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Finding good contractors for kitchen/bath renovations?
Old 05-01-2013, 08:50 AM   #1
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Finding good contractors for kitchen/bath renovations?

We moved to Houston and don't yet have a good network to find contractors via word of mouth but need some serious remodeling done on the house we bought. Of course Home Depot will organize this but I doubt they are the best value. Any suggestions on how to find good contractors in a new city? I've heard mixed things about Angie's List, is it worth it?

Thanks.
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Old 05-01-2013, 09:57 AM   #2
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It would be much harder since you are new to the area, but I would FIRST solicit as many referrals as possible from realtors, neighbors (might be an ice breaker to meet), co-workers, others? I'm not an extrovert, but I'd have no problem knocking on neighbors doors and asking politely, the worst thing that can happen is they can't help. It would be a great excuse to meet and introduce yourself, if that goes no where, you've lost nothing. But I suspect some would have a lot to share good and bad.

You might want to look into the independent building supply stores in your area, paying attention to how long they've been in business. If they've been there a long time and withstood having Home Depot, Lowes and the other big box stores invading, there must be a good reason. They probably know and use the better contractors in the area, and hold them accountable.

We've had all our bathrooms done, all using contractors/subs based on referrals. We're in the middle of a full kitchen remodel and we went with a long standing independent building supply store acting as GC. They cost about $1500 more (roughly 5%) than Home Depot, but we hope/believe it will be worth it, and we're very pleased so far about halfway through. I did a lot of research on Home Depot and the consensus seemed to be it depends entirely on each store/location - some provide good value/decent workmanship, others can be very subpar. I didn't want to find out how our local HD does by giving them an expensive kitchen remodel.

Best of luck, wish I could be more helpful...
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Old 05-01-2013, 09:58 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by soupcxan View Post
We moved to Houston and don't yet have a good network to find contractors via word of mouth but need some serious remodeling done on the house we bought. Of course Home Depot will organize this but I doubt they are the best value. Any suggestions on how to find good contractors in a new city? I've heard mixed things about Angie's List, is it worth it?

Thanks.
Try stopping in to a plumbing supply house, or kitchen and bath retail supply. They often have business cards or company names of people in the business.

THEN, and this is the part that counts, ask them for some nearby completed work and talk to the customers involved. This is time consuming and iffy, but pays off if you get lucky and get access to people.

None of this as you say, trumps a bona fied referral from someone you trust.

Goes without saying, but: read carefully and understand the agreement you will be asked to sign [contract] it contains the rules of the game you are about to play. If it looks onesided and unfair, go elsewhere.
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Old 05-01-2013, 10:00 AM   #4
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Angie's List.........
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Old 05-01-2013, 10:11 AM   #5
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I think these are good suggestions, especially about meeting and asking your new neighbors, as you can see the work at the same time. I value our personal relationship with our handyman, and LOVE giving referrals for him.
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Old 05-01-2013, 10:12 AM   #6
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Welcome to Houston!!!


I hope that I can put this info down.... if not, then mods can delete and I will send in a PM...


When I was selling my old house, I needed to put in a new master bath. The old one was ripped out.... long story I will not get into... I asked around and got a few names... one of them was:

Larr-Wood Construction, Inc.
Office Phone; 281-355-9933
Cell Phone; 713-851-5224
e-mail; larry@larrwood.com
website; www.larrwood.com


Now, I really do not know how good of work this guy does. I was trying to be cheap on my old house and tried to have him cut a few corners. Not where it was dangerous or anything, just buying cheap glass for the shower stall etc. etc. IOW, do the lowest cost you can, but do it right.

I was impressed that he refused to do the work. He said if he did not do it right, he would not do it. I really respected to hear that from a contractor. I have kept his name so whenever I do need something done right I will contact him.

If you use him, tell him his honesty got him the job!!! And he will probably do our bathroom in a few years whenever we get around to doing it.

Good luck!!


