I have a “gift of knowledge” that I would like to offer to every homeowner who is trying to decide how to hire a remodeler:

Hiring a contractor is like many other decisions in life; as with finding a dentist or day care center or church or auto mechanic, you’re looking for someone who will provide trusted advice. Unfortunately, consumers have been taught that contractors should prepare free estimates so they can compare “apples to apples.” Very little time is spent understanding the depth of scope for their project and the best personality for the job. In the end, many homeowners fail to hire the person they know is right.

The proof is in the resulting complaints I hear about contractors, most of whom shouldn’t have been hired in the first place. Don’t be swayed because the disparity between “estimates” is large enough to question the value of the better contractor. There is no such thing as a free lunch. If the cheaper contractor skips things in the rough phase, you will see signs of it sooner than later.

I know a number of good contractors in our area. Some of us do fancier work than others, but we work on similar margins. More importantly, we all have the following: integrity, solid knowledge of building science, and the business acumen to charge enough to cover costs such as insurance as well as to offer the kinds of wages and benefits that will attract reliable, likeminded employees.

If you want your remodeling to be done in a professional manner, please seek out a professional contractor. Just like good daycare centers, we come with references, a track record, a portfolio and a team. If you don’t care where you leave your children or who works on your teeth, we may not be a good fit.

One more thing: Please stop thinking that you are making improvements on your home to improve your investment.

Home ownership comes with the obligation of maintenance. If you need siding or a new roof, it will not result in much return on your investment. If you side or roof your home poorly, it will result in an ugly home that leaks. If you love your location and neighborhood, you’ll likely recover your investment in quality remodeling because a) you really don’t want to move, b) you will improve your quality of life and c) remodeling will be less costly than moving to another home – which may need new siding or roofing anyway.