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Originally published Friday, May 24, 2013 at 8:00 PM

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How to hire the right remodeler

Interview several contractors from your list, ask questions and check references.

Special to The Seattle Times

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HomeWork

Q: What do I need to know about hiring a remodeler?

A. Remodeling your home is difficult and time-consuming. It can also be a great creative outlet, a means to increase your investment’s value and to make your home more functional and pleasing to you.

Make sure your contractor is registered with the state, bonded and insured.

Look for affiliation in recognized organizations such as the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties or your city’s chamber of commerce. That old joke about the guy with the pickup and the dog isn’t funny to anyone who has ever had a contractor leave them with an unfinished job and a big mess.

Next, interview several contractors from your list, ask questions and check references.

Ask previous clients about their experience and about any problems that occurred. You want to know how the remodeler worked to resolve them. A Google search can also bring up reviews, but take them with a grain of salt; typically, only people who are either very happy or very upset post about their experiences online.

Remember, for all intents and purposes, you will be more or less living with the remodeling crew for months so you also want to have a good rapport and communicate well.

Check to see if your home was built before 1978. If it was, you need to have a certified lead renovator (lead paint) on your project — particularly if you have young children. Improper lead-dust containment could result in significant health consequences.

A lot of homeowners wonder if they will need permits. It really depends on the scope of your individual project. Generally, cosmetic changes do not require a permit. Your general contractor should be able to give you a better idea of what to expect, as permitting will impact your project’s time line.

When clients ask if old materials (slab, fixtures or appliances) can be reused, I often answer with another question: What is the reason for wanting to do so? If it is sentimental or emotional, in most cases you can.

If it is to save money, you might want to reconsider. In most cases you won’t save money by reusing items. They would have to be removed surgically to avoid being damaged, which takes more time. Items also need to be safely stored before being reinstalled. The quality of the material is hard to confirm and would have no warranty. It is a decision you should talk over with your remodeler.

Whether or not you will need to move out while the work is done depends on the scope of your project and on your ability to cope with inconvenience.

Remodeling a kitchen may mean you are without an operating kitchen for roughly eight weeks, and that for periods of time your water supply would need to be shut off. Do you have small children? Are you tolerant of dust, noise and visual chaos?

Generally, living through a remodel is more difficult that one expects, but in many cases it is a good, money-saving option.

How long will your project take? As the saying goes — fast, cheap, and done right, pick any two.

Quality of work is the last one you should let go, and the budget is always a consideration. While living through a remodel is not easy, it’s worth a few extra days of inconvenience to complete the project correctly. Clear lines of communication between you and your contractor can keep expectations and your time line in check.

Jamie Hsu of Lakeville Homes is a member of the Master Builders Association of King and Snohomish Counties’ Remodelers Council and provided the information contained in this article. If you would like more information or have questions about home improvement send them to homework@mbaks.com.

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