Renovation Step 5 – How to Choose Your Contractor

By: Kate HambletFebruary 27, 2018

Alright folks, we’re nearing the end of construction preparations and are ready to find a contractor.  So far you have created an existing conditions plan of your house, determined your renovation purpose, established your budget, and made adjustments to your plan and budget as necessary.  The next step to get you on your way to your amazing new renovation is to choose a contractor.

How to Choose Your Contractor

This step sounds easy, but it might actually be a challenge, especially in a busy market.  You want to find a reliable, affordable contractor that will get the job done in a professional and timely manner.  But how?  First, find a few contractors that will provide you with a quote for your project.

Where to Search for Contractors:

Referrals – Ask your friends, family, neighbors, coworkers – anyone that you trust to give an honest review of someone – for referrals.  I relied on referrals from friends and coworkers when choosing subcontractors for our renovation.

Websites like Home Advisor and Angie’s List – These websites do background checks on any contractor they are endorsing.  They also provide reviews of the contractors.

Google Search/ Yelp – If you Google contractors in your area, you will probably be shown some websites for popular and/or well-marketed local contractors.  The nice thing about a Google search is that it usually comes with reviews of the contractors.  A Yelp search will also provide you with a list and reviews of popular local contractors.

Ask your Local Hardware Store or Lumber Yard – Contractors have a close relationship with hardware stores and lumber yards since they do business with them regularly.  Attuned sales clerks will be able to suggest contractors that fit your particular need.

Reviews and References:

Read and listen to reviews!  This is crucial.  Finding a reliable and professional contractor is infinitely more important than finding the cheapest contractor.  If you are finding referrals from friends and family, ask them lots of questions about timeliness, cleanliness, and how they handled changes and mistakes.  Also make sure that the project that your friend had done is similar in scope to the project you are going to have done.  A contractor that remodeled your friend’s bathroom might not have the capacity to perform a large remodel and addition.

If you are relying on reviews from Google or other online searches you might need to use your judgment quite a bit, especially with negative reviews.  People are much more likely to write a review when something goes wrong than when something goes right.  Sometimes people need a place to vent about a project that went wrong even though it wasn’t necessarily the contractor’s fault.  If a contractor looks promising to you, but has some negative reviews, you don’t need to rule them out.  Talk to them about the reviews and ask them for references.

Always ask a contractor for references and CALL SAID REFERENCES.

Getting Quotes:

Choose three or four contractors to look at your project and quote the job.  This will give you a good range of quotes so you can see who is expensive and who is on the cheaper side.  Keep in mind that quoting a project takes a very long time and contractors are doing it for free.  Only ask contractors for quotes that you would consider hiring.

Be prepared to ask each contractor some questions to get a good feel for how they will handle your project.  Here is a helpful article from Home Advisor listing 15 questions to ask a contractor.

Depending on the pace of the market (busy market = hard to find available contractors) getting a quote from a contractor might prove to be a bit difficult.  Before your initial meeting with the contractor is over, ask them when you can expect to receive their quote.  If they haven’t sent you the quote within that time frame, it is worth following up with a call or an email.

Sometimes contractors will just be too busy to quote the job.  This can be frustrating but you must persevere!  If the contractor backs out or never returns your messages, it is time to do some more contractor searching.  As I previously mentioned, it is in your best interest to receive multiple quotes for a job so you know who is pricing high and who is pricing low and to find a contractor that you feel comfortable working with.  Taking the time to find multiple contractors that will follow through with the quote will be worth it.

Choosing Your Contractor:

Now that you have multiple quotes, it is time to pick your contractor.  If you are working with an architect, they will be able to help you make this decision.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • Carefully read the project scope – This should outline exactly what the contractor will be responsible for.  If the scope is vague or seems incomplete, ask the contractor for clarification.  You might find that the original low bid was so low because the contractor left out some crucial items they should have been responsible for.
  • Carefully read the exclusions – A contractor will typically list items they are excluding from their scope.
  • Carefully read the fine print – This is boring but important.  You don’t want a problem to arise in the middle of construction and be surprised that the contractor has defended themselves from said problem in the fine print.

The moral of this story is to read over the quote carefully and thoroughly!

Once the quotes have been thoroughly reviewed, choose a contractor that you feel confident in, that you feel comfortable having in your home for weeks or months, and that has been helpful during the bidding process.  If a contractor shows signs of being unhelpful before they even have the job, chances are they will be the same way once the job is theirs.


Are you overwhelmed by the idea of having to choose a contractor?  Hiring an architect will help alleviate the stress of construction preparations.  Architects and designers have experience working with contractors and can guide you through the pre-construction process.  Visit my services page to see how an architect can help your project.


You are so close to getting your renovation project under construction!  The next step will be to obtain a building permit.  Stay tuned!


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