The top ten things any homeowner should consider before hiring their next remodeler

Homeowner signing contract

Remodeling your home can be one of the most stressful activities that you experience. It can be a large investment, your family is typically still living in the home so it can upset your daily routine, and we’ve all heard horror stories about people who chose the wrong remodeling contractor for the job and lived to regret it. So, we’ve put together a helpful Top Ten List of things you should consider when you are interviewing remodeling companies.

1] Have you actually met who is going to do the work?

If your remodeling contractor was personally recommended from a family member, friend, next door neighbor or from your trusted local hardware store, you are likely to have a good remodeling experience. If your contractor was not personally referred to you, before any work begins, we recommend meeting with the Production Manager in charge, or the Lead Carpenter who will be doing the actual work. Remember, these are the people you are going to be living with 8-10 hours a day, every day, until the end of your project. Choose wisely.

2] Did you have a discussion with your contractor about any and all ways that your project could end up costing more than it states on the contract?

There are a certain number of contractors who have a reputation for selling low and pulling the bait-and-switch routine at some point in the project with something called a “Change Order”. This always seem to come as a surprise to both the homeowner and the contractor when it is really only the homeowner that is surprised. Be aware that every remodeling project has potential risks and all professional contractors should inform you of those risks before asking you to sign on the dotted line.

3] Is the project timeline set in stone?

For a homeowner who has experienced any of the following: a contractor goes missing, doesn’t return calls, has gotten in over his head financially, or just can’t muster the resources to pull off your project — the explosion of the project timeline becomes a nightmare that your family can’t wake up from anytime soon. Professional contractors will always present a production calendar detailing the scope of the project with highlights that track the essential milestones. A timeline that is set up well at the beginning helps ensure a successful outcome.

4] Will there be Employees or Subcontractors doing the work?

Since the recession, most remodelers have moved away from having the more expensive burden of employees and have gone to the subcontractor model. The subcontractor model can almost always offer a less expensive product but no one can really argue that the quality of the subcontractor experience can match a dedicated team of skilled and trained employees. If quality, not cost, is your biggest concern, be sure to ask if employees or subs will be used on your job and, just to be sure, ask for a copy of their Employee Workers Comp Certificate.

5] EPA Certification is a must in the Chicago area. Is your Contractor Certified?

There are over 1 million kids who have been poisoned by lead from old paint, and we estimate that over half the contractors we see working in Chicago and the suburbs are not EPA Certified.  Do everyone a favor — but especially pregnant women and children — and do not hire any contractors that are not lead safe certified. These guys are the worst of the worst. To verify if a contractor is EPA Certified just enter their name on the EPA website by clicking here. In the “Find a Firm” form, click the Renovator box, then enter your address and the “Search Firms” button.

6] Are they able to communicate effectively?

If we take the remodeling factor out of the equation and just look at how the very best teams deliver the very best results, we can quickly understand just how important effective communication is for all successful team projects. While all of us in the trades appreciate the skill of a craftsman, it’s his/her ability to effectively communicate that will put him/her on the best team at one of the best companies in Chicago. Our advice is “If you contact a company before 4:00 pm and do not get a return call that same day, you are probably dealing with a company where communication is not a priority.”

7] How valuable is the warranty you’ll receive?

Occasionally, we are called in to fix something that a previous contractor has done. Typically, the homeowner cannot get a return call or has discovered that the previous contractor has moved or gone out of business. If there was an unforeseen mistake in the remodeling process and a issue arises, the warranty that a locally trusted or more established company provides can be as valuable as the project itself. Ask for references from the remodeling contractor you are considering.

8] What is your protection from risk?

There is not a condo building in Chicago that will allow a general contractor to even set foot in their building without the following protections: General Liability Insurance, Workers Comp Certificate, EPA Certification and any licenses, bonds or permits needed for that particular job. They do this because they know firsthand all the risks and have seen or heard of all the possible disasters that are part of this business. Protect yourself. If it’s required for every condo building in the city, it should be required by you for your home.

9] How important is dust management?

85% of homeowners surveyed stated that job site dust was the #1 nuisance of their last remodeling project. Studies have shown that homes being remodeled have five to eight times the amount of particles in the air than homes that are not being remodeled. The most professional companies, like GetDwell, employ the Livable Remodeling System, which begins with the BuildClean Dust Management System. These air scrubbing machines are game changers, and our clients have come to love the benefits — especially if asthma or allergies are an issue. BuildClean dramatically reduces 90% of airborne job site dust  by drawing in air, passing it through a series of filters, and returning the “scrubbed” air back into the space. No longer do homeowners have to suffer through every morning with grit in their toothbrushes and coffee mugs.

10] You have a Three-Day Right To Cancel in the State of Illinois.

In Illinois, three day rights to cancel are required to be given in specific types of transactions. In many cases, home repair or remodeling contracts are required to contain wording that gives you this important legal right and explains how you can exercise it. It is important to understand the specific circumstances in which Illinois law gives you this right.

You are required to be given a three day right to cancel a home repair contract if:

  • the sale of services or merchandise involves $25 or more, and
  • the contract is signed when the salesperson or contractor is physically present in your residence.

The law requires notice of your three day right to cancel to be given both orally and as part of the written contract. Do not sign any contract that does not fully describe the three day right to cancel, fails to state the date of sale, or contains blank spaces.

Learn more about the Three Day Right to Cancel Hope Repair law in Illinois here.


In summary, Get Dwell recommends that when you are selecting a contractor for your remodeling project, you should:

  • Meet the actual people who are going to do the work
  • Have a discussion about change orders
  • Agree to a timeline for your project
  • Know who will be performing the work — employees or subcontractors
  • Select an EPA Certified contractor
  • Make sure you are comfortable with your contractor’s ability to communicate effectively,
  • Get a warranty for work, and be sure the contractor will be around in case you need to use that warranty after the job is completed
  • Be sure you are protected from risk, using best practices learned from condominium property managers
  • Ask about the dust management system they use (or if they use one!)

We hope these considerations are helpful to you. And of course, we’d love to provide a free estimate for any remodeling projects you are considering. Just contact us here.