Tips on Finding the Right General Contractor

Finding the right contractor is like finding an artist who will turn your dream into reality. It can be a real challenge.  It requires research, interviewing, and documentation.  There's an art to finding your artist.  You'll need patience and knowledge.  To help you find a reliable, modern master, and not a fast buck artist, consider the following suggestions:
Seek Out Those Who Know

Get contractor recommendations from architects, building inspectors, friends and relatives who have recently remodeled.

Ask To See Examples Of Recent Work

Sit down (in your home) and discuss your project.  If you've sketched a plan, present it. Share information about your tastes and life-style, and talk in general about your ideas.  Ask to see photos showing examples of similar work that the contractor has done.

What Picture Does Their Reputation Paint?

Find out as much as you can about the contractor.  Contact the better business bureau or your consumer affairs office for this information on the contractor.  Ask for references. Ask him to submit proposals.  Along with the proposals, request both liability and workers compensation insurance certificates. Look for top quality materials and assure long-term performance.  Last but not least, ask yourself whether he is someone you'd enjoy working with.  Then make your decision.

Understand The Contract

The contract should describe every part of the job, including the start date, product specifications (brand model, color, quantity, size), warranties and an estimated completion date.  It should also make provisions for changes during the construction, uncontrollable delays and clean-up.

Licenses & Permits

The contractor is responsible for obtaining all the building permits and for meeting all building codes and ordinances.  Separate permits may be required for electrical, heating and plumbing work.  The contractor is also responsible for calling the building department and scheduling periodic inspections.  This is crucial.  Because inspectors usually have the absolute authority to order work dismantled if it's not done to code or without permit.

Real Professionals Stand By Their Work

Sometimes the true test of a contractor comes not during the construction of your home improvement, but after. You should know that true professional contractors stand behind their work - when their crew is on site and when their work is finished.  You should make sure that the contractor's position on this matter is understandable and clearly spelled out before you sign the contract.

By following the suggestions on this page you will establish a solid, professional relationship with your contractor.

Seven Tips for a Successful Renovation

1. Define your objectives: What is good or bad about the living space you want to renovate? Has anything annoyed you repeatedly? Do you find yourself wishing for something different? What are you missing? If cost is no object, what would your dream space look like? How do you imagine using the space more effectively? Your answers to such questions can have a profound impact on the kind of kitchen, bathroom or den you want to have. Your answers should result in a comprehensive "wish list” which you can then use as a point of departure. If new information or insight becomes available, don't be inflexible and unwilling to deviate from your original list. You never know how new ideas can spark or inspire a better configuration for your proposed changes.

2. Prioritize: In the real world, we have to make compromises. Budget, available space and the accommodation of the tastes and wishes of other members of the household, etc. all play a part in shaping what we can and cannot do. Organize your construction plans by prioritizing your objectives (from your "wish list" above). Your highest priority item should be first on the list. Subsequent items will represent lower priorities in a descending order. Highlight those items which are a must, and once you're done identifying these, review the list one more time. If you're comfortable with what you have, you've made significant progress towards a sensible plan for your renovation project that will serve you well.

3. Budget: Now it's time to spice your dreams up with a pinch of reality. You need to realistically develop a budget for the project. Check out Remodeling Magazine's often quoted "Cost vs. Value" report ( in your area.  Assess your available resources. Many homeowners turn to financing for such a major project. Home equity loans and refinancing are the two most popular approaches to handling home improvement costs. Such an approach may have some tax benefits as well. It may be a good idea to consult your accountant for more specific advice. Remember that the home of your dreams may cost more or less than your allotted budget. You should build in a lot of flexibility at this point. It's only with input from a professional you can trust, like Sandy Denicker of CAROSAN, that will let you finally pin down a cost for your project.

4. Design: Focus your search on companies with specific expertise in the design and construction of the part of your home you want to renovate. Expertise in design is indispensable at this stage. You should share your budget guidelines with the company you hire. In turn, they should be able to tailor a solution that will reconcile your "wish list" items with your budget.

5. Hiring the contractor:  Insist on a New York general contracting company that can demonstrate abundant experience and expertise in the kind of renovation work you are interested in. You should also insist on the company having a stellar record with New York State Consumer Affairs. Consider it time well-spent when you review the recent projects and interview previous clients of the contractor.

All of these pointers may end up being meaningless if you don't get along with your building contractor. You should be comfortable with the company you hire and you should feel a genuine rapport with the people who work for them.

6. Manage Your Expectations: Be prepared for the challenges that a project in luxury home design can pose. Any kind of remodeling project is a multi-trade, detail-intensive undertaking. Such a project involves noise, dust and disruption to the household routine. While you may tolerate it easily for the first few days, it may grow old very quickly. Be prepared for the inconvenience to last longer than you think it will. You should also be aware of the variations in the pace between different project phases. While the demolition and "rough" stages may speed along at a blazing pace, the wall work and painting phases may appear to barely move along by comparison. Managing your expectations doesn't mean you have to lower your standards. It merely results in a healthier and more balanced way for you to survive the process of remodeling.

7. Be involved: Don't be an absentee client while your home is being remodeled. In other words, "don't expect—inspect!" Remember, you have to live with the results of the project, not the home improvement contractor that you hire, so stay involved as the project progresses. Even the most competent and trustworthy of contractors can benefit from your ongoing input and involvement. Being available and on top of things can even expedite your remodeling project because your enthusiasm and dedication will be shared by everyone involved. If you choose your contractor wisely, your remodeling project may actually be a rewarding experience you will get to brag about.