Jim Mallery | Improvement Center Columnist | December 13, 2011
Choosing a contractor for any project can be daunting. Picking one for a high-visibility item such as new kitchen countertops can create enough angst to send you to therapy. Here are six considerations to guide your selection of a countertop contractor.
Selecting the best countertop contractors
- Material: You have to know what type of countertop you want, as various materials require different skills. A Formica top is pretty simple and can be done by many people; granite, on the other hand, requires specialty fabricators, and concrete even more so.
- Get names: You can use the easy form on the page to make contact with countertop contractors. Asking friends who have had similar work done is a great source of names to either contact or steer clear of.
- Background check: See that a contractor you are considering is licensed, and check with the appropriate state agency (usually the licensing department or the attorney general) to see if there have been complaints against the business. (Remember, however, even the best contractors are likely to have an occasional complaint.)
- Check their work: You should ask to see examples of a contractor's work, and to talk to customers. Besides asking references if the contractor completed the work on time, on budget, and cleaned up after himself, you should look at the quality of the work. If you are looking at a laminate top, make sure the laminate is firmly glued (no dead spots), and that the edges are cleanly routed; if you are looking at tile countertops, make sure the grout lines are all uniform and the tiles perfectly flat; slab tops (granite or composites) should have smoothly polished edges and any joints should be nearly invisible.
- Apples to apples: Make sure bids from different contractors contain the same terms. Does the work include clean up? Are tiles and grout to be sealed? If you are having granite, are the fabricators drilling enough holes for faucets and gadgets at the sink? How thick is the granite--two centimeters or three centimeters? Do the bids all include the same edging (square, bullnose, ogee)? And very important: are the payment plans the same? Preferably, you will hold a sizable amount of the payment until after the work has been satisfactorily completed.
- The crew: Sometimes a contractor will not do the work himself, but will send a crew that won't do the same quality of work as what you inspected. For instance, if your tile contractor tells you that his worker's jitters are not nearly so bad since he got out of rehab, maybe you want to look elsewhere.
There is no question that finding a good countertop contractor can try your patience. But not nearly so much as hiring a bad one. To find a local contractor, complete the short form on this page.