homeowners have never hired contractor to remodel their kitchen or bathroom or any other major renovation project. Most customers I meet with have no way of determining if a contractor has the skill level to perform their kitchen or bath remodel. Unfortunately there are plenty of unscrupulous contractors that will take advantage of a homeowner’s lack of experience. Some contractors will take on a remodel that requires more skill than they may have.


number 2 framing

It's the bones of any project

It must be built/installed straight, plumb, level and to the plan for the rest of the project to work properly.

Walls not aligned and plumb with fewer or uneven wall stud placement causes endless problems with drywall, trim finish work, moldings, casements, and especially  tile and cabinets. The “blow and go” crews these kinds of contractors hire can slam up fast walls.

The subcontractors who install trim/molding and cabinets are then forced to scramble in order to clean up the (not to code) mess that they have created. Way more money is spent to fix the problems than doing the original framing correctly to begin with. All of these repairs will delay the project and subsequent building activities are be based off of poor craftsmanship in the building’s frame. This is a very poor and costly situation.

number 3 sheetrock and drywall

It's part of the skin of the project; you will be constantly annoyed by imperfections.

Nail pops, seams that crack, uneven texturing—these issues will begin to show up a few months after you have paid your contractor and after he is no longer in business. Applying orange peel or knock down or even stamp textures on walls and ceilings can hide a lot of imperfections during the taping process. If the underlying taping is not done professionally by a skilled contractor the seams will still show through these textures. Often this problem is impossible to fix without starting over.

Important: Don’t allow your contractor to use sheetrock from China to save money and keep the bid down. Consequences will be serious health problems. You can find many articles on the internet to confirm this.

number 4 exterior doors

Cheap doors often require more labor to properly install, especially in older homes.

Mass-produced, bargain exterior doors often do not fit older homes and are not energy-efficient. The door jambs do not fit 2x6” wall construction and may need to be cut down to the correct height. Doors today are made differently than they were in older homes where the sills were recessed. Experienced remodel contractors can determine the proper type and brand of door to use for each home and location.


number 5 paint

Paint can make or break a project

Both prep work and paint quality are equally important.

Painting is similar to a car’s finish—the finished product is only as good as the prep work. Skipping the primer coat and not adequately cleaning/sanding the surface prior to painting will often cause the paint to chip and peel. Ask yourself which is better: applying a cheap paint and using twice as much paint to cover the surface and then seeing it crack and peel; or using a high grade paint that covers much better, uses less paint and lasts for years?

number 6 cabinetry

Good quality or poor, cheap quality cabinets—your choice, but you have to use them daily for years!

With all of the imported cabinets that have swamped the US, there is a wide range of choices. You could spend $9,000 to $49,000 on cabinets for the same exact layout. Spending $49,000 is not always the answer, but buying cheap cabinets don’t look as good or last as long. Drawers, hinges, shelves can sag and/or come apart. Warped materials with terrible finishes are issues with the lower quality cabinets. The unevenness can cause problems with countertop installations.

number 7 granite and marble

The install, fit and finish of these materials will greatly enhance your project, or will be an annoyance and an eyesore.

This is a big area of investment. If not installed correctly you will feel that you have made a mistake. A low bid granite installation may involve installing your granite using Liquid Nail. Expansion and contraction can crack your joint’s seams. If the Template is not prepared correctly, irregularities in your walls, uneven or sloping cabinetry and misplaced holes and seams will mean your counter top will not fit properly.

If the sub decking shifts, your seams will get larger and filling these in only makes it look terrible. When laminated slab counter tops are done correctly, the seams are not visible. The lower bid company will often use remnants from other slabs for detail fitting pieces and in return you will see the inconsistency in quality of the granite.

number 8 electrical

Electrical components and installation must be safe, done right and durable for your family's safety and to maintain home insurance.

In the State of Washington and in the Spokane vicinity this is not an area where you want to cut corners. Labor and Industries (L&I) is very strict with quality control and if you choose an unlicensed electrical contractor to save money you will open the door to fines and delays, or a worse disaster when your house burns down. Many insurance companies require that you use a Licensed Electrical Contractor to perform all electrical work. You may void your insurance coverage by not following these guidelines.

A qualified electrical contractor will follow frequently changing electrical codes and can make recommendations to avoid violations and safety hazards. Simple things are using LED lights, motion timers, ARC fault detectors, and GFCI outlets for wet locations. They should always know the latest in energy conservation to reduce electrical utility bills. Many quality electrical contractors will also help with your lighting layouts.

number 9 plumbing

A poor quality product or improper installation can cause very costly damage. Mold growth or sewer backups can cause serious health issues.

Fixtures found at many of the bargain box retailers seem to be the same quality as from a local plumbing supply. Not so! Plumbing supply house fixtures will be made of metal with high quality internal parts that last longer (without leaking) at the about the same price. If a water leak happens and is inside the wall, you may not find out a leak is there until thousands of dollars of water damage have occurred. On a second floor with finished rooms below, it could run up to a $50,000 repair in return for saving pennies. Mold can cause health problems and is costly to eradicate.


number 10 tile and stone work

Correct installation may be more critical than you realize.

Today a person can take a seminar at a bargain box retailer and become a tile “expert.” Yet this is a big undertaking that will cost a lot to replace if a highly skilled, properly trained tile setter is not hired.

For instance in a tiled shower stall a waterproof membrane needs to be installed and sealed on the floor area. If it is not handled correctly you will not know sometimes until there is a major rot problem. I see this nine times out of ten during a bathroom remodel. This can cost thousands of dollars to rectify. A properly remodeled bathroom should last 30 plus years—not 30 months.



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