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Ann Architect, Renovation Design GroupAnnie Architect, Renovation Design Group

Renovation Solutions is weekly column on architectural home design by Ann Robinson and Annie Schwemmer, Principal Architects of Renovation Design Group, a Utah architectural firm focusing on home renovation design.

Friday, March 09, 2007

Find best contractor for the job

By Ann Robinson and Annie Vernon

Spring is just around the corner, and we all know that in spring a young man's (or woman's) fancy turns to thoughts of ... remodeling. Some remodeling you can do yourself, but some projects will require the help of professionals. Here are some tips to finding the best man (or woman) for the job.

Building professionals fall into two general categories: general contractors and subcontractors. Subcontractors are specialists in a particular trade, such as plumbing, framing, concrete, or finish work, while general contractors oversee entire projects and orchestrate the work of the subcontractors.

General contractors are typically paid a fee based on a percentage of the overall project cost. The local going rate is about 18 percent. Some people don't see the need to pay that extra fee for their project, so they act as their own general contractor. That will work out fine if you only need one or two subcontractors — i.e., someone to paint your house or someone to lay tile.

Finding the right contractor can mean the difference between smooth sailing and rough waters.

But if your project requires multiple skill sets — like demolition, paint, tile, cabinet installation, plumbing and electrical — then you might just spend every penny you saved in time and frustration as you try to coordinate your own project. Unless you have unusual connections in the building industry, it is a challenge to find multiple competent subcontractors to bid out and complete a project. Then you have to schedule them in the proper order and keep the job moving along. Experienced subcontractors are in demand, and their loyalty to ongoing work provided by general contractors will always trump your request for a one-time service.

Whichever route you go, finding a contractor skilled in remodeling techniques is critical, because remodeling is a different animal from new construction. Our first recommendation is to ask around. Word of mouth is usually the best way for contractors to promote their services. Ask friends and neighbors if they have anyone to recommend from previous remodeling or repair experiences.

Also keep an eye out in your neighborhood. Many construction vehicles are emblazoned with the name of the company or individual. Take note of trucks you see more than once. Ring the doorbell and ask the homeowner if they were pleased with the service they received.

Watch for remodeling projects that may be similar to what you are contemplating. Again, ask the homeowner who their contractor was and if they were happy with the services. And whenever you talk to a contractor, ask for referrals and then actually call them to find out how the project went and if it was on time and on budget.

The Internet can also be a tool for finding help for remodeling. One source is the National Association of the Remodeling Industry ( You can also do a general search looking for terms like "contractor referral Utah." While many construction companies do not yet have Web sites, more and more are taking advantage of this way to connect with clients.

Local home improvement stores offer installation services for many different trades. These jobs are usually farmed out to local independent subcontractors. Home improvement centers and specialty stores may also have referral boards listing subcontractors.

Finding a competent remodeling professional is half the battle in completing a successful project. (The other half is having a great design!) So take the time up front to prepare and carefully select those who will execute the work. As always, we welcome your home architect design questions at

© 2007 Renovation Design Group. All Rights Reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form or by any means without the prior written permission of Renovation Design Group.

If you are considering a remodel project, please Request a Free Consultation with Ann or Annie.

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