Industry News

How to Hire a Good Contractor

Home renovation projects are a major investment. Before you sink a lot of money into home improvements, make sure you are hiring the right contractor for the job. Interview several contractors and ask questions to be clear about what your project entails, the anticipated cost, and how long it is going to take. Try to avoid unpleasant surprises down the line.

Written Estimates
Get written estimates from no less than three contractors. If they won’t put an estimate in writing with a detailed breakdown of expenses for labor and materials, find another contractor. If a bid is significantly less than average, it could be a red flag. They are either underestimating their time or using cheap materials. Ask questions and make sure each contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured. If an accident occurs or there is a problem with results, you’ll want to be protected.

A written estimate should be detailed and specific. Look for:
  • Complete name, address, and all contact information for the contractor
  • A summary of every element of the renovation. For instance, “renovate room” is not clear. “Adding soundproof walls and flooring to existing 18 X 16 room, upgrade existing windows to double-hung as specified in materials, etc,” is
  • A list of materials required to do the job, and which material costs are included in the bid
  • Breakout of each phase with hours estimated for each (framing, electrical, drywall, etc.)
  • How debris removal and cleanup will be handled
  • If not all elements are included in the bid (such as fixtures you will select yourself), reference to these exclusions
  • How much of a down payment will be needed
  • Fee schedule as work progresses
Getting and Checking References
References are essential. Follow up with any references and ask if they are happy with the work done. Most people who have had major renovations are more than happy to talk about the project.

Remember to ask each contractor who will be doing the actual work. Some contractors have their own work crews while others subcontract jobs that are highly specialized such as installing noise proof walls, swimming pools, or granite countertops. If they will be subcontracting part of the job, ask how long they have been working with their subcontractors and get references for them.

A Picture is Worth a Thousand Words
Some contractors will have a photo album you can flip through with close-up shots and pictures showing the progress of a job. This is a great way to learn more about how they work on a daily basis. Do they keep the construction site well organized? Are they wearing proper safety gear? Are they respectful of the homeowners’ property? Pictures of the finished product will tell you if the contractor pays attention to detail or does shoddy work.

Other Due Diligence Issues
Check with the Better Business Bureau online to see if any complaints have been filed against a contractor, then take it a step farther and check for lawsuits as well. Some unhappy customers go directly to Civil Court and file a claim for damages, so do a Google search for the contractor’s name to see if there have been any suits filed against them. If you find lawsuits or numerous complaints, using the contractor in question is not a good idea – it is just not worth the risk.

You should also ask each contractor about the time frame for your project. Will the company be working full time on your renovation, or will they be working on several jobs simultaneously? If the latter, you could be looking at stretches of time when nothing is done on your property. If the contractor will be assigning a work crew, be sure you know the actual contact person in charge of your project will be. The foreman? A project manager? Whom should you call with a problem?

Moreover, make sure special installations like noiseproof music or media rooms will be installed by experts. Contractors should use specialized subcontractors or have their own people trained and licensed in these areas.

Last but not least, consider personalities. Contractors will be working closely with you for several weeks, possibly months. If your personalities don’t mesh, you may find yourself frustrated. There will be times when you have to address issues, and personality conflicts can make things more difficult. Find a good fit.

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Nora DePalma
Building Profits PR for Supress Products

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