Ultimate Guide to Choosing a Remodeling Contractor

by | Jan 14, 2021 | Bathroom, Bedroom, How to, Kitchen, Remodeling | 0 comments

Have you been thinking about remodeling your home? Is your kitchen cramped and dark? Have you always wanted a private master bedroom suite?

Now that you work from home, you need a quiet office area, so finishing the basement into a cozy living space solves some problems?

For most homeowners, choosing a beautiful decorative tile, the perfect paint color, or kitchen cabinet door style is more fun than choosing between remodeling contractors. But because even a small project can feel overwhelming, it is essential to choose an honest, experienced, knowledgeable contractor who will guide you through the process.

While there are many good remodeling contractors in southeastern Wisconsin, you need to find the right one for your project. You may have heard horror stories about unexpected charges, disappearing crews, and disastrous results. Whether you’re looking for bathroom remodeling contractors,  kitchen remodeling contractors or a general home remodeling contractor; hiring the right remodeling firm will make the difference between your experience being a dream or a nightmare.

Therefore, our guide to choosing remodeling contractors will assist you in selecting the right one and help you prepare for your project.

Remodeling Contractors: Choosing the Right One for Your Project

Choosing a Remodeler







Your Remodeling Goals: What is the scope of your project? Before you call any remodeling contractors, decide how extensive your project will be. Discuss the priorities with your family and make a list of everything you want to change. Would you like a finished basement? Need more storage space? An updated kitchen? A more open floor plan? Is it better to have everything done now or complete the project in phases? Determining these issues will help you come up with solutions. However, it is also essential to remain open to suggestions from the contractor.

What are your goals? Do you want to make a good profit when you sell the house? Have you retired and need to make changes to age in place? Is your home the oldest/smallest/ least expensive in the neighborhood, and you want to “catch up?” Just as important as the “what” is “why” you want to remodel.

Your remodeling project will determine whom you should hire. Many contractors specialize in specific types of remodeling projects. For example, a contractor who builds beautiful outdoor spaces and decks may not be ideal for remodeling your basement or lower level.

Planning Your Remodeling Budget

Determine Your Budget: Knowing how much you can spend will also decide your project’s scope and whom you will hire as a result. To help determine your maximum expenditure, split your budget into three areas: the central budget, contingency, and the decorating budget.

1.The central budget covers the bulk of the project: supplies, labor, fees, etc.

2. During a remodeling project, there may be unexpected costs. Things like leaky plumbing, faulty wiring, or wood rot may appear. Therefore, it’s crucial to have a contingency amount of 10% or more of the overall budget to cover surprises. That means, if your total is $40,000, you should have an additional $4,000 to $6,000 available, just in case.

3. After the project is complete, you may want to purchase some new furniture, artwork, window coverings, and more. Set aside a portion of the budget for decorating. The amount of this budget will vary but researching prices will give you a clearer idea.

Be sure to tell the contractor what your budget is. If the remodel project is more costly than expected, be prepared to either pare down your ideas to a more manageable size or divide it into multiple projects over several years.

Get Referrals, Read Reviews, Verify Credentials


When choosing remodeling contractors, taking the following steps will mean the difference between enjoying the remodeling process or having many sleepless nights.

  • Ask for Suggestions

Do you have friends, neighbors, or co-workers who have recently had some remodeling done? Make some inquiries. Do they give the contractor positive reviews? Were they happy with the process and the results? Was there good communication? Did they stay on budget?

Increase your comfort level by getting recommendations from those you know and trust. But remember, just because a business did a great job remodeling your neighbor’s kitchen doesn’t mean the same company can build an addition on your house.

Consider also asking a few local real estate agents. Being involved in the housing industry, they may have suggestions, too.

  • Research Remodeling Contractors Online

Once you have a list of contractors, please do some research online before calling them. This step is necessary to ensure a better outcome. Check each contractor’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) rating and if they have had any complaints. Scan reviews on Angie’s List, Yelp, Google, Houzz, and others. Is the remodeling contractor a member of NARI?

Look at the contractors’ websites and determine their mailing address, email, and phone number. How long have they been in business? Review ‘before and after’ photos. Make sure the contractor you are considering has the expertise in what you want to have remodeled.

  • Look at Credentials

General contractors should be licensed, so determine whether these companies hold the required state and local licenses. Do not forget to check court records for potential problems or litigation, too.NARI Certified

Does the remodeling firm belong to any professional associations such as NARI (the National Association of the Remodeling Industry), the MBA (Metropolitan Builders Association), the Chamber of Commerce, or others? Does this contractor have a good reputation? Have they won any awards?

All this research should whittle down the list to just a few. Remember, this remodeling crew will be in your home. You want to know who they are!

  • Interview Your Prospects

Once you have your final list, call the remodeling contractors. Due to COVID restrictions, they may meet with you either face to face or via Zoom, but do not rely on just email. You want to know how well they communicate with their clients because you will be working with them for several months.

At your initial meeting, do the contractors answer your questions – and ask some of their own? If they cannot or do not respond to your satisfaction or say something that makes you unsure, this is not the right contractor for you. Trust your gut and move on to the next name.

  • Check References

Ask to see a current project under construction or recently finished. Tour the space, check the detail work, and note the quality of framing and finishing. If possible, speak to the homeowners. Ask how they liked working with the contractor. Did they follow the timeline and stay on budget? Were they happy with the outcome? Would the homeowner hire them again?

Getting Remodeling Bids

Ask up to three remodeling contractors for remodeling bids and compare them. To be sure they are all equal, give each business the same list of wants, needs, and specific products you desire. If each contractor has a different idea of what you want, you will not get comparable bids. Therefore, if you are extremely specific with each contractor, you will get more accurate estimates.

