Home Improvement Guide

The following topics are things that many people forget or do not fully understand when starting a major remodeling project. After reading about these topics, you should look at our Bloomington permit applications and forms page to see if your project will need any permits.

How to hire a contractor

See our Hiring a Contractor Information Sheet.

Getting bids

Once you have done your homework and feel comfortable working with a few contractors, it is time to get your bids. Below are items to be aware of when getting bids.

  • Be as detailed and itemized as possible on your bids. This will ensure that all the work you have envisioned is actually included in the scope of work and price. This will leave no guessing up to the contractor.
  • Be sure that each bid is similar. This means that you have to be careful to tell each contractor the same information and don't assume that they "know what you mean."
  • Try to get multiple bids for each project whether it is from a general contractor or individual trades people. This will help you make sure you are getting a competitive price for your work.
  • Get all estimates in writing.
  • Carefully compare bids. The lowest bid may not be the best bid. Make sure that all the details are written out in the bid. Also make sure that the contractor has not added anything to the bid that you did not ask for.
  • Do a line item comparison of each bid to make sure that each bid has the same materials and scope of work included in it.
  • Ask questions.

Entering into a contract

When entering into a contract, you want to make sure there is as much detailed information in it as possible. Some contractors use a contract form, but you can still make sure that all the information is present. Following are items that should be in all of your remodeling contracts:

  • A detailed list of materials with model numbers, styles and colors.
  • The names of all subcontractors and material suppliers.
  • The contractor is to obtain all required permits. This makes them responsible for all the work, not you.
  • Starting and completion dates.
  • Payment schedule.
  • How often a site supervisor will be on your job site.
  • Cleanup. What type of cleanup will the contractor do?
  • If there are any changes after the original contract is signed, be sure to get them in writing and have all parties initial them.
  • When the job is completed, make sure the Bloomington inspectors approve the final inspections and sign the permit inspection card. Then make sure the contractor gives you lien waivers from themselves as well as all the subcontractors and material suppliers (lumberyards, etc.) who worked on, or provided materials for, your home.

Contractors - the players

Before you can decide to undertake a remodeling project, you should become familiar with the different types of contractors.

  • General contractor: This person will act as the project manager. The General is responsible for hiring all the different trades people, scheduling the work, getting building permits and scheduling inspections.
  • Subcontractor or specialist contractor: These people are responsible for a very specific portion of the job. It might be the plumber or the floor layer.
  • Architect: The Architect designs homes and additions and could help if you are planning major structural changes to your home. (Architects are not required for all residential remodeling jobs.)
  • Designer: This person specializes in specific projects such as the kitchen or bathroom.

For more information see the State of Minnesota's PDF icon Citizen’s Guide to Home Building and Remodeling.