Hiring a contractor to oversee your home remodel or upgrade is one of the first, and most important, steps in any renovation process. However, the process of getting contractor bids can be a bit confusing—especially for first-time renovators.
Here are some simple tips for gathering and comparing contractor bids to start your upcoming remodel on the right track.
1. Figure Out Which Type of Contractor You Need for Your Home Renovation Project
A general contractor is typically responsible for providing and coordinating all of the labor, materials, and equipment needed for a construction project. From complete home remodels to minor upgrades, a general contractor can oversee a home renovation from conception to completion. Hiring a general contractor may be a good idea for many large scale projects such as bathroom or kitchen remodels.
Depending on the details and scope of your project, you may want to hire a specialized contractor to complete certain home improvement projects. Common specializations include:
- Heating & Cooling
- Windows & Doors
Before you ask for contractor bids, consider the needs of your project and whether general or specialized contractors are better suited to your renovation.
2. Write a Detailed Description of Your Project’s Needs
Part of learning how to get a bid from a contractor is researching how to write a great project description. If you’re not a writer, don’t fret! Project descriptions aren’t very long, and if you follow these steps, you’ll be well prepared to write a great one.
Begin by drafting a detailed description of the scope, size, and needs of your remodel.
As you learn how to get bids from contractors, you might find that the more descriptive you are, the more responses you’ll draw from passionate professionals. Try to include the following in your proposal:
- An Introduction: Your prospective contractor needs to know who they’ll be working with; explain whether you’re a first-time home buyer or if this is your second (or thirtieth!) home remodeling project.
- The Goals of Your Project: This is where you’ll explain the details of your project. Are you retrofitting windows? Installing a new bathtub? Adding on an additional room? Be as specific as possible.
- Supplemental Information: Provide any supplementary information that might impact contractors’ bids, such as:
- Materials you may already have (lumber, sand, foliage, etc.)
- Your ideal timeline and completion date
- Budget details
- Any areas of emphasis
To help you get started, here’s an example of a project description:
“Family of four seeking to add solar panels to our 1,820 square foot home in San Diego, California. Panels must generate enough electricity to power our pool heater in addition to the home. Intended project completion date is June 1, 2018. We are flexible regarding the manufacturer’s solar cell materials, but are firm on budget. Please submit your best offer.”
Although this proposal is short, it hits the key marks, and even something this concise may secure a variety of contractor bids.
Pro Tip: A longer, more detailed proposal may lead to greater satisfaction at the time of completion—especially for those with a very specific vision. If you have details in mind, be sure to include them in your project description.
3. Questions to Keep in Mind as You Accept Bids
Now that you’ve drafted a proposal, it’s time to solicit your bids. As you begin accepting bids, keep the following in mind to help narrow down the pool of contractor candidates:
- Which type of contractor do you want to hire—general, specialized, or a combination of the two?
- Is the contractor licensed, bonded, and insured?
- Will the contractor come and evaluate the home before submitting a bid, or is it done online or over the phone?
- Do they have references?
- Will they clean the work site at the end of each day?
- Can the contractor communicate in a timely manner?
Get at least three contractor bids to give yourself more options—this will help you hire the right person for the job. Be sure that all of your contractor bids are in writing, as an officially documented agreement just in case you need to have that record if a disagreement comes up.
Pro Tip: If you are in search of the right contractor and want to start requesting bids, learn more about how to find a contractor here.
4. Comparing Contractor Bids
Once you’ve received multiple bids, it’s time to select the one that suits your project best. Here’s how:
- Compare Contractor Estimates: By soliciting three or more contractor bids you’ll have a better sense of what your project will cost you, as you can flag outliers that seem significantly high or low.
- Meet with Your Contractor Before Accepting Their Bid: If you’re planning on a major remodel, your contractor is bound to be at your home a significant amount of time. Be sure to meet with each contractor before accepting a bid; this face-to-face time will help you determine whether or not you’ll be able communicate and work well together.
- Assess Their Portfolio: Don’t forget to check out every prospective contractor’s portfolio before accepting their contractor bid. Follow up with any references they provide, and ask former clients if the contractor was respectful and completed their project on time.
Pro Tip: When choosing between contractor bids, don’t make price the only defining factor; you’ll need to carefully weigh additional considerations, such as reliability, creativity and flexibility as well (depending on your specific project).
Finding Contractors with Renovate America
Start your search for the right contractor for your home today. Our Find a Contractor page makes the process easier and allows you to filter by:
Renovate America works with a network of contractors who have agreed to follow our guidelines, and to only be paid after you’ve signed off on your project.
Enjoy the peace of mind that comes with using a contractor who is a good fit for your home and specific needs, and get started on a home renovation you can be proud of.