How to Find and Hire a Kitchen Remodeling Contractor in San Diego

Red Flags and Best Practices

Once you have your plan and budget for the kitchen of your dreams, you’re ready to hire a contractor to make that dream a reality. 

Here are a few things to know that will save you time, money, and potential headaches as you search for a contractor. 

Make a List of Contractors and get Bids

Home Advisor suggests calling between 10 to 12 contractors and narrowing that list down to four to six whom you’ll meet face to face. You can learn a lot from these initial calls. Do you seem to get along over the phone? Do they seem excited to do your kitchen?

References and Word of Mouth

Word of mouth is everything in the search for a contractor. According to Pro Remodeler, 42% of homeowners polled started their search by asking a friend or family member for a recommendation, 28% asked a contractor they know, and only 13% used Google and other search engines. 

With numbers like those, any good contractor will be well aware of the power of word of mouth and will happily give you references. 

Be as specific as possible with the questions you ask your friends. 

You Can Learn a lot from a Bad Review

Not everyone is going to have nice things to say, and even the best contractors will have a couple of negative reviews. Pay attention to their online presence and how they respond to negative feedback. 

Are they courteous and helpful even when dealing with an unreasonable complaint? 

Do they respond to criticism in a way you would hope to be treated if you felt like you had a problem?

Keyword: “Scam”

Here in San Diego, the laws regulating contractors are pretty solid. We have a lot of protection from scammers and unscrupulous characters. That said, it’s never a bad idea to screen your list of contractors for serious issues such as fraud and credit problems. 

The Federal Trade Commission recommends Googling the name of your contractor or company followed by the word “scam,” “rip-off,” or “complaint.”

Ask the Right Questions

Focus on kitchen-specific experience. Ask them about their kitchen remodeling skills and ask to see examples of kitchens they’ve done in the past. 

You can find a list of important general questions over on the  Federal Trade Commission’s website. 

Besides the usual questions about their background and experience, ask your contractor about their change orders policy. You’ll want to get this in writing later. Kitchen remodeling involves fitting a lot of pieces together in a tight space; changes to the original plan are almost  inevitable. Make sure these changes won’t lead to costs and charges you weren’t aware of from the beginning. 

The contractors you talk to will have questions for you too. They’ll want to see blueprints. Communication is vital. The questions they ask about your project could give you new ideas or help you improve the design before you’ve committed to a final plan. 

Bidding 

Budgeting a kitchen remodel is a whole separate topic, but as a general rule, you should look for a bid around 10-15% under your budget. 

Another best practice is to throw out your lowest bid. Do you want a lowest-bidder kitchen? Cutting corners always ends up being expensive.

Once you draw up your contract, California law states that the contract price must be a “fixed sum stated in dollars and cents.” It helps to get as close to that final number as possible in the bidding stage and to get bids in writing.  

Remember, you should never have to pay for a bid or a quote. 

Read up on the Law

The more you know about the law and your rights as a consumer, the less likely it is that you’ll need to put that knowledge into practice. 

Luckily, we live in a state that regulates contractors carefully and protects all parties involved in remodeling projects. There’s even a California law regulating the font size of building contracts!  

Deposits and the Law

Did you know the maximum a contractor is allowed to charge you up front is 10% or $1,000 whichever is less? 

Unfortunately, there are contractors out there who hope you don’t know that. Requests for big money up front are not only a red flag; they’re illegal. 

Credentials and Permits

California law requires anyone working on a project valued over $500 to have a license. You can check the status of any contractor’s license here.  

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) holds contractors to high standards of quality and professionalism. NARI certification requires years of experience and an ethics test.

Permits are required for almost all building projects in San Diego. Find out more at the County’s website

Your Right to Audit

The cost of time and materials shouldn’t be a mystery. You have a right to go over these numbers at any stage in the project. This is especially important after plans change and materials have to be ordered or canceled. 

Draw up a Contract

The contract is the last step before work can begin on your remodel. This critical document is like a blueprint for your budget. It’s also designed to prevent disputes if the plan has to be changed as you go. 

Get Everything in Writing 

If you were changing the measurements of a countertop, you wouldn’t just eyeball it and take your best guess; you’d remeasure. The same goes for the terms of the project. Always return to the contract and follow the agreed-upon steps for change orders if something needs to be modified. 

Know When you’ll get your Kitchen Back

Kitchen remodeling can interrupt your life in a big way, especially if you’re redoing everything. Have the contract include a timetable. Try to minimize the amount of time you have to live without a sink or a fridge.  

Have a “Broom Clause”

You want everything cleaned up after the work is complete, don’t you? 

A “broom clause” spells out the contractor’s responsibility to clean up and take care of any spills, stains, or damage. Your contract should also include details about trash removal. 

During and After the Remodel

Transforming your kitchen is easy compared to the planning and research leading up to it. Once you get this far, there are just a couple more things to keep in mind so your remodel can finish as smoothly as it started. 

Communicate

Living in a construction area, even for a short time, takes some adjustment. While it’s important to specify working hours in the contract, good communication with your remodeling team will get you farther than waving a contract around when there’s a minor issue that can be resolved with a conversation.  

Inspect the Work

Once the remodel is done, take a close look at the work. The best time for any last-minute fine-tuning is when the contractor is still in the room. 

Make Sure Everyone Got Paid

If you had to guess, who’s at fault if a subcontractor who works on your kitchen doesn’t get paid? 

The answer is: You are. 

Even if you pay your contractor in full, California law says that any unpaid subcontractors are entitled to compensation in the form of a lien on your home. As if you needed another reason to deal only with reputable contractors… 

Hopefully, this isn’t something you ever have to worry about, but don’t leave it to chance. Double check that everyone got paid for the work they did on your home. 

Keep all Documents

Hang on to every piece of paper from the remodel. You’ll need them when tax season rolls around and when you eventually sell your home or convert it into a rental property. 

Share your Experience with Others

Word of mouth will probably contribute to your decision of which contractor to go with; it may even be the deciding factor. Pay it forward and let your family and friends know about who did your kitchen and how it went. 

Word of mouth recommendations keep good contractors in business. By passing the world along, you might build a relationship that leads to discounts on future projects. 

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Give us a call when you’re ready to remodel.