How We Found Our Contractor

A commenter in one of my previous kitchen remodel posts asked how I found a contractor.

It all started several years ago. We bought our house in 1999 and almost immediately we started dreaming about the stuff we wanted to do to it. Our house is nearly 50 years old and nearly every room needed some type of work. I knew that a lot of the projects were going to be way out of my league so I started thinking about a contractor (keep in mind that this was seven years ago). Anyway, I started seeing signs in different yards and all of them were for the same contractor (his name is Fred). I made a mental note of it but never made any calls.

Fast forward to 2007…

After we paid off our credit cards in 2006, we started saving money for a remodel. Then earlier this year we went to Home Depot to start to get an idea of how much our kitchen remodel was going to cost. After visiting with the Home Depot guy we got cold feet and decided to put it off for a while.

Then a couple of months later, both my dad and my father-in-law suggested we refinance our house and use the equity to finance our kitchen project. In Texas, you can’t refinance for more than 80% of the value of the home, so that you at least have a 20% equity position based on market value (yes, there’s some risk to this but that’s not the point of this post). Anyway, we decided to do this and met with our bank. Our appraisal came back pretty conservative (meaning it came in for less than I thought the house was really worth), which made me feel comfortable with the refinance. We refinanced and received our funds back in early August, which I immediately rolled over to our GMAC Bank account.

Once we had the money in hand, we decided to pursue a contractor. I called a friend of mine who works with various contractors and asked him for some names. He recommended a few that I wasn’t familiar with so I asked him about Fred. He told me that Fred was really good, but that he wasn’t cheap. He also told me that Fred had crews to do different tasks, which makes his projects go a lot faster.

My wife called Fred and scheduled a meeting with him and two other contractors. Fred really impressed us. He was older, had been doing remodels for decades, and had a good reputation. And, he would do everything. A big plus in my book.

The next guy was also qualified but left us with the impression that we would have a lot more responsibility. For instance, we would be required to hire a cabinet maker, plumber and electrician. Basically, we would be the contractor for the deal. I wasn’t comfortable with this at all. His bid came in a LOT lower than Fred’s but it didn’t include everything, so it was really hard to compare.

The third contractor never called us back and we found out through my in-laws that he was really slow. So, he was out. We didn’t want our kitchen out of commission for six months!

We called Fred back out to our house to answer some more questions and decided during that meeting that he was the man for the job.

Everyone I talked to before hiring Fred had nothing but good things to say about him. That, and the fact that I saw his signs in lots of different yards over the years, made the decision easy for me. I also liked the fact that Fred didn’t require a draw (access to our funds in order to complete the project). My big fear was a contractor running off with our money and never completing the work, which seems to be rampant in the contracting business. One lady I know hired a contractor who gutted her house and then took off! She’s out some money, has a gutted house, and now has to find another contractor to come in and finish the job.

Our job’s still not done but I can tell you that so far I have been extremely impressed by Fred and his crew. They come to work. They don’t lounge around – they work! I don’t think I have ever seen one of them standing around unless they were on a lunch break.

So, that’s my experience.

3 thoughts on “How We Found Our Contractor”

  1. JLP,
    We found out that there can be huge discrepancies between contractors.
    My wife and I bought an investment property and the two contractors that did show up were huge difference in both time and money.
    Contractor A: $22,000 and 3 people working 4 weeks
    Contractor B: $6,500 and 2 people working 2 weeks

    We went with Contractor B, because we felt much more comfortable with him (and we’ll probably give him an added bonus if the job finishes on/before schedule).

  2. JLP,

    Are you saying that Fred did not require a deposit from you to start this job?

    @Me, Myself, and I: I’d really love to hear how everything turns out with your project, once it’s finished. Would you mind? I can be contacted at website link on my name.


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