Over the years, we’ve talked to thousands of people about their remodels – their hopes, ambitions, and dream scenarios. We’ve talked to remodel pros, DIY veterans, novice homeowners, and everyone in between. All of them asking the same question: “Is this the right company to choose for our remodel?”

With 28+ years of experience as a design-build firm in Portland, Oregon, we want to provide you with a comprehensive list of what you should know before you start shopping around for a contractor. These are some questions you should ask when contractors visit your home and considerations when making your final decision.

Part 1: What to know BEFORE shopping for a contractor.

What is your basic project scope?

Are you wanting to redo the 1980s kitchen the previous owners installed in your early 1900s house? Is your bathroom shower leak causing the need for a bathroom remodel? Do you need more space added to your home? Do you need to refinish those floors? The first thing you should do is clearly define your scope before you start shopping for a contractor. This can help you narrow down what type of contractors would fit your project needs.

 For example, a kitchen, bath, addition, or whole house remodel all have a lot of moving pieces. Hiring a design-build firm or a general contractor with an architect/designer may be beneficial. Is your project mostly based around the trim work in your house? Calling a local finish carpenter or handyman would be better suited as a design-build firm would be overkill for that scope of work.

What is your budget for the project?

 Everyone has a budget. Even those who say “the sky’s the limit” have a preferred number. Keep in mind how long you plan on living in the home, your personal tastes (do you gravitate towards the premium fixtures and finishes, or do you look at the price tag to make a final decision?), other expenditures taking up the budget (getting new furniture, new home equipment, landscaping), and whether you can pay for it out of pocket or require financing.

It can be tricky knowing how much money you should set aside for your remodel. How much does a bathroom or kitchen cost? Perhaps you have never remodeled before or haven’t done so in 20 years. This question can’t always be fully answered until you’ve talked to a few different companies to get an idea of current pricing.  

Research different types of contractors.

Once you know the basic scope of your project with a rough budget, research which type of contractor would be best for your needs:

A GENERAL CONTRACTOR (GC) will build off construction-ready plans typically provided by an architect and/or designer. For smaller scopes of work, the homeowner can provide their own plans and select fixtures and finishes themselves. If the latter, the GC may draw up the plans themselves or contract with their preferred designer or architect as needed.

 AN ARCHITECT will provide the plans necessary for building and permitting. They’ll help you figure out floorplans, lighting plans, elevations, and some will help select materials. Most often it is up to the homeowner to find a builder and to finalize all the finish and fixture selections on their own.

 A DESIGNER will put together the floorplans and elevations, help you finalize your finish and fixture selections, and may be able to recommend some builders to work with. The homeowner can then shop the plans around to builders to bring their design to life.

 A HANDYMAN or TRADESPERSON is a person the homeowner contracts with directly to do various tasks – plumbing, electrical, tile setting, carpentry, etcetera. The homeowner acts as the project manager and pulls together the design, finish selections, bidding out with different tradespeople, and managing the work schedule.

 A DESIGN-BUILD FIRM includes design and general contracting services as mentioned above, all within the same company. This helps the homeowner understand budget early on in the project and streamlines communication across all parties involved. Design-Build firms provide the highest level of service and have fine-tuned their processes to minimize common pitfalls often encountered with stand-alone design and construction outfits. This is the best solution for people who desire a more predictable remodel and are ready to go for it. 

Once you’ve picked which type of contractor would be best for you and your projects, research local contractors in your area. Ask friends and family for recommendations! Look at their websites, portfolios, and pick a handful of companies that you would like to reach out to. Most companies have a contact form you can fill out on their website to give them more information about your project. Or you can do it the old-fashioned way and give them a call! Fun fact: nearly all contractors are excited to talk to you about your project and see if they can help you! It’s quite honestly what they live to do!

Part 2: Questions you should ask when they visit your home.

Contractors, designers, and architects are going to want to make a home visit to see your project in person. It is the best way for a contractor to get a feel for the house and what the project may cost for the homeowner. While they are at your home, you should ask as many questions as you can. Make sure to also pick their brains about the following topics:


Most companies have a set of checks and balances to ensure their process is streamlined to make your remodel go smoothly. For example, at Craftsman Design and Renovation, we take our time throughout the design process to customize your remodel to your lifestyle, we hold consistent internal meetings between our design and production team to ensure everyone is on the same page about the project, and host weekly meetings during construction to let homeowners know what is going on. We call this safeguarding our clients’ happiness!

When it comes to process, you want to make sure that the company you choose has your best interests at heart. Also, that they can complete your project in an organized manner.


If you are eager to start your remodel, knowing a company’s timeline for when your project could start is a big asset. Some homeowners have a strict deadline (for example, our baby is due in 8 months!), while others have a bit more flexibility. Setting these expectations with the contractors you speak with can help you narrow down who you decide to work with in the end.


Not every contractor is going to be able to give you a number right on the spot. Most will need to research similar projects they’ve done in the past to get you a more accurate budget range or estimate. Depending on who you are talking to, this most likely is not a final bid. Rather it is a budget range to help you make a more educated decision on not only the project you are looking to take on, but also the company you are looking at working with.

Part 3: Considerations when making your final decision.

While process, timeline, and budget are major factors to bear in mind when making your final decision, there are two other points you should consider before signing your contract:


This is a larger factor than some people may realize. When you are going down the rabbit hole of starting a project, know that it is going to take some time to get your project designed, ready for permitting, and then constructing. You are going to be spending time with your contractor, designer, or architect as you move through the process. Best practice is to pick a company that you enjoy collaborating with and understands your vision for your space.

Area of Expertise

 Pick a company that is an expert in the areas that are important to you and your unique project. For example, Craftsman Design and Renovation specializes in older Portland homes. We’ve seen all the crazy stuff that used to be the norm – knob and tube wiring, lead paint, lead or galvanized pipes, service chimneys, funky uneven floors, asbestos, zero insulation… the list goes on and on. We anticipate these quirks when we go into these homes. We work into our plans and scope of work how to address these issues to minimize surprises during construction. We have carpenters and designers on our team who meticulously pore over every detail to give you a beautiful, finished product. 

Some companies are experts in those finer details. Some are experts in providing functional spaces on a lower budget. It really comes down to what your priorities are and what you are looking for when it comes to a contractor.

Now that you are armed with what to know before shopping for a contractor, questions to ask, and additional considerations when making your final decision, we hope you have the information to start your remodel with confidence! And if you are near the Portland, Oregon metro area, please consider giving Craftsman Design and Renovation a call for your kitchen, bathroom, addition, or whole house renovation. You can also reach us via the Contact Us form here on our website. We would love to chat with you about how we can help!