Question: I have decided to do an extensive home-improvement project, and would like to know what procedures I should use in selecting a contractor.
Answer: Before you even think of looking for a contractor, you should decide on what you actually want done. In many instances, people will call a contractor, decide that they want a room addition, a bathroom remodeled and an atrium built, only to find out that their limited budget will only cover part of the project.
Once you have a firm idea of what you want done, you should establish a budget that you feel you can afford. You can then begin to interview home-improvement contractors.
The two best sources are referrals from persons who have had successful home improvement-projects and from reliable trade associations that have members who specialize in home improvements.
Also, you may be driving by a home-improvement project in your neighborhood that looks good to you. You can talk to the homeowner about the work quality.
Two trade associations have lists of home-improvement contractors they can refer to you. One is the American Building Contractors Assn., 11100 Valley Blvd., Suite 120, El Monte, 91731; 818/401-0071. The other is the Building Industry Assn., 1571 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles 90026; 213/250-8965.
I would never use firms that are highly advertised. Usually the costs of advertising are such that these firms must be, by their very nature, volume operators which cannot always give you the quality you might wish at a reasonable price.
I would interview no fewer than three potential contractors and probably no more than five.
While interviewing, it is not necessary to have plans as most home-improvement contractors have working relationships with architects, building designers or draftsmen who can come up with the necessary drawings.
I suggest that you get from each bidder names, addresses and phone numbers of jobs that they have completed within the last year or two and interview the homeowners.
Fontaine is president of the Western Regional Master Builders Assn. and a director of the American Building Contractors Assn. He will answer questions concerning home improvements. Phone 213/653-4084 or write him at 6404 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 850, Los Angeles 90048-5510.