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Home Improvement Guide

The following topics are things that many people forget or do not fully understand when starting a major remodeling project. These are things people should know about before starting any 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 does remodeling pay off?

Remodeling is a fun way to get the dream house you have always wanted. This is especially rewarding when you are able to make a long-term investment in your home and possibly recoup some of your investment. Below is a summary of the return you may get on your remodeling project.

Type of remodeling project and percentage of remodeling costs recuperated

  • Minor Kitchen Remodel—85%
  • Bathroom Addition—80%
  • Major Kitchen Remodel—75%
  • Master Suite—75%
  • Two-story Addition—75%
  • Attic Bedroom—75%
  • Family Room Addition—75%
  • Bathroom Remodel—65%
  • Deck Addition—65%

The percentages above are Minnesota averages. Many variables determine the payback on remodeling projects such as location, neighborhood, age of home, economy, value of home compared to others in area, other upgrades that have been done in the community and future development plans.

How to hire a contractor

The following are tips for hiring a contractor and working toward getting the best service possible.

  • Know what your remodeling job entails. There may be several different kinds of jobs that need to be done. Become familiar with the different types of contractors and what type of work each trade person is responsible for.
  • Decide if you want to become the general contractor or if you want to hire the general to act as the project manager.
  • Whichever route you choose, you will need to get the names of different contractors. Ask friends or neighbors who have had work done recently. Asking the local hardware store or lumberyard may also be an option for getting information on remodelers.
  • Once you have the names of several contractors, you can check their licensing status by contacting one of the following agencies:
    • To check for electrical and building licenses, visit the the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry's Construction Codes and Licensing Division online, or call them at 651-284-5069.
    • To find out whether or not a plumbing or heating/venting/air conditioning contractor is licensed, you can call the Bloomington Building and Inspection Division at 952-563-8930.
  • Call the contractors you have chosen and set up an appointment for them to come to your home and discuss the project you have in mind.
  • Ask the contractors for references and then actually call several of the references to ask about their experience with that contractor. This may feel a bit awkward, but most people will enjoy telling you about their remodeling job.

For more information on hiring 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.
  • Be wary of a verbal estimate. 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 iconCitizen’s Guide to Home Building and Remodeling.