August 16, 2006 12:03 PM   Subscribe

Kitchen and bathroom remodeling. First time homeowner wanting to bring my kitchen and bathroom up to date. Never hired a contractor, nor do I have any recommendations from friends or neighbors. I own a duplex and did all of the simple work on the upstairs unit, but the lower unit that I occupy will be needing work that is out of my skill range (most likely a teardown to the studs and building up from there). I have some ideas on what I want done. I'd like to work with someone that can keep the project within what the neighborhood resale value can sustain and offer advice and refine my ideas. So how do I go about finding this person? I'm in Milwaukee.
posted by sharksandwich to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I can't help ya on a recommendation but hopefully there are some Milwaukeeans on Mefi who can. What I will say is that depending on the contractor you pic, you might also need the advice of an interior designer. Some contracting firms also do design, and some just do straight work. The guys who redid my parents' kitchen did a fabulous job and worked with us to get exactly what we wanted, but they're not exactly design-savvy.
posted by radioamy at 12:07 PM on August 16, 2006

Angie's List, maybe? I've never used it, but it always comes up in discussions about this sort of thing.
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:20 PM on August 16, 2006

I have just remodelled a bathroom, kitchen and basement. during the whole process Angie's List was invaluable to me. I served as general contractor on the kitchen remodel while the basement and bathroom was done by contractor.

You might also want to consider whether you need a full blown general contractor or can you general contract yourself if you have an idea of what steps to take. I had the help of a carpenter with a large base of knowledge and who was a perfectionist to bounce ideas and also how to work with people directly.

I started the design process at a big box store (design was free) and then started that as my base to explore options and solutions. YMMV

Here was a forum that gave me alot off ideas and are very receptive to reviewing your design concepts: Garden Web remodel forum The community covers every aspect possible and are very supportive providing reliable suppliers and also horror stories. Reading them made me aware of not committing rookie remodel mistakes.

Good luck. If you have any particular questions email me from my profile.
posted by jadepearl at 12:29 PM on August 16, 2006

Another vote for Angie's List. Was wary and signed up for a month for an HVAC issue, but I am going to re-up longer term. They have everything!
posted by jerseygirl at 12:41 PM on August 16, 2006

I can not speak directly as to how to find such a person in WI other than the usual platitudes: get a reccomendation, DEMAND references. There are SO many ways a kitchen can go wrong, if you get one person (such as a General Contractor or Interor Designor who has contacts to manage the entire installation, which is reccomended so you just deal with one person, one check) go over exactly as much as you can regarding what you want done, have them explain it back to you, with drawings if possible, and press for a "Not To Exceed" number.

They will cry and whine that unforseen things complicate giving a NTE, but if they are giving you a price to build it from the studs out, and they took proper measurements for your cabinets and counter and plumbing feed points and electrical feed points, extras should not amount to very much. If you give in on the "not to exceed" number (which is OK) at least you have sent a shot across their bow that you are aware and watching for bullshit and dont want to hear how they didn't know the microwave outlet needs a dedicated breaker/fuse.

If you (or your GC/Designor) are hiring a plumber and/or electrician to relocate or update or add to the existing layout make sure you do the following: (BTW I am an electrical contractor)

1) Get two or three bids on the same scope of work and that they stipulate that the scope meets existing local and/or National Codes;

2) Do not give a deposit no matter how much they squeal like you stabbed them. If they say there is a big material purchase that they want to pay for, tell them you issue the check upon presentation of the supplier invoice (the supplier will be thrilled to issue an invoice before delivery);

3) I do not know the WI laws but do not issue ANY check until they sign a "Waiver of Lien" that stipulates they hold you harmless for not just the amount of the check but also for any labor, material and subcontractor purchaces up to the date of the waiver. You dont need them buying material from a supplier and then not paying them only to have the supplier hit you with a lien;

4) Make sure they understand that you will be paying them only 90% of the agreed amount by completion, and the last 10% will be held until either they provide you with passed inspection(s) (for plumbing and/or electric, or if the work is not being uinspected), until 30 days after completion to assess that the system (water or electric) works as promised.

As a contractor and I know **I** will do the right job, and pay my bills or subs, so these terms are fine with me. Any contractor that can not fund a project until the first payment, or whinces at the scrutiny of a 10% "retainage" or will not sign waiver of liens is not above board or in financially sound condition.

Remember, you ARE paying the checks for work progressed, and you ARE paying in a timely manner, and you will pay in full; you just are getting assurances that what you are paying for will be paid (materials) and the last 10% is to assess that you are getting what they are agreeing to provide - a working kitchen built in a professional manner.
posted by Kensational at 12:54 PM on August 16, 2006 [1 favorite]

The internet helped us to remodel our bathroom. Seriously. We had a open source bathroom design contest and it was great fun. We used the winning design. Just something to think about.

Re: contractors. Once you find one great one, they can refer to other people that they respect. I haunted some old timey lumberyards and plumbing supply places in order to dig up some names. I finally got a lead on our electrician from an architect who used this guy on his own house. He referred me to a plumber and a tile guy. All awesome. When I needed someone to refinish an old cast iron tub, I called the supplier of the chemicals to the trade for a referral. I got used to asking the question, "Who have YOU used on YOUR house?" to other contractors. And, "Why did you choose them?" Surprisingly, it turned up quite a few leads.

Angie's List has pro's and con's.

Best of luck to you on the remodel.
posted by jeanmari at 1:30 PM on August 16, 2006

You didn't really say if you wanted specific recommendations, but I guess I'll bite anyhow.

My parents have twice now used these people. They're a design firm that will work with you to plan, contract out for whatever work needs to be done, and just act as general liaisons. Judging by where you live in the city, I'm guessing you have an older house. So do my parents, and the thing they were most impressed by was the continuity between the addition/remodeled parts of the house and the original house, which has a lot of its original design (windows, woodwork) intact. I'm not sure if they have a radius within which they work or not.

The other thing you can do is drive around your neighborhood and see which firms your neighbors might be using (via signs posted in their front yards). I think that's how my parents found that particular company originally.
posted by anjamu at 9:44 PM on August 16, 2006

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