How to Choose The Best Contractor for your Portland Remodel

You plan to remodel your Portland home, but before you can begin, you have to find the best contractor for the job. Fortunately, there are plenty of remodel contractors in Portland to choose from. But with so many options, it can be a challenge to figure out which one is best for your project.

Our team at Lamont Bros. knows that not every contractor is a good fit for every homeowner. In fact, we’ve had several Portland homeowners come to us to complete a remodel after they had a negative experience with a contractor who was not the best fit for them. Our goal is to help you avoid making the same mistake.

In this article, we’ll discuss what qualities make a contractor a good fit for a home remodel project. Combined with your own values and expectations for your home, you’ll be able to use this information to better vet the remodel companies in Portland to decide which contractor will best serve your needs. You can expect to read about:

Signs of a Qualified Contractor

Finding the best contractor in Portland for your remodel doesn’t need to be difficult. The first step in deciding what contractor to hire is to figure out which ones you can trust. Unfortunately, not every remodeling company out there is trustworthy. Here’s how to identify the ones who are.

They use a fixed-price contract

A fixed-price contract is a type of construction contract in which the contractor agrees to complete a remodel project for a predetermined price.

Using a fixed-price contract benefits the homeowner by providing a clear and predictable budget for their project right from the start. Rather than relying on a contractor’s “rough estimate” only for costs to balloon out of control halfway through, a fixed-price contract allows you to lock in your remodel cost before construction even begins.

Fixed-price contracts are usually good indicators that a contractor has well-developed estimating systems and can accurately plan out the amount of time, labor, and materials required to complete a remodel.

A fixed-price contract sets the cost and design for the remodel before construction begins.

They are Licensed, Bonded, and Insured

We’ve all heard a contractor tout the phrase “Licensed, Bonded, Insured,” but what do these things actually mean?

A licensed contractor is one that has been certified by the state or local construction board. Having a contractor license ensures that your contractor has the necessary knowledge, training, and experience to perform the work they are contracted to do.

When a contractor is bonded, it means that they have purchased a surety bond. This is a type of insurance policy that guarantees to the homeowner that the contractor will fulfill their contractual obligations and perform the work described in the terms of the contract.

Lastly, an insured contractor is one that holds liability insurance coverage to protect themselves and their clients from potential financial losses or damages that could occur during the course of a remodel. By hiring an insured contractor, homeowners can have peace of mind knowing that they and their contractor are protected in the event of any accidents, injuries, or damages.

They have many positive online reviews

Reading a company’s online reviews can give you some direct insight into the experiences of real-life customers just like you. When reading online reviews, there are a few helpful things to look out for.

When a contractor has a high number of reviews, this is generally a sign that their overall rating is good reflection of actual client satisfaction. A contractor with over 100 reviews and an average rating of 4 stars is likely a more qualified candidate than one with 20 reviews and an average of 5 stars. Why? Because the high number of reviews indicates experience in the industry, and the 4-star rating shows consistency among their clients’ experiences.

Also pay attention to how a contractor responds to negative reviews. Most service businesses are going to have at least a few 1 star ratings from unhappy clients. However, when a contractor takes the time to respond to these reviews, consider how their reply reflects on their business. Do they own their mistakes and describe what changes they are making to avoid similar situations in the future? If so, this is a good sign that they are willing to learn from their mistakes and make them right for the client.

They have a warranty longer than the minimum

The Oregon state construction board requires a company to have a minimum warranty of 1 year. This means that a contractor is liable to fix any issue resulting from product failure or installer error within a year of completing the project.

When a contractor offers a warranty longer than the minimum required, this is usually a good indication that the contractor stands behind their work. A longer warranty period means that the contractor is confident in their workmanship and the quality of the materials they use. It implies that their product is built to last, so you can trust that the work will be done properly and to a high standard.

A longer warranty period also provides protection against problems that may arise after the work is completed. In the case that something does go wrong during the warranty period, you can have the contractor come back and fix it free of cost. However, most warranties do not typically cover abuse, acts of God, or normal wear and tear.

What Are Red Flags to Avoid When Choosing a Contractor?

In some cases, there may be clear signs that a contractor is not trustworthy. When searching the Portland market for a remodel contractor, there are some characteristics it’s best to avoid. Below are a few common red flags you should watch out for.

They Use a Cost-Plus Contract

A cost-plus contract is a type of contract in which the contractor is paid for their actual costs plus an additional percentage of the cost as profit.

Because the contractor’s profit is based on a percentage of the total cost of the project, a cost-plus contract can incentivize the contractor to increase costs in order to increase their profit.

Even if your contractor is honest about their pricing, a cost-plus contract is still a blank check with very few contingencies in place. As a result, there is little incentive for the contractor to be careful with your budget. Under cost-plus contracts, contractors are not incentivized to plan for the most efficient use of your money.

There are, however, some rare circumstances in which a cost-plus contract might make more sense. Typically, these are highly custom new construction projects in which money is no object. In these cases, a cost-plus contract gives the homeowner the ability to alter the scope and design of their remodel as it develops, albeit at an astronomically higher cost.

