When you are ready to find a contractor for your tile installation there are a several things you can do to help you decide which one is right for you.
1) Research, research, research
In the internet age there is absolutely no reason to hire anyone without being able to find information about their company. Even if there is very limited information on the internet about them you need to look at the type of the information. If someone has a negative review it will be there – permanently.
Also keep in mind that people are far more inclined to let everyone know about a bad or unsatisfactory experience than one with which they are totally satisfied. If they are happy with their tile installation they will let the next person that asks them about tile know they were happy. If they are unhappy with it they tend to let as many people know as possible.
2) Correct contractor for the job
Nearly every contractor has one or two specific areas in which they specialize within their field. For instance I install tile in nearly every aspect from bathroom backsplashes to outdoor patios. I specialize in custom-built showers and custom inlays. These are two things that I enjoy immensely. It does not mean that I don’t do simple tub surrounds, kitchen floors, or plain backsplashes, it simply means that if you need a custom shower built from empty space – I’m your guy. If you need a mosaic patio table then I’m not your guy.
You want to make sure that the project you have in mind is something your contractor has experience with and knowledge about. If someone has done nothing but commercial tile floors that is not the person you want building your shower from scratch. Ask questions. Ask, ask, ask. The more you ask the better informed you will become and the more comfortable you should be with your contractor’s ability.
3) Don’t use price alone as the deciding factor
Although it is difficult not to let price become the deciding factor in choosing a contractor it should definitely not be the lone deciding factor. Home renovation in any form is definitely one area in which you will get what you pay for. While it is not necessary to spend an obscene amount of money, if you get a bid that is significantly lower than any others that should be something you should check out.
Here in Fort Collins, CO tile contractor’s prices will vary somewhat but, like most places, they should all be in the same ballpark depending on the scope of the project. If you get two or three bids for somewhere around $1000 and one bid for $240 you should probably not go with the lowest. Any reputable contractor should be in line with local prices. We understand how much price does become a factor in many instances so we try to give you the lowest price we can. It isn’t always possible to be the lowest, but we do try to be fair.
If our price is a bit over your budget feel free to ask what can be done to lower it. You can save money by doing the demolition and tear-out yourself, choosing a different type of underlayment, going with a smaller backsplash, etc. We can let you know how the price can be lowered. If you are on a set budget and we are priced over that, let us know what that number is. It is much easier to have a number to work with and we can see how much we can fit into a given budget. Most times I can make a budget fit, sometimes I can’t. I’ll let you know, just ask.
4) Check licensing and insurance
You need to make certain that your contractor has a state license if required. In Fort Collins a license is not required (nor available) for any type of flooring. You can check this on the Fort Collins building code services website here. In a lot of areas it is required. Check with your state licensing board or local building department to see if it is required.
No matter where you are located you need to make sure your contractor has liability insurance and, if they have others working for them, workman’s compensation insurance. This is necessary to protect you and your property. If a contractor does not have insurance they do not have a company, they have a hobby.
5) Ask about alternative methods
Any serious contractor is at least fairly knowledgeable about the different methods available for your project. I can build a shower with four different methods and about eight different products. Every one of them is at a different price level and have different pros and cons. With this knowledge is is easier to adjust certain things in a bid to meet your budget and still get the look you want and the functionality you need. If someone only knows how to do something one way it is impossible to do this.
The ability to do this is also indicative of how committed someone is about continual education in their specific field. While older proven methods have lasted for years, and in some cases, decades, there are newer products that can be utilized which will last just as long with less labor costs, lighter weight, and less maintenance. Make sure you find someone that can explain to you the advantages of different methods.
6) Find out what type of warranty you will receive
It is common practice, especially for a legitimate contractor, to extend a significant warranty for our work. If tile is properly installed and finished it should last for many, many years. Most failures, especially in a shower, will show up within the first year or two. The minimum warranty I will give is two years. Depending upon the method of installation and the products you choose, I will extend the warranty up to five years. At minimum you should receive a one year warranty on your installation from any contractor.
7) Communication is key
Being able to communicate your ideas and vision to your contractor is a key factor. Are you comfortable speaking to the contractor? Does the contractor listen to what your goals are for your project? Is he able to give you alternative methods or ideas for something that may not be viable? Being comfortable with the exchange of ideas or designs is imperative in any renovation project.
If your contractor does not understand what you are trying to accomplish you will not end up happy. Conversely, if you do not understand why something you have in mind may not be viable or practical, your contractor should be able to explain that to your satisfaction. An example would be someone that wants tile installed directly on the plywood subfloor – I won’t do it. You need some type of tile underlayment or substrate that will allow for movement in the floor as well as stand up to the rigors of daily use. Tile on the base wooden floor (chipboard) will not last.
Make certain there is mutual communication. Make lists, show me pictures, draw me pictures. Anything that can relay to me exactly what you envision your finished project looking like.
8) Find out how unforeseen circumstances are handled
In any remodeling project things may come up that were not planned for. Things happen, always. I cannot see behind a wall until I take the old tile and wall out. If you have lead pipes with a slow leak, that needs to be fixed before moving forward. Change orders should be a standard part of any contractors contract and should include the notification of the problem, the solution(s), and the cost before anything is done. Your contractor needs to make sure you are notified and aware of the problem and approve the solution before continuing.
9) Have a thorough written contract
Your contractor should provide you with a detailed contract outlining exactly what the scope of work entails, a base timeline for completion, and any down payment and payment schedule agreed upon. This protects both of you from any assumptions or miscommunications the other may make. By laying out exactly what everyone is responsible for and a timeline for certain checkpoints or completion it leaves everyone a way to gauge progress and make any adjustments that may be necessary along the way. It helps your contractor stay on schedule and lets you know what to expect and when.
10) Be comfortable
It is imperative that you are comfortable with your contractor. You are trusting this person with your home, you want someone you feel you can trust and communicate with. If it is someone you feel uncomfortable asking a question it is probably not the best choice. You need to be willing to communicate freely with your contractor and be certain that your questions or concerns are being addressed. You also want to have enough confidence in your contractor to hear what they are saying to you.
The easiest way to gauge this is to ask questions. Ask what method will be used to build your shower. Ask what type of underlayment they recommend. Ask what steps they will follow to build a shower floor. Ask what type of mortar they will use to adhere your tiles to the substrate. Ask everything. I’m not saying stand behind them every day and ask for a play by play, but do it before they even touch a piece of tile.
There may be some contractors that have a problem with it, I don’t. The more informed you are the more comfortable you (and I) will be. Ask them what installation standards they follow. Do your research. Find professionals on forums and ask them what to ask. Be educated about what you are hiring someone to do. The more information you have the better able you will be choose the right contractor for your project.
The bottom line is to become informed. You do not need to become an expert in the field but learn enough to be able to choose the expert that you need. Make lists, be prepared before you speak to a contractor and make certain the any relevant information is given up front so you are not wasting your time. As I stated above, if you need a mosaic patio tabletop, you would be wasting your time calling me. Make sure they are available for the timeline you desire before going any further, especially if you are looking to have something completed quickly.
Another thing to keep in mind is that most contractors will not give you a quote over the phone – ever. There are just way too many variables to consider and methods available for any given situation to say “this is what I charge” to someone over the phone. Most, including myself, will require taking a look at the project before even starting the estimate process. We do not do this because it’s a big secret or to “pressure” you or try and talk you into something you are not wanting, it is simply to look at the project. It also gives you a more accurate idea of the scope of the work you may need. Believe it or not, oftentimes is is less than you may think.
If there is something that has helped you in the past or something you think I may have overlooked, please feel free to leave a comment below. Anything that makes the process easier will definitely be added.