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How to Find a Good Contractor in Portland

One of the most important decisions in a remodel is choosing a contractor. Finding the right fit for your project can make all the difference on whether it will be successful and end up the way you want it. Here are 4 key steps on how to find a good contractor in Portland.

A quick Google search for “Portland contractors” brings up hundreds of results. With so many options, how to do you know which one may be right for your remodeling project and which ones to avoid? Here are 4 critical steps to helping you find a great Portland contractor, and avoid the pitfalls.

1. Do your research

Online reviews

First, you want to take the research phase of your project seriously. Don’t simply go by who shows up first in your search results. Check out their reviews. What are past clients saying about them on Google, Houzz, or Yelp for example? A good rule of thumb here is to look for contractors with more than just a handful of reviews. Not all of them have to be 5 stars, but the vast majority of them should be at least 4 and above. And don’t forget to read the comments to see what areas they really excel at, or maybe aren’t so strong in.

Oregon CCB website

Another great resource for finding information on Portland-area contractors is the Oregon Construction Contractors Board website. There you can look up their CCB license number and see if there are any complaints that have been issued against them. The site will also list incidents where the CCB pulled their license due to lack of insurance, as well as any other business names the contractor may have operated under. If you see several business names listed, that should be a concern you’ll want to ask the contractor about, as it could indicate a pattern of simply changing business names in order to cover up past issues.

2. Ask the right questions

Once you’ve compiled a list of potential contractors, the next step is to interview them. In order to do that as effectively as possible, you want to make sure you’re asking the right questions.

You want to focus on questions that are specific, related to your project, and difficult for the contractors to BS their way through. Part of the goal here is to weed out those who may be really good at just talking and find the ones who are really good contractors.

Some good questions to ask include:

  • How does your budgeting process work?
  • How do you make sure the original budget ends up being the final cost of the project?
  • Who is on-site daily managing my project and what’s the communication process like?
  • How are project changes handled?
  • What warranty do you provide and when does it expire?

how to find a good contractor in Portland: Contractor Interview Guide

In terms of your specific project, ask them if they’ve done similar remodels in the past. Having experience with the type of remodel you want to do will help ensure they can effectively work on your home. If you’re doing a second-story addition, you don’t want to hire someone who may be great at kitchen remodels, but doesn’t normally do second-story additions.

Also ask to see to see pictures of those projects if they don’t have them on their website. And ask to speak with previous clients so you can hear firsthand what their experience with the contractor was.

3. Inspect what you expect

The next step in how to find a good contractor in Portland is to really “inspect what you expect.” What we mean by this is, once you’ve maybe decided on your top 3 potential contractors, you want to ask some very specific questions about their processes.

Look at their budgeting process

One key area to focus on is the budgeting. What does their process look like? How do they put together their budgets and how transparent are they? Do they simply provide you an overall figure for what your project may cost, or do they break it down into costs for specific parts of the remodel? The more transparent their budgeting process, likely the more confident you can feel that your money is being spent wisely.

Inspect designs from their past projects

A good way to help determine the contractor’s attention to detail and to get an idea of their design process is to ask to see renderings from some of their other remodels.

Are they detailed or do they seem sparse? How do they communicate various aspects of the projects? Do you feel that they give you a good sense of how you’d like your project to be laid out?

Review their scheduling template

Next, you want to ask about scheduling. Ask how they communicate about the schedule. Do they say they won’t be able to start until 6 months down the road, then say you shouldn’t expect to hear from them before then? Or do they provide a schedule you can review ahead of time, either via an online tool or a printout, that gives you an idea of what to expect from the project timeline? Again, looking at a schedule from a different job they’re working on can be really informative.

Examine the contract

Lastly, you want to closely examine the contract. Often, when working with a design/build firm you’ll sign a preliminary contract known as a design agreement. Then after the project is designed, you’ll sign a construction contract. Ask to see the construction contract before you pay anything. You want to make sure it gives you all the detail you need in order to move forward with confidence.

4. Avoid the red flags

Finally, you want to be aware of several red flags as you’re going through the interview phase. If you encounter any one of these, you should consider not moving forward with that contractor.

Bad communication

Think of the interview phase of your project as the dating phase. Everyone should be on their best behavior. That means they should be very communicative with you and quick to respond to your questions. If you find that they’re taking a while to get back to you or simply ignore you for long stretches, or if you feel like they haven’t listened to your project goals, it may be time to move on.

Lots of negative reviews

Pretty much any contractor you interview will have a negative review or two; that’s not much to be alarmed about. But if you find that someone you’re interviewing has several unflattering reviews or there’s a pattern of reviews that aren’t complimentary, that’s another red flag to look out for.

Issues on the CCB website

Another potential red flag are violations you found on their CCB listing. For example, if your contractor says they have a lot of experience but their CCB license says they’ve only been in business for a couple of years. Or as we mentioned before, a contractor who appears to have operated under a lot of different business names. These are all things to keep in mind.

A price that’s too good to be true

You’ve likely heard the adage: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. That definitely applies to remodeling costs. It can be tempting to opt for the lowest bid, but make sure you know what that bid covers. We’ve worked with clients who had hired a different contractor at a seemingly great rate, then as soon as the money ran out, that contractor went missing.

Either the contractor overpromised, didn’t know how to budget properly, or was simply dishonest. In the end, you can be left in a lurch and your project may be left incomplete. In these situations, you really want to beware as the client and not sign a contract that seems too good to be true or that is unclear.

Wrap up

For more information on how to find the right contractor for your remodel, download our contractor interview guide. It includes a comprehensive list of key questions to ask potential contractors.

You can also sign up for our full home remodeling toolkit which includes a home renovation checklist, a style guide for inspiration, and a step-by-step guide on how to apply for financing.

Are you planning a home remodel and aren’t sure where to start? We’re happy to discuss your project. Simply schedule a conversation with us!

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