By Debra Simon

In Carolina Woman’s new offices, the walls are red, orange, lime, blue and yellow; the bathroom mirror is a set of funky glass pieces called “Fizz”; the ceiling sports cutting-edge fans; and the floor is covered by a multi-hued carpet dubbed “Frisky.”

That’s not the state in which we originally found the office. Back then, it was certainly OK. We could have thrown on a coat of paint and started working on the next issue. But the look just wasn’t us. So we embarked on a month-long renovation.

The key to our remodel’s success? Besides a phenomenally creative staff and wonderful contacts in the interior design community in the Triangle…it was the contractors.

My advice to anyone contemplating a
renovation (as simple as switching your carpet or as complex as a total house makeover) is to take time to find the best contractor. The dream of transforming your home may turn into a nightmare unless you choose the right person.

There are so many contractors in the Triangle. Where do you start? home

Begin by asking questions.

The National Association of the Remodeling Industry, a trade group that includes contractors in the Triangle, asked its members what questions they usually are asked by homeowners and what questions they should be asked.

The most popular queries they hear are:

• When can you start?

• When will you be finished?

• What time will you knock on my door each morning?

• What time will you quit for the day?

• Are you going to work every day?

• Can you finish before (insert any major holiday or significant family event)?

• How much will it cost per square foot?

While a reasonable timetable and budget is important, it shouldn't be the only focus of an interview for a renovation job. Homeowners should also focus on trust and quality.

Here are questions members of the trade group recommend you ask before signing a remodeling contract:

• How long have you been in business?

• Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job?

• Who will be working on the project? Are they employees or subcontractors?

• Does your company carry workers' compensation and liability insurance? (Always verify this information by calling the agency. A copy of an insurance certificate doesn’t tell you that the policy is current.)

home• What is your approach to a project such as this?

• How many projects like mine have you completed in the past year?

• May I have a list of references from those projects?

• May I have a list of business referrals or suppliers?

• What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business?

• Are you a member of a national trade association?

• Have you or your employees been certified in remodeling or had any special training or education, such as earning a Certified Remodeler (CR), Certified Remodeler Specialist (CRS), Certified Lead Carpenter (CLC) or Certified Kitchen & Bath Remodeler (CKBR) designation?

It's not always the answers you get that are significant, but what you don't get. Pay attention to your instincts and to what information is missing.

Unlike your accountant, your remodeler will be a part of your daily life. He’ll be privy to your personal life — knowing how you look early in the morning and how well-behaved your dog is. It makes sense to carefully select this individual.

Once you decide that you want to hire a particular person, discuss when he can start, what time he’ll knock on your door each morning and when you’ll have your home to yourself again.

Remodeling can be a fun experience. You get to create your dream room or home and learn a little about design and building along the way. All you need to do is ask questions — questions that aren’t asked enough.