Edit to add... he was not the cheapest, but was not out of line with other bids I got...
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Old 05-01-2013, 10:20 AM   #7
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I've used HomeAdvisor.com | Get Matched to Top-Rated Remodelers, Plumbers and More to find contractors, and have usually been able to find at least a couple people that would do the job at a fair price.

edit: And I've been happy with the results
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Old 05-01-2013, 11:46 AM   #8
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I put in a good review for the contractor/handyman that I used to redo my bathroom on Angie's list. Then Angies list called him up and told him that he needed to be on the 'front' page of the list with such a glowing report and hit him up for $1,000 in placement fees(per my contractor) I'm no longer a fan of Angie's list.
Can't help you in Houston-too far for him to travel)
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Old 05-01-2013, 12:04 PM   #9
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Angie's List.........
save your money. ask your realtor. I dislike Angie's List. Especially since contractors have to pay. ask your neighbors.
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Old 05-01-2013, 02:25 PM   #10
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We have done 3 major remodels in the past 5 years (two places, so you do the math.) First, I recommend that you be "lucky". But, second, I recommend you find someone and give them a small job to do. Our last remodel, we had a feeling that the guy was good. We know him from church, but were just not certain. So we had him widen and replace one door. We figured we could have someone else "fix" his mistakes if need be. he did a GREAT job, so we had him tile the BR and put in a new vanity. GREAT job, so we had him tile the entire apartment. He was here 2 months on what started as a 2 day job.

Probably the best place to start is to find someone completely independent. He has no workers (or, if so, maybe one helper). If at all possible, work with the person, doing minor jobs (we did tear out, clean up, some painting, tile sealing, etc.) Just BE there. You'd be surprised that many "bad" jobs are just jobs not done the way you want them. If you are there or keep close tabs, you can nip any problems in the bud.

We got a recommendation from a realtor and she allowed us to go visit the guy at one of his projects. He showed us what he was doing and allowed us to come any time we wanted (a complete rehab job). We hired him and were pretty much satisfied - he was a little expensive and just a bit difficult to "work" with. Still, we were happy with the results.

Our first guy, we also had help with a small project and just kept adding. You might wonder how you get folks who will do small projects. If you are in an economy like we have here, there are usually folks (independent) between jobs who would LOVE to have work. You have to keep your ears open and ask around. All our people came from word of mouth or from just hearing about someone (e.g., someone they know is out of work.)

Good luck. This is a stressful time for you. Try to take it slow and "try someone out" before you go all the way with them.

YMMV
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Old 05-01-2013, 04:01 PM   #11
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Here 'ya go...

Houston Best Pick Reports by EBSCO Research
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Old 05-01-2013, 05:20 PM   #12
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Do your due diligence on whomever you hire.

We live in CA - here in California I advise the following public records checks:

- Contractors state license board. Look closely at the bonding history... if the bonding company changed mid-term then it might indicate the bonding company had to pay a bond out, and cancelled them. (I know this can happen, after we collected on a bond.) Look for complaints against his/her license.

- Court records - here in San Diego they cases are online. Look for civil cases involving your contractor under both their corporate identity and their personal name. (wish I'd done this prior to hiring our guy - he was being sued when we hired him.)

- Look at the recorders office in the county where he works. Look for liens - either judgement liens against him - or mechanics liens filed by him. Both can be red flags.

If any of this turns up anything - have a conversation. It doesn't mean don't hire them - but hear their explanation - and listen closely to see if they're telling the truth.

I don't know the licensing/court records/county recorders databases in your area - but it's amazing what's available for free online. Use it for your own personal background on any potential contractor.

(Yes - we were burned, and it delayed our ER by a few years.... it was that bad.)
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Old 05-01-2013, 06:36 PM   #13
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This topic hits home for me at the moment. I hired a contractor/handyman to update my mom's old kitchen. A golf buddy of mine recommended him so I gave him a shot. Hired him to replace the countertops, sink, flooring and paint the kitchen. Plus install a new vanity with sink for the bath. I went with him to buy the paint and vanity from Lowe's on April 17th and he started painting a couple of days later. Worked a couple of days and then took off to finish up another job he was doing. I knew he had this going on so I was OK with it. But one day turned into two and on and on. Now he tells me he is moving and that has him hung up.

