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.

Kitchen Remodel Update – New Cabinets!

Here’s the latest pictures from our kitchen remodel. They started installing the kitchen cabinets on Thursday. You can click on the pictures to see more detail. The pictures don’t do them justice because they look incredible.

That’s my son’s hand sticking out from behind the plastic and my daughter’s yogurt sitting on the floor. The big hole in the ceiling is where they inserted a huge beam to support the ceiling since they took out a load-bearing wall.

Here’s a before picture of the family room, which is connected to the kitchen:

Although we loved the fireplace, it was too big and took up too much room. It also made it hard to arrange the furniture. So, we decided that since we were in the midst of a remodel that there would never be a better time to take it out. So,… we did!

Taking out the fireplace gave us an additional 6 feet of wall space to work with. On that wall, we will put built-in bookcases with shelving for a nice-sized flat-screen TV. The fireplace will be moved to a spot in between the family room and the kitchen, which will help tie the two rooms together and make for a really nice atmosphere. I’ll post more pictures later.

This is going to end up costing us a lot of money but I think it will be worth it.

Kitchen Remodel Update

Before (minus the cabinet doors and drawers):

How it looks right now:

Isn’t it lovely?

Today they busted up the concrete so that we can run the plumbing to the other side. Most of the wall that you see on the right hand side will be removed, allowing the kitchen to overlook the family room. It will be MUCH more open and it will be nice to able to be in the kitchen and still be in the family room at the same time. The kitchen sink will look directly at the wall that will house my TV so that I can watch football while doing the dishes. YIPPY!

Oh, and that window on the left wall looks into the garage! We’re pulling it out since that’s where the range with an overhead microwave will go. It seems silly to have a window look out into the garage. My theory is that our floorplan offered a carport and people could upgrade to a garage. A window looking out to a carport makes more sense.

I’ll post some more pictures as the project proceeds.