Chicago Home Remodeling Guide

Step #3 Hire Professionals

For most major Chicago home remodeling products you'll want to bring in the pros to get the job done. Some Chicago home builders are equipped to handle the whole project from drawing up plans to putting in landscaping. In other situations you may need an architect to do the design work. Either way, Chicago home improvement starts with hiring trained professionals.

Contractors

Contractors are an essential part of the Chicago home remodeling process. The contractor acts as a coordinator, making sure every piece of the puzzle is put in the right place, and in a timely fashion. Oftentimes, the contractor will hire subcontractors or tradesmen to perform specialized jobs such as electrical work and plumbing.

  • License/Insurance - Make sure your contractor is licensed and holds liability insurance and worker's compensation. The City of Chicago website has lists of licensed contractors broken down into specialties like masonry, plumbing, electrical, wrecking and general (cityofchicago.org).
  • Get Referrals - Ask family members, friends, neighbors and coworkers for recommendations of contractors they've used in the past and that they liked. Get contact information of other previous clients so you can call them and inquire how their experience was with the contractor as well.
  • Get It In Writing - Draw up a contract that outlines exactly what is agreed upon with your contractor. It should state what work will be done, when it will be completed, and how much it will cost. The contract should include specifications of the remodeling plans, materials to be used, and who is responsible for clean up and debris removal. Be as detailed as possible and consider adding a payment schedule. This can encourage timely completion of project checkpoints and ensure the contractor has an incentive to get the whole job done.
  • NARI - Members of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry uphold a certain level of professionalism in home renovations. The organization has a Greater Chicagoland Chapter headquartered in Des Plaines, Illinois. Its members include annual winners of the Remodeling Excellence Award. Is your contractor a member? For more information visit narichicago.org.

Architects

Architects are often necessary for larger Chicago home improvements such as adding a room or redesigning a kitchen. There is a lot of red tape involved in home remodeling that an architect can maneuver through with ease. A good architect will act as your guide through the entire process, escorting you through every step and design decision.

  • Find an Architect - Use the Internet to research architectural firms and individual architects, or ask friends and family for referrals. If you have a contractor you're working with, they can also suggest architects with a good track record for Chicago home remodeling projects. Chicago houses the second largest chapter of the American Institute of Architects (AIA) in the country. It's a group of over 3,000 licensed architects and associated professionals in the Chicago area (aiachicago.org).
  • Check References - As with anyone you hire, it's smart to ask previous clients about the work the candidate did for them. Did they listen to what you wanted and create a design that suits your style? Were the original plans and any alterations produced in a timely manner? Are you pleased with the finished product?
  • Discuss Fees - Architect fees could be a set sum lumped into the contract as a portion of the whole remodeling cost, or you may be charged by the hour. Also, architects typically require a retainer upfront.

Interview Candidates

After you have gotten referrals from friends or found promising candidates for the job through the Internet, conduct a brief phone interview or set up a meeting in person. You want to see if you mesh well with the contractor or architect and ensure you're comfortable with them. You can ask to see examples of their previous work and a list of references. Also, verify that they have the necessary credentials/licenses.

Get Estimates

Estimated cost of a Chicago home improvement project can vary greatly. So get several quotes before deciding to go with any one contractor/architect. Beware of extremely low bids. You may think you're saving money, but quite often the work only lives up to its worth and you end of paying more for repairs later on. That doesn't mean there aren't great deals out there. Just be sure to thoroughly investigate why the contractor is offering such a low price.


« Step #2 - Crunch The Numbers | Step #4 - Begin Work »

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