So I have a kitchen with all the cabinet doors off with no hardware installed. Paint is done with some touch up work to do. But this is the kind of crap that seems to always find me. I haven't paid him anything so he should want to come back soon to get finished and paid. But if I don't see him by Friday, I going to just pay him for what he has done and move on.

I hate having to hire people because it always seems to be a bumpy ride.
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Old 05-01-2013, 06:43 PM   #14
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This topic hits home for me at the moment. I hired a contractor/handyman to update my mom's old kitchen. A golf buddy of mine recommended him so I gave him a shot. Hired him to replace the countertops, sink, flooring and paint the kitchen. Plus install a new vanity with sink for the bath. I went with him to buy the paint and vanity from Lowe's on April 17th and he started painting a couple of days later. Worked a couple of days and then took off to finish up another job he was doing. I knew he had this going on so I was OK with it. But one day turned into two and on and on. Now he tells me he is moving and that has him hung up.

So I have a kitchen with all the cabinet doors off with no hardware installed. Paint is done with some touch up work to do. But this is the kind of crap that seems to always find me. I haven't paid him anything so he should want to come back soon to get finished and paid. But if I don't see him by Friday, I going to just pay him for what he has done and move on.

I hate having to hire people because it always seems to be a bumpy ride.

According to some folks, he may qualify as retired....
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Old 05-01-2013, 08:25 PM   #15
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I always go to a small local hardware store, buy a couple of things, tell them I'd be a great customer if I had a good handyman and they always give me great people to call. I've never been disappointed and it's a lot cheaper than having Home Depot do it. Good Luck
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Old 05-01-2013, 08:41 PM   #16
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I'm not sure I would be in a hurry to pay him for what he has done. He didn't complete the job and it will likely cost you more to have someone finish it so I would take that extra cost out of what you think you owe him. IOW, your total cost shouldn't be higher because he failed to perform.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dawg52 View Post
This topic hits home for me at the moment. I hired a contractor/handyman to update my mom's old kitchen. A golf buddy of mine recommended him so I gave him a shot. Hired him to replace the countertops, sink, flooring and paint the kitchen. Plus install a new vanity with sink for the bath. I went with him to buy the paint and vanity from Lowe's on April 17th and he started painting a couple of days later. Worked a couple of days and then took off to finish up another job he was doing. I knew he had this going on so I was OK with it. But one day turned into two and on and on. Now he tells me he is moving and that has him hung up.

So I have a kitchen with all the cabinet doors off with no hardware installed. Paint is done with some touch up work to do. But this is the kind of crap that seems to always find me. I haven't paid him anything so he should want to come back soon to get finished and paid. But if I don't see him by Friday, I going to just pay him for what he has done and move on.

I hate having to hire people because it always seems to be a bumpy ride.
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Old 05-01-2013, 09:52 PM   #17
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We have had wonderful success using Angie's list. It was well worth the $10 fee for the year. We have used it for car repair, putting up a new fence, plumbing, house painting and even doctors. We always check it before calling for a quote. I also write reviews to help others.
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Old 05-01-2013, 10:43 PM   #18
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We recently bought a home in Florida. DW joined Angie's List and we've used a number of companies we got from it. By staying with A grade companies we've had nothing but excellent work and good prices (gotten multiple quotes for each job). I was never that big a fan of Angie's List before, but I'm converted now.
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Old 05-02-2013, 05:37 AM   #19
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We found Angies list to be very helpful.
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Old 05-02-2013, 07:51 AM   #20
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I'm in the camp of ask your realtor, plumbing/kitchen supply store, and/or neighbors. Check them out at BBB, get references and check the references, make sure they provide you with a certificate of insurance and that you get a release of liens document before you pay them. I would also recommend not paying much upfront, keep significant holdback % until satisfactory completion and put a delay damage clause in the contract to keep them to a committed completion date. You may pay a little more if you use a larger well established firm vs some of the small contractors or handyman types, but likely will have fewer problems with non-performance.
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