Part I: Know the difference between “certified, licensed contractor” and “registered contractor”.
We all daydream about upgrading different areas of our homes and in most cases, it stays a daydream.
The minute we start thinking about getting started we start having mini panic attacks with questions flowing through our mind;
Perhaps all of these concerns do more to deter you from actually beginning a remodel process. We put off the initial steps toward making our daydream a reality because the questions seem large and we aren’t always sure where to turn first.
Making a start
It is true when they say: that, referrals are everything when it comes to home improvement, remodeling, and construction.
At the end of the day, you are allowing a person to enter and transform your personal space, and changing what you are used to. Changing what you may have even built yourself in terms of furnishings, environment and design.
Even if you do find a contractor through a friend or a family, it is also wise to vet them yourself. Basically, do your due diligence when it comes to finding a good contractor.
You may say, “That is what reviews are for!”
That is true, yes. And at the end of the day, everyone has different opinions about what actually works for them.
It is important to have measurable metrics or comparables to watch out for when searching for a reputable contractor, even when you are combing through reviews on Houzz or GuildQuality.
Navigating the sea of details
With so much information out there, it can be hard to focus and absorb the most important or relevant bits. So here is a quick summary of the questions to ask yourself, the main keywords you will come across, what they mean and ultimately what you should look for in an ideal contractor.
Is your contractor a part of an organization or body?
Did you use a directory to find a contractor? If so, did you use a reputable source?
Here is a list of local organizations worth noting (with a link to member directories):
Master Builders Association (MBA)
National Association of Home Builders (NAHB)
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I)
Knowing where to look is important. However, once you find ‘that’ list of potential candidates it can be difficult to decide which company is better for you and your loved ones.
The directories and associations often use terms that aren’t straightforward (industry jargon, if you will). These terms are confusing and at their best, vague, for a person delving into their first remodel project.
Review these definitions of a few main terms you will likely come across scoping contractors:
Is your contractor licensed?
Each state sets its own licensing requirements for general contractors. Here in Washington State, general and specialty contractors must register with Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I).
A general contractor can perform or supervise numerous building trades or crafts. However, a specialty contractor may only perform one building trade or craft.
When do you want a registered contractor?
If you are looking to hire someone to complete any of the tasks below, then they must be a registered contractor:
General contractors must pass a licensing exam with a grade of at least 70 percent. Standard requirements in many states include: a contractor must pass a criminal background check and showing you have the financial resources to keep the company going.
Is your contractor registered?
Registering with the government is a separate step from licensing. In Washington state, for instance, sole proprietors and partners first get a license, then register with the state. To register in Washington, a contractor submits the registration form and takes out liability insurance, among other requirements. It is important to note that registration doesn't require tests, classes or special training courses (and so should be at the bottom of your qualifying criteria). If a contractor works when he isn't registered, he can be hit by fines of $1,000 a day.
Now, the juicy part: certifications.
As property values, increase many opt to remodel instead of moving. This may be true of your case, especially in Greater Seattle.
When we outgrow our space, we tend to start thinking of upgrading which would normally mean finding a bigger house. Lately, in Seattle, this has been difficult due to escalated housing costs, so the alternative is to use whatever savings we have, or ability to refinance, and then choose to remodel.
In fact, this is what Mike, our Project Manager did with his house. You can check out progressive videos of his addition remodel project on our YouTube channel.
Is your contractor Certified?
Some states use "certified" to mean "licensed." A general contractor may also certify with the various trade or government organizations.
A contractor can win certification as a green builder, for example, building energy-efficient, affordable homes or offices. The National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) offers more than a dozen different specialty certifications. Each organization sets its own certification requirements.
Certification is one way a contractor can stand out from other licensed, registered companies.
Letters (such as MCGP, CAPS, CR, DST) at the end of a contractor’s name provide a lot of information not only about their educational level, but also their experience and their commitment to continuing education.
Remember, the best contractors are the ones who keep up to date with the latest trends in this ever-changing industry. They are the ones who will know the latest methods, materials, and products available on the market.
Here is a list of few certifications to look out for:
Dust Sampling Technician (DST)
Affiliations and community engagement
So, after spending time combing through reviews and receiving referrals, you have your top 5 potential local contractors. Their profiles impressed you. Awesome.
Time is valuable. So before investing your time contacting and setting up meetings, take another few minutes to browse each contractor’s website and do just a bit more research.
What is important to you in this process?
Before you contact anyone, decide what is important to you. If a contractor’s community engagement is important, see if they are affiliated with any local organizations that are meaningful to you. Do they volunteer?
If being up to date and market savvy is important to you, then, what conferences have they gone to recently? What organizations are they a part of?
Here are a few affiliations you may come across:
The bottom line
It is easy to get overwhelmed by the never endless options when it comes to contractors so having smart qualifying criteria will save a lot of time now and down the road.
Remember to decide up front what is important to you and adjust your qualifying criteria accordingly.
What else about remodeling projects?
If you’re entertaining thoughts of a remodel project for yourself, consider downloading our Remodel Reality Check worksheet. Download yours today!
Remember to also follow our projects on Houzz, or follow and watch our progressive remodel live videos on our Facebook page.
In the mood for more reading?
Check out our blog: What Does it Take to Remodel a Basement?
Remodel Reality Checklist
Download the free Remodel Reality Checklist to find out if you are ready to start a project.
Pathway is a full-service home remodeling company focused on the creation of highly livable and functional spaces through smart design and eco-friendly, healthy, and energy efficient products and practices.
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