A Guide to Home Remodeling Contractors & Professionals

How to chose the right team of remodeling contractors and professionals for any home renovation

Who should I hire for my renovation?

You’ve decided to renovate your home — step one complete! But, what type of remodeling companies will you need to hire for your project? Do you only need to hire a general contractor, or would you benefit from reaching out to an architect, interior designer, or even a design-build contractor? The answer will vary depending on your project scope, your preferences, and your budget. 

Knowing exactly who to reach out to, and when, will save you time in the hiring process — that means you can start enjoying your remodeled home sooner.

Every major renovation project requires a general contractor to oversee the daily construction work. Some renovations, however, also require a licensed architect for technical and design services. This can include creating the necessary drawings for your building board or Department of Buildings (or local equivalent) permits and approvals. Even when not required, some homeowners also opt to hire architects to provide a level of style, detail, and management. The added expense is sometimes estimated at 20% of the total project budget.

It’s important to note that there can be overlap among design services. For example, most home remodeling architects and interior designers can provide expertise for layout and finish materials, though these specifics can vary a lot from firm to firm. If you hire an interior designer who creates updated floor plans, they may secure the services of an architect to have them professionally “stamped” when required.

Here, Sweeten outlines what each renovation professional brings to the project.

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When you should hire an architect

You’ll need an architect if any of the following apply to your renovation:

  • Changing the layout, making additions, or tearing down walls
  • Moving plumbing lines such as bathtub or dishwasher
  • Moving gas lines
  • Doing work on a landmark property
  • Any changes that require approval from the Department of Buildings

When you should hire a general contractor

Hiring a general contractor may best suit your job if none of the above apply to your renovation. You would also have a general idea of what you’d like to do with the space. Post your project at Sweeten where most contractors can give some guidance on design, materials, and creative solutions for tackling challenges. Alternatively, you can also request a design-build firm. 

NOTE: A remodeling contractor who is licensed ensures that the necessary level of checkpoints and screening processes have been met. More on this below.

Benefits of hiring a design-build firm

Design-build contractors can be a cost-effective option for medium to large-scale renovations. They also work well on any project that requires high attention to detail. Design-build contractor teams offer:

  • A full package of design, construction, and project management services
  • A single point of contact from start to finish
  • A fluid process with more predictable timelines between design and construction phases

When you should hire an interior designer

If walls and room functions are not being altered dramatically, an interior designer can help with things like:

  • Considering overall traffic flow, lighting, and space planning
  • Designing custom built-ins and cabinetry
  • Project management and purchasing of materials, fixtures, and appliances
  • Choosing furniture styles, color palette, and finishes

Why you should always hire a licensed general contractor

A locally valid license and proper insurance are a must-have for any reliable general contractor. Your county or state website will list all licensed contractors in the licensing or consumer affairs sections. With Sweeten’s contractor vetting, for example, a New York City-based contractor must have a valid Home Improvement Contractor (HIC) license. 

Getting cheaper bids from unlicensed remodeling contractors

A note of warning to those tempted by the lower estimates of an unlicensed contractor: remodeling contractors without bonafide credentials may not be able to obtain the required permits for your job. Permits do cost money and take time to procure for any home renovation. However, if the contractor’s work fails to meet building codes, you will be responsible for the reconstruction. This can turn into an unpleasant surprise when homeowners who want to sell their home find out they must fix work that doesn’t meet permitting standards.

Am I liable if I hire an unlicensed contractor?

Allowing work on your property by an unlicensed remodeling contractor could also nullify your homeowner’s insurance policy. If the contractor doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance, you become the de facto employer. You’ll be responsible for any accidents on the property (or anyone else’s property) if the contractor is negligent.

Hire the best contractor for a home renovation

Homeowners are rightfully concerned about how to tackle a renovation in an organized fashion. It’s best to build your team of renovation professionals based on the needs of your home renovation project, whether that involves architectural plans and permits, deciding the aesthetic or finishes, or all—or none—of the above. Named “Best Contractor Locator” by New York Magazine, Sweeten is a free service that matches homeowners with the best general contractors for their renovation.

Frequently asked questions

A general contractor organizes and oversees the construction for homes and businesses. They can complete construction work themselves or hire a team of subcontractors. General contractors obtain construction permits, recommend finishes and materials, and propose solutions for renovation challenges.

Interior design is the practice of analyzing and interpreting human behavior to create a functioning interior or exterior space. Homeowners or business owners work with interior designers to help determine the best way to lay out a room or area to maximize its space, storage, flow, or visual appeal.

Interior designers provide professional guidance for the interior or exterior design of a building. They can analyze traffic flow, lighting, and space planning; help design built-ins and cabinetry; choose furniture styles, colors, and finishes; or provide project management services or lead the purchasing of materials, fixtures, and appliances.

Contractors (aka subcontractors) perform a specific task like framing, roofing, or other skilled work and are hired by the general contractor for that purpose. On a job site, the general contractor (builder) will direct the activities of any contractors (subcontractors) they have hired and accept responsibility for their work.

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