It’s also worth noting that cost-plus contracts are 3 times more likely to end in legal dispute than a fixed-price contract.

They are Unlicensed

It is important to work with a licensed contractor who is legally qualified to perform the work in order to ensure that the project is completed safely and to a high standard.

Contractors who operate without the proper licensing often prey on unsuspecting homeowners by offering seemingly great pricing on a project. However, working with an unlicensed contractor can have serious consequences for you and your home.

Unlicensed contractors typically do not have the same level of certification, accountability, or necessary skills to complete a project. This can affect every aspect of a remodel from the quality of finish details all the way up to major safety requirements.

When your contractor lacks the necessary qualifications required by governing authorities, it’s likely that your remodel will be similarly lacking. Unlicensed contractors are less likely to follow safety regulations or have the proper training to work on certain types of projects. They also are not legally able to pull permits for construction projects. This means that the final build may not meet construction code requirements, which can decrease the value of your home and be expensive to fix retroactively.

They Have a Murky CCB History

In Oregon, contractors are required to register with the state Construction Contractors Board (CCB). This is the government office responsible for overseeing and regulating construction work. Complaints filed with the CCB get attached to a company’s CCB number, a unique identifier used to manage and monitor the company.

Some dishonest contractors may attempt to skirt government oversight by frequently changing their CCB numbers. Having multiple CCB numbers can indicate that the contractor is trying to hide their past track record. By getting a new CCB number, a contractor can distance itself from complaints filed against their previous number.

Contractors who have had their licenses suspended or revoked may also try to apply for a new CCB number to continue working. Multiple CCB numbers can be a red flag that the contractor has a history of violations or disciplinary actions.

They Offer you an Extremely Low Bid

Something that seems too good to be true usually is. This is often the case for contractors who offer a very low bid for a remodel project. Although everyone likes to save money, selecting a contractor who substantially undercuts the estimates of other contractors may cost you more in the long run.

A low bid may mean that the contractor is cutting corners or using low-quality materials to save costs. This can lead to poor-quality workmanship and a finished project that does not meet your needs or expectations. Worse yet, a poorly built remodel may require expensive repairs or replacement within a few years.

It’s also possible that a low bid may not include all of the costs associated with the project. The contractor may drop these unexpected expenses on you later. These costs can quickly add up and make the project more expensive than originally anticipated.

What to Consider When Choosing a Contractor

Finding a highly qualified contractor for your remodel isn’t just about separating trustworthy businesses from untrustworthy ones. While many contractors do excellent work, it’s important to find one that is experienced and well-suited for the type of project you are planning.

The best way to find a good remodel contractor is to contact several Portland remodelers and narrow down the options from there. Eventually, you’ll find the one that aligns best with your vision and values. As you consider potential contractors for your kitchen remodel, it’s important to know which questions to ask in order to select the best fit.

You can use the cheat sheet below to help you score your candidates as you search.

The contractor understands your goals and can help you accomplish them.

YES! — The contractor understands the challenges you are experiencing in your home and how to solve them. You trust their personnel to work in your home.

MAYBE — The contractor seems to mostly understand the issues in your home’s design and has a pretty good idea of how to solve them.

NO — You don’t believe the contractor understands your needs. You do not trust the contractor or feel safe having them in your home.

The contractor is a good fit for your project.

YES! — The contractor has extensive experience on projects similar to the remodel you plan to do. They have some highly rated reviews reputable websites such as Houzz.com and Google.

MAYBE — The contractor has some experience in the type of project you are planning and their previous projects are somewhat similar to what you envision. They have some highly rated reviews reputable websites such as Houzz.com and Google.

NO — The contractor has no experience doing the type of remodel you are planning. They have few or no highly rated reviews on reputable websites such as Houzz.com and Google.

You are on board and excited about the contractor’s process

YES! — The contractor’s process makes sense to you. You feel like you are in control of the project and can make decisions for your home. You are excited to work with the contractor.

MAYBE — The process mostly makes sense, and you’re willing to work with it. You feel somewhat limited by the process, but still able to make the decisions that matter.

NO — You fundamentally disagree with the contractor’s approach and don’t like their process. You fear that the contractor will take control of your project and leave you out of decisions.

The contractor is a strong balance between quality, process, and cost.

YES! — The contractor’s past work showcases excellent quality. Their process is designed for a great client experience. You trust that your money will be well spent remodeling your home with them.

MAYBE — In terms of quality, process, and cost, the contractor is stronger in one of the three, but still does the other two relatively well.

NO — The contractor is clearly prioritizing either quality, process, or cost at the expense of the other two.

Ready to Talk with a Professional Remodeler?

Now that you understand more about how to choose the best Portland contractor for your remodel, take the next step and start exploring your options. If you think Lamont Bros. might be a good fit for your remodel, check out some of our past projects. Then when you’re ready, click the button below to schedule a free design consultation with a member of our team. We’ll help you understand the remodeling process and face its challenges with confidence.