Selecting a contractor for a kitchen renovation can mean the difference between a smooth and cost-effective renovation, and a drawn-out nightmare. Homeowners often feel qualified to judge a contractor using techniques that make sense to them, but are in reality, unreliable.
For example, many homeowners will ask contractors to supply three references. There are no contractors who don’t have many satisfied customers if they can cherry pick projects over years of service. Asking “Where are you working now?” and “Can I speak with THAT customer?” is the better reference.
Using a contractor’s estimate as a tool to judge a contractor can also be problematic. Main Line Kitchen Design has worked with many talented installers that are poor estimate writers. We have also worked with contractors who provided very detailed estimates and turned out to be poor craftsman – and unscrupulous businessmen. A detailed estimate shows organization -but not necessarily construction knowledge, installation skill, honesty or reliability.
Recommendations from friends and family can be helpful, but less so if their job is different from your project. Construction projects vary greatly. Kitchen renovations often require complex home alterations, detailed finish carpentry, sophisticated ductwork, and other challenges that use a very specific set of skills. Contractors who do great jobs finishing a basement, putting on a deck, or building a family room addition, are often not up to the task of a complex kitchen renovation.
Price is the worst way to judge how good a contractor is. Expensive contractors can still be incompetent, simply overpriced or just greedy. While less expensive contractors could offer a smaller company with more personal service.
What are the most reliable ways to judge a contractor?
First Google the contractor and read their online reviews. Bad reviews can be telling. Not having any reviews can also be a bad sign. Alternately, large numbers of good reviews cannot be faked. Unhappy customers will be quick to write poor reviews even when undeserved, so having a strong positive ratio of good reviews to poor ones is meaningful.
Read the reviews to see what prior customers have said. A lot can be learned from reading these reviews. Even bad reviews can help you gain confidence in a contractor, if you suspect that the customer was the root of the problem. Also check Yelp, Angie’s List, and Houzz.com. Angie’s list allows customers to review contractors that weren’t hired, so you can see if people felt a contractor’s estimate was too high compared to the others.
The most reliable reference you can get is from another industry professional.
A kitchen designer you respect may have worked with thousands of contractors over their career. A referral from an experienced professional is far more valuable that one from a friend or family member. Not only do they have vastly more experience working with kitchen contractors, but they put their own reputation on the line when they recommend someone else.
Do you know a painter you like? They also will probably have worked with many general contractors. All kitchen renovations must get painted and the painters get to see the finished product! An expert painter’s recommendation for a general contractor carries great weight.
A kitchen renovation is often the biggest and most complex home improvement people make. Working with the right professionals at every stage is key. We look forward to helping with yours!
To all our customers, past, present, and future-
Main Line Kitchen Design wishes you the happiest of holidays in trying times and . . . of course. . .
Paul, Julie, Ed, Chris, Lauren, John, Tom, and Stacia