/ Budget & Planning

Finding a General Contractor

Asking trusted friends and family members for names of contractors they've hired is always a great way to go. If you've already hired a designer or architect, ask that individual for recommendations, too.

Professional organizations such as the National Kitchen & Bath Association, the National Association of Home Builders or the National Association of the Remodeling Industry can provide you with a list of local members.

If there's a job going on in your neighborhood, and you like the looks of the work, look for the company's job sign or ask for a name.

The Professional Locator also includes remodeling contractors as well as kitchen and bath designers, interior designers, cabinet refacers, and specialty contractors and suppliers.

Questions to Ask Potential Contractors
Once you have the names of some companies, you'll want to do an initial screening to weed out unlikely candidates. Ask the following questions:

  1. How long have you been in business?

  2. Do you have proof of general liability and worker's comp insurance? What about proof of licensing?

  3. Do you offer design services? If not, how do you work with designers or architects?

  4. What type of jobs does your company usually do?

  5. Are your workers employees or subcontractors?

  6. May I have a list of customer references?

  7. What suppliers do you use? Do you have a showroom?

  8. Do you have a brochure, Web site or other background material?

  9. How can I contact you for follow-up questions or to set up an appointment?

Checking on licensing, insurance and references is essential. None of the other questions, however, has a "right" answer. What matters most is whether the contractor has experience doing jobs like yours and if the company's approach matches the one you'd like to take.


Double Checking
Ask the contractor for copies of all relevant documents so you can call the appropriate agency as a reference.

  • Use the Better Business Bureau's online tool ( to find out how many claims were made against the company within the last three years and how they were resolved.

  • Find out if a contractor is insured against claims covering worker's compensation, property damage, and personal liability.

  • Check with state, county, or city housing authorities to be sure that a contractor meets all area licensing and bonding requirements. (Licensing requirements differ drastically across the country

The Better Business Bureau recommends that you follow this checklist before hiring a remodeling contractor:

  • Plan your project from start to finish.

  • Be specific in explaining exactly what you want.

  • Approve any architectural plans that are involved before the contract work begins.

  • Compare costs before making a financial commitment.

  • Discuss bids in detail with each contractor.

  • Ask the contractor for local references and find out if he or she is a member of a professional remodelers association.



More in this category:Remodeled Home Tours »