Remodeling your basement is one of the best ways to enhance your home and turn this otherwise cold, dreary and unappealing room into a warm gathering place for your family and friends.
By maximizing the square footage of your home, basement remodels usually result in an enormous return on investment for home owners. However, a basement finishing project needs to be planned carefully and should involve a highly qualified contractor. Converting a basement into a room the family will use regularly requires special knowledge. Items such as ductwork, pipes, ceiling heights, sub-flooring, moisture control, wiring, ventilation and insulation are essential aspects of finishing a basement that the average home owner has little knowledge about.
Only a professional basement finishing contractor will be able to take care of all the details that are necessary and truly bring your vision to life. A number of factors need to be taken into consideration when searching for your ideal basement remodeling contractor. Below are 8 tips toward finding a good, honest contractor.
1. Consider what you want- Once you’ve decided to remodel your basement space there are many factors to consider. You’ll need to decide what your family wants to achieve within the new basement.
- Are you looking for a play area, a family room, wet bar, or a home theatre?
- Do you have the square footage that you need to accomplish what you want?
- How much will it cost and is it worth the money?
- Where are you going to store the items that you currently have in your basement during the remodel?
- It’s also a good idea to do your homework regarding whether a basement remodel is going to be a worthwhile investment.
- Are there comparable homes in your area with finished basements?
- How long do you intend to live there?
- Will the homes there increase in value, and if so, how fast?
With a little bit of research you will be able to answer these questions, and decide if finishing your basement is right for you.
2. Basements are a whole new story- Basements often have restrictions that need to be considered that other home remodeling jobs/contractors don’t have to deal with. Limitations may include steel columns or I-beams, HVAC trunks, underground plumbing, water meters, sump pumps, window wells, furnaces, water heaters, ceiling heights and existing floor conditions.
Your contractor should be prepared to answer your questions regarding these common basement remodel issues and have experience in making these restrictions disappear into the completed architectural design of your basement while still accomplishing your goal for the space.
3. Find a Contractor- Once you have armed yourself with a good plan and a set budget it’s time to find a contractor. Websites like goodhonestcontractor.com are devoted to matching people like you with their ideal contractor. You may also ask friends and other homeowners if they have any suggestions.
A contractor's reputation among former clients is the best gauge of his or her work. It's also a good idea to look at the work a contractor has done for previous clients. If they have a website where you can look at projects they have completed, even better.
4. Set Appointments- Set up appointments with at least three contractors in order to find the best contractor for you. Here are a few ideas of questions to ask a prospective contractor: Ask the same questions of each contractor so the comparisons are fair, and when you’ve narrowed it down to one or two, check their references thoroughly.
- How long has the company been in business?
- May I visit a site you're currently working on?
- How early will work start in the mornings, and what time will workers leave each day?
- Who will be the contact person if I hire this company?
- What kind of payment schedule will you expect?
5. Conduct a thorough prospect check- Once you have narrowed down the list of potential candidates, it’s important to do your homework. Your contractor is going to be in your home and involved in a large financial investment so make sure to check them out thoroughly.
Gather References- A professional will easily give you a list of references and volunteer this information from the beginning of the process. If certification is a requirement in your area, make sure to see their credentials. If they are unwillingly to supply any of this information it may be a red flag.
Call References- Call references directly and ask them the following questions:
- Would you use this contractor again?
- Were you satisfied with the workmanship?
- Was it easy communicating with the contractor?
- Were there any complications? If so, did the contractor respond promptly, was he courteous and did he charge you for any additional work?
- Did the job come in on budget? If not, by how much did he exceed budget? Were the extra charges justified?
- Was a designated foreman available to address your concerns? You want a point person for questions and concerns you have throughout the job.
6. Licensing and certification- The first thing to keep in mind with a potential basement contractor is if they have the appropriate certification. They should have licensing and certifications that they can show you as well as verify through the regulation boards. When they give you their resume and list of qualifications, it’s up to you to check each of these sources to see if they’re legitimate.
You’ll also want to check with the BBB. Search the Better Business Bureau website at "http://www.bbb.org" to locate your local bureau. Enter the company’s name on the website to see if they are BBB accredited and if they have any complaints against them.
Your basement contractor should also have the insurance to cover any problems that might come up. In the unlikely situation that something should occur on the jobsite, they need to be covered for the damages and losses. Ask if they are insured and if they have ever had to make any claims during a job assignment. Double check on their insurance policy before you agree to their services in order to know what is covered and what is not.
7. Get an estimate- Estimates should be free. Estimates should be given to you in writing and include these essentials:
- The work to be done in detail
- The specific materials to be used
- A time frame for the work to be completed
- A firm price
8. Double Check- So you’ve chosen your good honest basement remodeling contractor but before you sign the final paperwork do a thorough inspection of the contract. If you have any questions, ask your contractor. You’re spending a lot of your hard-earned money, so you deserve to get exactly what you agreed to. Don’t let minor problems go unresolved in an effort to reclaim your home faster and see your new basement quicker.