So you want to remodel your bathroom.
Your bathroom is overdue for an update and, judging by the mildew on your ceiling, you’re pretty sure your noisy, dingy exhaust fan is just for looks. You have dreamed up all the possibilities and reimagined how you can maximize the space (and get rid of that old Jacuzzi tub with the dusty pink tile surround.) You’ve spent hours building a Pinterest board titled “Shower Remodel Ideas” and can’t wait to finally have a bathroom that really matches your style. You and your family have talked about it, and you have decided the best route is to find a contractor to remodel your bathroom.
But how do you choose the right bathroom remodel contractor for you? Ah. The real question. “How do I find a remodeling company I can trust to do the job I want, on time, and on budget? How do I find someone I can trust to have their employees and/or subcontractors in my home?”
Bathroom Remodel Contractors Are Not All the Same
I hear you, homeowner. I’ve actually heard countless stories from other folks just like you. Your friend went with their cousin the handyman, and their bathroom was out of commission for five months, not to mention the rest of the house being coated in dust for those five months. Your co-worker just told you a horror story about the contractor they hired who did shoddy, un-permitted work and disappeared once he got paid. And you personally heard the crew that worked on the neighbor’s bathroom remodel two doors down – three weeks straight of expletives and offensive music, and your toddler has some newly acquired four-letter words in her vocabulary to show for it.
No wonder you are here reading this article. You really want to remodel your bathroom, but who do you trust? There are some really bad eggs out there – contractors who give the entire industry a bad name and make homeowners wary of ever taking the first step.
Don’t lose hope just yet! There are also some amazing, reputable contractors who perform at a high level of integrity and craftsmanship. How do you find them? And how do you narrow down and choose the right contractor for your bathroom remodel? My hope with this article is to give you the tools you need to do just that.
Step 1: Do Your Research
Chances are, you’ve already started asking around, gathering recommendations (and warnings) from friends, co-workers, family, and social media. This is a great starting point! A great personal recommendation from someone you trust goes a long way. Move beyond personal opinion, though. Look at photos of their work, talk about the experience during the remodel, and then use the tools below to find important, unbiased information about the contractors you are researching.
L&I Verify a Contractor — This webpage allows you to verify a contractor’s license, bond, and insurance are all current. It also allows you to see what type of work they are licensed to do, how much insurance they have, if their worker’s comp account is in good standing, and if they’ve had any lawsuits against their bond.
WA DOR Business Search — This webpage allows you to verify the business is registered with the Department of Revenue and is current with the Secretary of State. I find it easiest to search by UBI number on this page, which you can obtain from the L&I search outlined above.
Step 2: Determine Your Budget Range
Most people compare three bids or estimates from three contractors and go with the middle of the road price. Price should not be your main determining factor, especially because each contractor builds their estimate differently, so you can never have a complete apples-to-apples comparison for price. There’s no industry standard for what to include in an estimate. You can read more about how much a bathroom remodel will cost.
Step 3: Interviewing Bathroom Remodel Contractors
You may be able to weed out those who are not a good fit just by a phone conversation. But once you have identified your ideal contractor, contact their office to schedule an initial in-home consultation. During that consultation, you will be interviewing the contractor to see if they are the right fit for you, and they will be interviewing you for the same reason. This is a great dynamic and one you don’t want to overlook. You want someone who wants you as a customer, who gets excited about your ideas for the bathroom remodel, someone who isn’t just trying to sell you. Watch to see if they are listening to your complete vision for the project before talking cost.
Now that you know about the mutual interview that will be happening, here are some good questions to ask to determine this is indeed the right contractor for you.
- What sort of warranty does the Contractor offer?
- Do they give a ball park estimate or a fixed-price quotation?
- Is their contract a 1-2 page agreement or a thoroughly detailed contract covering all bases?
- Will the contractor provide an upfront production schedule that outlines the major phases of your remodel?
- Do they have written agreements with all employees and trade contractors to ensure performance?
- Will they acquire permits and use licensed trade and mechanical contractors (e.g. plumber, electrician)?
- Do they perform lead and asbestos testing, and abatement if necessary?
- What methods of communication do they use to ensure clarity and consistency?
- Do they have a plan for how they will respect your home and your family?
- Do they offer design ideas and assistance?
Step 4: Go With Your Gut
Most importantly, trust your instincts. If you feel uncomfortable or get a bad feeling, do additional research. You have done your due diligence and everything looks good. But you still don’t feel right, then maybe they aren’t right. The Contractor might be a great fit for someone else, just not for you. During the consultation, ask yourself a couple questions to identify what your gut is telling you.
- Does this person seem trustworthy and reliable?
- Does he or she put me at ease?
- Do they communicate well with me?
- Are they listening to me and answering my questions?
Finally, ask yourself, “Do I feel this is the right bathroom remodel contractor for me?” Check if you have green lights all the way down this list. Then check if you have a good feeling about the contractor. Now you’re on your way to making your dream bathroom a reality!