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Q: When do I need a permit?

Always check with your local code enforcement agency, but in general, a building permit is required for any construction, installation, repair, or alteration exceeding $5,000. Also, any alteration, addition, or change in a load-bearing member or electrical/plumbing/mechanical system requires a permit.

Q: Who should I contact for my remodeling project?

There are several approaches to beginning the remodeling process, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. The 4 main types of remodeling professionals are the general contractor, the architect, the designer, and the design/build contractor. If your project does not require design services, the general contractor could be the right solution because of their knowledge and expertise to execute most remodeling projects. If you have a larger, more complex project that requires professional plans for permitting, an architect might be the right place to start. They have the formal education and licensing credentials needed for professionally engineered plans required for building permits, however, architects may not be willing to accept smaller projects. The designer may be best suited for a “specialty” project like a kitchen or bathroom and could develop a professional design you can then present to a licensed contractor to do the work. If you prefer a more “hands-off” approach, the design/build contractor can generally handle everything from start to finish, including design, budgeting/pricing, and construction. This benefits the homeowner by hiring one professional to perform all the tasks associated with a remodeling project.

Q: Which contractor should I choose, and why are their prices all different?

Choosing the right contractor comes down to experience, reputation, company structure, and personality. There are many different contractors to choose from, all with different attributes that could positively or negatively affect the outcome of a project. No matter who you choose, always check a contractor’s credentials through license and insurance certificates, references, and third party consumer affair agencies like the BBB. Also, ask about a contractor’s structure and process. Do they have their own employees or do they hire all subcontractors? This is a major factor directly impacting the quality, service, and price of a particular project. A remodeler with all subcontractors may bring the price down, but also increases the risk of compromising the overall quality and consistency of the work and reliability of those performing the work. Also, one of the more underrated factors in hiring a remodeling professional is personality. Is this someone who makes you feel comfortable, with whom you can effectively communicate and trust? Remodeling is very personal, so trust and communication are key. Finally, if you get three different quotes from three different contractors, make sure you’re comparing the same scope of work, with details of the project clearly stated in writing. Don’t be the homeowner who goes with the lowest bidder and then gets hit with an avalanche of additional expenses that should have been included from the beginning.