Do your research. “We asked lots of people who they’d worked with. The BIA (Building Industry Association) advised us to research our choice at the state L&I Web site, and check on (contractors’) status, if they were licensed and current on their payments for insurance, bonding and licenses.
“You can sign up to be notified if they became not current,” says Susan Jewell, executive director, Arc of Whatcom County, who worked with construction of the Dan Godwin Community Center. “We also took the time to see their previous projects.”
- Seek compatibility. “The key is chemistry with you and the contractor. It’s as important as any other element,” says Bill Quehrn, executive vice president of the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County.
“When you’re building, you have dreams, hopes and a budget, and need someone you can communicate that to. When remodeling, it’s valuable to find someone who can visualize improvements you may not have even thought of.”
Expect the project will take more time than you think. “From identifying our site to completion took 33 months,” says Jewell. “The building permit process takes awhile. Timing is everything. Ask your contractor how you will fit into their workflow. Can they handle multiple projects and still get yours done on time?”
Compare bids, but don’t choose entirely by price. The BIA Web site says that bids that are noticeably lower than all others should be questioned. The difference may be the quality of materials, crew experience, something missing on the bid requirements, or an indication that the contractor is not covering all of the legitimate business costs. Don’t automatically disregard a high or low bid. Ask questions.
Choose “green” options where possible. Jewell says that although they were challenged with remodeling a 102-year-old home into a structure that was compliant with Americans With Disabilities Act requirements, they worked with their team to use energy-efficient lighting and hot water systems, bamboo flooring and a porous driveway. “We wanted it to be accessible and green, too. We looked to LEED-Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design, the U.S. Green Building Council for information.”