Remodeling Bid photoTo help, some remodeling contractors create CAD (computer-aided design) renderings to share with their potential customers for visualization purposes during the proposal process. Others will create them once a contract has been signed. These drawings will show you the final product before you begin to demo. Reviewing the renderings will prevent last-minute changes, add-ons, and surprises. The CAD renderings will also suggest what is possible for space as well as offer alternatives.

As you review each contractor’s bid, do not automatically choose the one that is the least expensive. Make sure this contractor has not left anything out, helping the bid to be lower. Check what products they plan on using. Did they find a cheap substitute? At the same time, many contractors develop relationships with suppliers and negotiate lower prices. Then they pass the savings on to their customers. That may be the difference between costs, too.

Before You Sign Anything

Never do business with a handshake; get everything in writing. Do not sign a contract until both parties are satisfied and you agree on all the details. Look at the bid closely and feel free to bring it to an attorney. The agreement should include:

  • A bid price with a breakdown of costs
  • Payment schedule
  • A timeline of construction start and end dates
  • Change-order clause
  • Express limited warranty
  • Dispute resolution clause
  • Notice of Consumer’s Right to Receive Lien Waiver statement, which protects consumers from having liens filed against their property.

If you want more specifics in your contract, write them down and have it signed by both parties. You may wish to include details such as: which family and crew members will be there, how often the manager will stop by, what hours and days the workers can enter your home, whom to contact in case of problems or emergency, and even which bathroom the crew should use.

Once everything has been discussed and agreed upon, you can sign the contract while feeling confident.

Communication is Key When Choosing a Remodeling Firm

Nicole Raffensperger, Cristy Harmon, & Masha Wagner Nicole Raffensperger, Cristy Harmon, & Masha Wagner (Owner of Design Tech Remodeling)

Hire the contractor you feel most comfortable with and who communicates well, even if it means spending a little more money. You know the old saying, “You get what you pay for,” and quality, craftsmanship, and excellent customer service is priceless.

What if you notice something is amiss, or you would like to make a change? Do not be afraid to express your opinion – it is your house after all. Speak up because it is easier to fix a problem sooner rather than later! You will probably talk to the contractor or someone on staff every day, so don’t lose the opportunity to discuss an issue.

Cost of Remodeling Projects

Finances are a topic that concerns homeowners. So, on average, how much does remodeling cost?

Remodeling Project CostRemodeling projects can uncover problems such as leaking plumbing or outdated electrical wiring and structural issues. Contractors must also follow current building codes and regulations; therefore, your remodeling may be more expensive than you first realize.

Whether you want to update your entire house, renovate a few rooms, or make some minor updates, there are various remodeling levels and a broad range of prices. Here are four levels of projects for you to consider: (Please note: total costs may vary from the ones below)


  1. Complete Home Remodeling – Cost Estimate: $150,000+

This remodeling may include most of the entire house:

  • removing walls
  • taking rooms down to the studs
  • changing the layout
  • moving plumbing
  • upgrading insulation, the electrical, and the HVAC system
  • building an addition, and more

New cabinetry, flooring for the entire house, countertops, lighting, and energy-efficient appliances are also on the checklist. By the time, this project is complete, you have a new home!

With this large of a project, you must hire professional remodeling contractors. After discussing your must-haves and budget with a trusted remodeling company, a licensed architect or engineer creates blueprints. Highly skilled plumbers, electricians, and carpenters are on-site to do the work.

Contractors at this price range offer services that many others don’t: interior designers to help choose cabinetry and finishes, project managers to keep you up to date, 3-D designs, and much more.

  1. Major Upgrade Cost Estimate $75,000 to $150,000

For this remodeling, the focus is to upgrade surfaces and materials, open the floor plan, and give portions of the house a fresh look.

A significant upgrade is less extensive than completely gutting a house and generally works within the current square footage. This project can include taking down interior walls, widening doorways, adding windows, and changing the layout in one or possibly two areas of the home (i.e., kitchen, master bathroom, lower level).

A major upgrade also includes new cabinetry, backsplash, flooring, lighting, countertops, and energy-efficient appliances. Professional contractors are still necessary because of the project’s scope and offer the same services as the complete home renovators.

  1. Medium UpgradeCost Estimate $15,000 to $75,000

Depending on the choice of finishes and the extent of the remodeling, this is a wide range of costs to upgrade and make changes in one location (kitchen, master bathroom, lower level) without involving the entire home. A medium kitchen upgrade, for example, may include some of the following:

  • adding an island
  • painting, refinishing or changing out cabinets
  • new countertops and backsplash
  • upgraded appliances
  • a new sink and faucet
  • new flooring
  1. Minor Upgrade Cost Estimate $2,500 to $15,000

This level of changing your home can be anything from painting the walls and changing the kitchen cabinet door handles to installing a new sink and faucet, upgrading appliances, changing flooring, etc. Some of this may be tasked by the homeowner, but with any electrical or plumbing changes, it is best to hire a professional and ask for help with anything else you don’t feel confident handling.

About Design Tech Remodeling

Since 1997, Design Tech Remodeling has been providing award-winning remodeling services to the greater Milwaukee area. Using their years of experience and in-depth knowledge of the residential design/build industry, Design Tech Remodeling can custom design your home to your exact specifications and vision. They deliver quality results on budget and on time with outstanding customer satisfaction and service.

The staff of Design Tech Remodeling works in partnership with you every step of the process. Skilled designers will personally guide you from developing a floor plan to choosing products and finishes, to the final walk-through.

By designing the right floor plan, choosing the best materials, and most importantly, hiring Design Tech Remodeling as your contractor, your remodeling will make your home more enjoyable as well as increasing its value. Contact Design Tech Remodeling today!

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