Choosing the Right Remodeling Contractor for Your Project

Got the itch to remodel but don’t know where to start? Here is some sage advice from resident expert Marc Black, Silent Rivers general manager. Marc is also an executive member of the Remodeler’s Council of Greater Des Moines, and is a member of Professional Remodeler’s 40 Under 40 for 2015.

In your quest for remodeling resources, you’ll find that there are many types of professionals who can help you. Within these, there will be several variations of specialties, experience, education, certifications, industry knowledge and quality of work.

Before photo of Urbandale master suite bathroom

BEFORE PHOTO of an outdated master bathroom. The homeowners were looking for a full renovation of the entire master suite.


Step 1:  Finding a Perfect Match!

Finding the right remodeling professional, can be the hardest part of the entire remodeling process. Armed with information about types of remodelers and their qualifications, you can be more confident about your hiring decision and ultimately, more satisfied with your remodeling experience and the end results.

Your first decision is to decide how do you want to approach the remodeling design process. In our world, that’s called “defining the scope of work” which includes:

  • Identifying a floor plan that meets your needs
  • Deciding how your building systems (plumbing, electrical, heating, cooling, insulation, etc) will be modified
  • Making all of the various material and product selections such as cabinetry, flooring, countertop surfaces, and finishing elements
  • Finally, communicating all of the above to the professionals who will be doing the work.


Floor plan for Urbandale master suite remodel by Silent Rivers

Silent Rivers Architect and Designer Teodora Shtinareva developed this construction drawing showing the full renovation plan for the master suite.


Step 2:  It All Starts with A Good Design

So why do you need a professional designer???

Most of our clients come to Silent Rivers with ideas on floor plans and the desired aesthetics of their remodeling project. And we always collaborate with them to help develop and finalize these ideas into a final design plan. Our experience tells us that 99% of homeowners will benefit from a professionally designed remodeling project. There are just too many requirements and interdependencies involved and a good, experienced designer will add great value and quality to the finished project.

3D rendering of Urbandale master suite bathroom designed by Silent Rivers

Silent Rivers’ computer rendering, showing design concepts for the finished master bathroom.

Make sure you look through portfolios of a designer’s finished projects as you are selecting professional design services.  And remember, it’s all about finding a good fit for your particular project.


What are your options for professional design services?

The Architect

Most remodeling projects require construction drawings (a.k.a. blueprints) for the purposes of defining a contract and procuring permits. If you hire a general contractor for construction, they may not provide design services. That’s a good example of when you may want to seek out a professionally trained architect. It’s best to work with an architect experienced in residential remodeling as he or she will be more sensitive to the special challenges that remodeling presents. Architects are licensed by state and have formal education and experience. They have overall knowledge of design; however, many architects do not accept smaller projects. They also typically do not manage the construction of a project.


The Designer

Another option is to hire a certified or licensed designer to have construction drawings prepared and to develop a palette of colors and materials that fit your vision. Although they may not have a degree in architecture, designers often specialize and have expertise in specific areas of the home such as kitchens, baths, interiors, landscaping, etc. Their training and expertise may come from industry-related educational programs and their years of working in residential remodeling. Like architects, designers typically do not manage the construction of a project.


The Design+Build Contractor

If you prefer to work with only one company for design and construction services, your best bet is to hire a design+build firm (like Silent Rivers). Design+build is a concept developed to benefit the homeowner by providing both quality design and construction services using the same company. A design+build contractor will be able to see your project through from start to finish, keeping design, engineering and budget in mind at all times. Some design+build firms have architects on staff, others use certified designers. Silent Rivers has both on staff.


Cabinet, flooring, tile and trim materials for Urbandale master suite remodel by Silent Rivers

Architect and Designer Teodora Shtinareva chose this palette of warm colors and materials to create an inviting and sophisticated space.


Step 3:  Building the Perfect Project

For construction services, your options include:

The General Contractor

General contractors are a good choice for your project if you have had your project designed by an architect or a designer and you now need someone to manage the construction of those designs.

Like the design+build contractor, a general contractor will often hire trade contractors (contractors with specific skill sets) to come in to handle the specific work if they require specialized expertise on the job. For example, general contractors will often hire trade contractors such as plumbers, electricians, roofers, drywallers, etc., all who all have specific expertise.

A general contractor will also manage the project schedule, the entire project budget and the quality control to ensure the work is done correctly. A general contractor is also responsible for ensuring that all trade contractors are properly licensed and insured and that the work being performed meets code and passes inspection. Again, be sure to deal with a professional. Even if your job is relatively small, its successful completion will be very important to you.


Trade Contractors

If you don’t like the idea of paying someone to manage all aspects of your project, you can choose to take this on. But you will need to hire contractors to come in do the actual work. The most common (and most reliable) way is to hire trade contractors. Trade contractors are professionals with expertise in specific areas who are licensed, insured, and can manage themselves and their team.

That said, you’ll still have to call each one, get estimates, manage a schedule, and make sure they have access to your property and provide them with all the information they need.

You will also be responsible for coordinating the entire project and communication. While a general contractor will keep a project moving along quickly, you might not, and making a do-it-yourself mistake like having to re-drywall a wall because you had your drywaller work before your plumber can be both frustrating and expensive!



Naturally, as a design+build firm, Silent Rivers believes strongly in this model as being the best for homeowners. We built our business on the design+build model 20 years ago as a way to work with our clients from the beginning to the end of the remodeling process. This holistic approach ensures homeowners continuity throughout the entire process.  The vast majority of our clients return to us again and again for their additional remodeling needs – a testament to the strong relationships we build during our design+build process.


Master bathroom tub and shower area architectural plan and final photos of Urbandale, Iowa traditional master suite remodel by Silent Rivers

A beautiful, relaxing master bathroom is ready for our homeowners!


Finding the right remodeling professional for you can make or break your remodeling experience. Understanding the different types of professionals (and what you can expect from each one) will give you confidence in knowing who will best deliver what you need and make you more satisfied with the remodeling experience.


For a look at the results of our design+build services, see our Project Gallery.

Read our complete series on the Master Suite Renovation shown in this article.


2016 National Remodeling Awards Bestowed on Silent Rivers’ Projects

2016 National Remodeling Awards Bestowed on Silent Rivers’ Projects


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