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How to Choose a Contractor for Remodeling a Garage

If your garage is starting to feel a little dilapidated, it may be time for a remodel. Remodeling your garage can be a daunting task, and so many people chose to hire the services of a professional contractor to get the job done.

This article will go over some of the advantages and disadvantages of contractors, as well as tips on choosing the right one.

Should I DIY or Hire a Professional?

The choice between doing the work yourself depends greatly on the type of garage remodel you have in mind. Depending on your level of handiness and how drastically you wish to remodel, it may be entirely possible and cheaper to simply undertake the project yourself.

However, if you wish to do something like convert your garage into a living space, you should consider looking into contractors for building, and you certainly will need licensed contractors for specific work, such as electrical and plumbing.

How to Look for Contractors?

Deciding to get the help of a professional contractor with experience in remodeling or converting garages has many advantages. Contractors have a guaranteed level of expertise that they can offer. They also have multiple workers, advanced tools and equipment, and years of prior experience. 

Furthermore, if a contractor takes over the remodeling of your garage, he will become responsible for seeing the project through to completion. This means it is their job to overcome any unexpected hiccups that occur during the process.

If they happen to run into a significant issue, it could end up being less expensive for a contractor to handle it than to try and fix it yourself.

In addition, a general contractor will handle the hiring of subcontractors. For example, a building contractor will handle the construction and also hire subcontractors to complete electrical, plumbing, or HVAC work.

In order to make sure you are hiring the right contractor for the job, see the tips and advice included below.

Ask for Recommendations

The best way to start your search for a contractor is to find friends or family that have recently hired a contractor for a garage remodel or conversion and ask them for a recommendation. This is the best method for getting an unbiased review of a service.

If you can’t find friends or family to ask, or their recommendations didn’t yield the results you were looking for, the next best place to go is on the internet. Most reputable contracting agencies will have a website where you can read testimonials, see past projects, get an overview of the work they do, and more.

Many companies specialize in garage remodeling and/or conversions. Because garage construction is a niche, hiring a company with experience in it will yield better results.

Interview Candidates

Before selecting a candidate, no matter how highly recommended they come, always make sure to do a short interview with them, at least over the phone. The only way to really get an idea of how you will work together is to talk to them in depth. The list of questions included below will give you a good basis for continuing to evaluate your contractor.

Do They Do the Work You Need?

The first thing to ask any potential candidates is if they have experience with garage remodeling or conversions.. Some contractors specialize in garages. If you are looking specifically to have your garage converted to a bedroom or home office, ask a candidate directly if they have experience with that type of conversion. 

How Long Have They Been in Business?

The longer your contractor has been in business, the better. Although it isn’t a hard and fast rule that older agencies are superior, it means that they were able to outlast their competition and continue to bring in new employees, which is a good sign for the quality of the contractor.

Are They Licensed and Insured?

The only acceptable answer to this question is yes, to both. You should never do business with an unlicensed or uninsured contractor. This is especially important in garage conversions, where electrical and plumbing work is needed.

Where Do They Source Their Materials?

Contractors get materials like wood, plaster, and stone from distributors they have partnered with. Ask your contractor where they get their materials from to make sure it is coming from a reputable vendor.

Have Them Evaluate the Project

After you evaluate your contractor, have them evaluate your project. Remodeling a garage is a long and very involved project, and it will come with a lot of considerations for your contractor. The list of questions below are good to ask to get an initial idea of the scale of the project you are interested in:

How Long Will the Project Take?

If they are able to do the project, the next thing to ask is how long they estimate the project will take. The length of time will depend on your goals for your garage and its current state, but generally you can expect somewhere between 6 and 12 months until completion. The project will also take longer if your contractor has to source difficult to find materials.

What Permits Will be Needed?

If you are going to use your garage for any purpose other than vehicle storage, you may have to make sure that the new space still complies with building codes. For example, if you wish to convert the garage into a living space, you will also have to add at least one window that can be crawled through in an emergency, as well as carbon monoxide detectors and other safety precautions.

How Much Can or Will be Done by Subcontractors?

A subcontractor is basically a second contractor that your first contractor hires to take some of the work. Some states have laws that allow subcontractors who were not paid by the contractor to sue the client for payment.

You will want to make sure that your contractor has a good relationship with the subcontractors they work with, as well as having them be included in the final contract. 

Ask For an Estimate of Cost

After figuring out the details for the final product, your contractor will be able to give you an estimate of the cost. Bear in mind that this cost is only an estimate; it is impossible for a contractor to predict every possible eventuality that may affect the price over the period of work. To avoid ending up with a final figure that is vastly more expensive than the first, make sure that the price you will pay is fixed in the contract.

Remember that garage conversions come with a broad price range. For example, a conversion to a bathroom can range between $3,000 and $25,000. Be sure to get multiple estimates and consider the different material options carefully.

Signing a Contract With Your Contractor

After you and your contractor have agreed to mutual terms, settled on a vision for the project, and begun preparation, it is time to sign a contract with them. As the name “contractor” suggests, you should only ever agree to do business with them through a contract. The contract is essential for preserving a written record of the full terms of the agreement that can be referenced for the future.

Get Everything in Writing

The only contract that you should agree to is a written one. Oral contracts are binding in the eyes of the law, however they are far weaker than written contracts and, since they have no physicality, have a significantly greater burden of proof. Make sure that anything you agree to exists in clear writing, ideally in multiple copies. See our full article called Get It In Writing for full details.

Read the Contract

The importance of thoroughly and completely reading your contract before you sign cannot be overstated. Once a contract is made official through your signature, you are bound to it, whatever it says.

Your contractor is not likely to try and slip any nefarious fine-text into the contract, but occasionally typos and misprints do occur. These can be just as problematic down the line, so read the contract, re-read the contract, and then read it one more time.

Make Sure it Describes Everything

Contact Information

The contract should have your name and contact information, as well as the information of the contractor and all other involved parties. If the contract is missing a name, that party may be excused from the responsibility of completing the contract.

Start Date and Estimated Completion Date

The contract should include the definitive start date. If there is a predetermined end date for the project, that should be listed as well; otherwise the contract should include the estimated time to completion.

Payment Cost and Plan

The contract should include the overall cost of the project, ideally in an itemized format. The contract should also specify the method through which you will be paying and the payment schedule to which you will be held.

Schedule

The contract should include a work schedule to ensure that everything stays on track. 

List of Materials and Who Chooses Them

The contract should include a comprehensive list of all of the materials that will go into the remodel. The contract should also specify who chooses the materials; if you are granting your contractor permission to decide the best material for interior walls, for example, the contract needs to say that they can do so.

Clauses for Unforeseen Circumstances

Many contracts include what is called a “broom clause,” which acts to hold the contractor responsible for sorting out unforeseen problems.

For example, if your contract clearly states that a wall is to be removed from your garage, but the wall turns out to be load bearing, the broom clause would make it the contractor’s responsibility to figure out the solution and absorb the lost costs. Otherwise, it would be you who has to rework the plan and put down more money to fix the issue.

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