An outdoor kitchen is a wonderful addition to any home. It’s a great feature for outdoor entertaining and family dinners. It expands your useable living space and the amount of time you can spend outside throughout the year. If you’re thinking about adding an outdoor kitchen to your home, you need to hire a contractor for the job.
An outdoor kitchen is a high-end project that typically cost thousands of dollars. Kitchen equipment and building materials add up quickly, so you don’t want to make mistakes. There are a lot of outdoor kitchen contractors in northern New Jersey, but how do you find the right one? Here’s a helpful guide that will make it easier to find the right outdoor kitchen contractor for your Bergen County home.
The best way to find a qualified, reputable contractor is from referrals through family, friends or neighbors. If you know someone who has hired an outdoor kitchen contractor in Bergen County, ask them about their experience. Some important questions are:
- Overall, did the contractor do a good job? – People you know will always tell you the truth, and they will probably elaborate with their answer. If there were any problems, even small ones, they are likely to tell you about them. They will express their satisfaction or dissatisfaction with the contractor and the end results.
- Was the contractor professional? – Did he show up to begin work as scheduled? Was he always on time? Did he finish the outdoor kitchen on time as scheduled? Was he always courteous? Professional outdoor kitchen contractors should receive a “yes” to all of those questions. If there’s a “no” answer to even one question, consider another contractor.
- Did the contractor clean up when finished? – There’s nothing more aggravating than finding building scraps and debris left on the job. After you paid a lot of money for a new kitchen, you don’t want to have to clean up the contractor’s mess. Any professional, reputable contractor will clean up and remove any debris at the end of a job. The only time they will leave leftover materials is when you asked them to.
- Were his prices reasonable? – Most people that have an outdoor kitchen probably did their homework. The person giving you the referral probably talked to several outdoor kitchen contractors and got several prices before making their final decision. Ask them to elaborate on their experience.
- Would you call him for another home project? – If the answer is “yes”, that’s definitely a qualifying answer. No one would rehire a contractor they weren’t completely satisfied with in all aspects of the job.
Select Your Top Choices
After you’ve gotten referrals, narrow them down to two or three. If you only get one referral, you can go with that contractor or search for a few more. It’s best to get several prices for comparison. Look online to find outdoor kitchen contractors in the Bergen County area. When you have selected two or three of your top choices, find out more information.
Research – Do a website search to gather information. Most reputable businesses have a website. It’s an important tool for doing business these days. Take a look at the company’s site to review their services, company history and photos of completed projects. Things to look for:
- How long have they been in business? – The length of time a company has been in business is a good indicator of success. If they’ve been established in business for 20 years, that’s a good sign that they are professional, reputable and do good work. Experience is the best teacher.
- How big is the company? – Outdoor kitchen contractors who have subcontractors and employees can handle larger projects. Make sure that the outdoor kitchen contractor you hire can handle your project.
- What are their professional qualifications? – The website will usually talk about the company history and professional qualifications. This provides helpful background information.
Interview – Make a phone call to each contractor and ask some basic questions like what they do and how they work. Explain that you would like to add an outdoor kitchen to your home and let them give you some feedback. Other things to ask:
- Are they licensed and insured? – Professional outdoor kitchen contractors are usually licensed and insured. They should have a current business license and liability insurance that covers any damage to your property. They should have workman’s compensation that protects their workers in case of injury on the job.
- Have they done work in your area? – Find out if the contractor has done other outdoor kitchen projects in your area. If they have, ask if you could take a look at them. Seeing examples of work in person is worth a thousand photographs.
Meet – Schedule a meeting at your home so the contractor can see the job site and discuss the project. It’s important to feel comfortable and confident with your choice knowing that the contractor will be working at your home for a while. During your meetings, take mental notes:
- When contractors arrive for the meeting, take note if they arrived on time for the appointment. Was their demeanor professional? Would you feel comfortable working with them?
- Did the contractor take the time to discuss the details of your outdoor kitchen? Did he listen to your needs and concerns? Did you feel confident in his abilities?
Price – Get quotes on your outdoor kitchen. To compare outdoor kitchen prices easier, ask each contractor to break the quote down by cost of materials, labor and delivery, and to note miscellaneous expenses not included. Typically, materials account for about 40 percent of the total price. Discuss the details:
- Review each quote carefully – Make sure you understand the scope of the work. The quote should be clear and easy to read, but if you have questions discuss them. Watch out for hidden costs for services or products that aren’t clear in your estimate. The best outdoor kitchen contractors will take the time to make sure you understand your quote.
- Beware of “lowball” quotes. If you get a quote that’s a lot lower than the others, be suspicious. Some outdoor kitchen contractors may try and cut corners because they need the work. Don’t go by price alone. Knowledge, experience and good communication are just as important in hiring the right contractor. All things considered, you usually get what you pay for.
- Discuss payment procedures – Make sure you’re clear on the payment requirements for your new kitchen. You want to make sure they work for you. Go over the required deposit, payment schedule and final payment. Before you sign a contract, understand the payment terms. If the payment terms don’t work well for you, ask if there’s any flexibility.
If you have questions or reservations after going through this process, you can check with your local Better Business Bureau and New Jersey’s Consumer Protection Agency to make sure there are no disputes or complaints on file for the outdoor kitchen contractors you have talked to.
Signing the Contract
When you have made a thorough search and review, decide on the best outdoor kitchen contractor for your new kitchen. The final step, the hiring process, will involve signing a contract to get started. Review the contract before you sign.
Look closely at the details:
- Review the scope of work included.
- Review the prices.
- Review the payment terms.
- Review the materials and products to be used.
- Check the project start date and completion date.
- Ask for proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation.
Asking for a contract that’s clear and accurate is not about mistrust. It protects your interest and the contractor’s liability. A good, clear contract protects both parties. It’s a win-win situation for everyone.