Now that you’ve decided you need a design build contractor, what do you do next? How do you choose which design build firm is right for your project?
First, make sure your design build firm specializes in doing the type of project you are considering. Because of the current economy, many specialists are expanding their offering to include renovations outside the scope of their particular skills. Be careful not to hire a roofer for a kitchen remodel.
Your contractor should have significant experience in the type of renovation you are considering. It’s more than just how many years they’ve been in business. Continuing with the kitchen example, you might ask how many kitchens does the contractor install every year. If the answer is 2-3 and they’ve been in business for 5 years, that’s 10-15 kitchens. Sounds great but if you compare that with a company that’s been around for 10-15 years or more, it’s not much experience. You want a firm that’s designed and installed a lot of kitchens in a wide variety of homes so they understand what hidden challenges they are likely to encounter.
An important reference is friends and family. Ask them if they have heard of any good design build firms in your area. Once you have some names, do your homework and check out further references. Contact the Better Business Bureau and consumer affairs agencies in your area. If you want to go online, do a general Google search, check out Angie’s List, and read Yelp and other online reviews. Also, make sure the contractor is registered with the state since this is now required in most locations.
Of course you will want to check out the contractor’s own website to make sure they are professional and can handle your project. You will get an impression of a contractor from the materials they present to represent themselves.
Now it’s time to make some phone calls. Find out how long they’ve been in business, how do they keep their employees up to date on the newest products and construction techniques and what is their process to ensure a great customer experience? Ask yourself, how do they seem on the phone? Are they listening to my questions and providing answers with confidence and concern for my situation? And one of the biggest complaints we all hear about contractors —- did they return your phone calls promptly?
Another question we hear is, “how important is it to deal with the owner of the company?” Good question and not a simple answer. If you meet the owner, you will definitely get a feeling for the personality of the company since it all starts there. And you will now know exactly where the buck stops if issues crop up along the way. In very large companies, you may not meet the owner and in small companies, the owner may be the only person you deal with during the entire process. The size and complexity of your project will determine how comfortable you are with meeting or not meeting the owner.