Many people will tell you that getting price bids from three remodelers is the way to go. However, design build remodeling may be a more effective approach when you consider the complexities and uncertainties that go into a bid.
Each project is unique, which is why getting bids from three remodelers can be concerning. There are hundreds of parts and dozens of product options in just a simple kitchen or bath remodel. Adding to that is the fact that existing conditions vary from house to house. This is what makes it nearly impossible to ensure all bids are based on the same assumptions.
If you already have a set of plans, they need to be extremely detailed, including written specifications for each faucet, floor surface and doorknob if you want bids to be legitimately compared side by side. Your plans also need realistic contingencies for hidden problems the remodeler might uncover after demoing a wall or floor.
Plans like that are rare, so to create an accurate bid, the remodeler would need to ask a ton of questions to draw out the details. This is where paths will diverge. Each remodeler will lead you in a different direction because their business procedures and preferred products differ. Also keep in mind that each remodeler will present their bid in a different format, making them hard to compare.
Even if your plans were drawn by an architect, that rarely changes anything. Skilled architects and designers can take your vision and turn it into an actual plan, but they often leave spec writing to the remodeler.
If getting three bids is important to you, you may want to hire a remodeler with experience in your type of project to detail the plans and specs, and then send them out to bid. Making this investment would ensure that every bidder works from the same documents, providing a more realistic comparison. Even then, bidding has another drawback. It reduces everything to cost. As a remodeler, we can design something you’d love to have in your home, but if it doesn’t fit in your budget it doesn’t matter.
Cost is important in finding a remodeler that fits your budget, but more important is finding a remodeler with the right experience and personality for you and your project. Otherwise the cost may become insignificant.
After working in the remodeling industry for over 42 years, my best advice is to find a design build remodeler you can trust and are very comfortable with. Start by asking around about remodelers to your family, friends, neighbors, co-workers, local building inspectors, building material suppliers, local NARI chapter, Chamber of Commerce, etc. Check out their websites and online ratings. Place phone calls to the handful of remodelers you want to talk with. Call and spend time with them on the phone asking questions about how they work; this will weed out a few more. Narrow your list down and ask them to meet you at your House. You want to get them on your turf, after all, this is where the project will happen, and it’s where you are the most comfortable.
A good design build remodeler should offer to give you several names and contact information of past Clients without you having to ask for them. Of course, the names given to you may be from projects that went smoothly. Good remodelers get many referrals from their Clients, so ask the references they gave you for other people they know who have worked with the remodeler. You should ask about things that didn’t go as planned or mistakes that were made and how the remodeler handled them.
The first appointment should be as much about getting to know one another as it is about the project. Focus on finding a remodeler who will be a good fit for you, not on price. Keep in mind, you are committing to a business relationship that could last weeks or months, depending on your project. There will be workers in or around your living space every day, so the remodeler you choose needs to be someone you like and trust and can communicate with easily. A good match is personal compatibility, but also how they do business. For example, some homeowners like to change things after they start to see their project taking shape, so make sure the company’s change order policy is one you are comfortable with.
Working as a team with a professional design build remodeler from the beginning, allows you to set a reasonable budget and a remodeler that fits your needs. Something that may not have happened if you had gotten conventional bids.