Regardless of how skilled you are as a do-it-yourselfer, there are some home improvement projects that will require a professional contractor to complete. Whether it’s a bathroom remodel, room addition, or a complete renovation, it’s important to recognize when you’re in over your head before you make things worse. There’s nothing wrong with admitting you need help. Here we’ll discuss how to hire a contractor that will deliver quality results and not leave you high and dry.
Hiring a contractor is a big decision. Although there are many qualified professional contractors out there that will do a great job, there are just as many dishonest ones that will take your money and never finish the job. It’s important to conduct your selection process professionally and not be afraid to ask a lot of questions. Never hire the first person, or even the second, that you speak with. Use this contractor checklist to weed through.
Hiring a contractor – The selection process
Anyone can buy advertising space in the Yellow Pages, so don’t use this as your sole selection process. Word of mouth is the best reference, especially when it comes from people you know, so ask friends and family if they have had a positive (or negative) experience with a contractor. Once you have a jumping point, use the data you have to research more information online.
– Search for advertisements to ensure that a contractor registration number is provided. By law, this number must be included on any advertisement, including business cards.
– Verify that there have been no complaints submitted to the Better Business Bureau for each of the contractors you are considering. Go to www.bbb.org . for more information.
– Conduct a basic search using the contractor’s name and see what pops up. An extremely unhappy customer will sometimes post information on forums, chat rooms, or even set up a blog to let others know about their negative experience.
Hiring a contractor – The initial interview
A qualified contractor will not charge to come to your house and discuss the work you want completed. During the initial interview he should discuss the scope of the work, the estimated time it will take to finish, and a ballpark price. Keep in mind, though, that this is merely an estimated cost and isn’t a precise bid. Keep notes during this time so that you can have a clear memory of what was said with each contractor you speak with.
It is not uncommon to request several references when hiring a contractor, so do not hesitate to do so. Follow up on these references! If possible, find out if there is anyway you can inspect a finished project through a reference. Contractors complete commercial projects as well as residential, so there should be some work at a local business that you can see firsthand.
Any reliable contractor must carry insurance and willingly provide a certificate of proof. This insurance should cover liability, damage and worker’s compensation. If a contractor doesn’t carry this coverage, YOU will be held liable if a worker is injured on your property. It is perfectly acceptable to request a copy of their insurance certificate during your first meeting.
Your gut feeling will tell you a lot during this initial interview. Are you comfortable with this person and their knowledge of what needs to be done? Did you feel that your questions were skirted around or avoided altogether? Were all your concerns addressed?
Hiring a contractor – Receiving bids
A written bid will be given to you by the contractor. Anyone that does not supply a written bid should not be considered for hire. Each bid should include:
– An itemized list of materials needed
– An itemized list of installation cost
– Time needed to complete the job
– Total cost – Including a breakdown of the contractor’s fee
– Any warranty information
– Change order rate – This occurs when the customer makes changes to the original work order
Hiring a contractor – Making the final decision
Compare all the information included in the bids, not just price. If one contractor is underbidding by a $ 1,000 or more, but is projecting the project to take an extended amount of time, this may be an indication that they are ‘Ëœfitting you in’ between larger projects. Ultimately, you want to work with someone that will be devoting his time to you until the work is completed. Take all information you’ve compiled into consideration before you hire a contractor, including that gut feeling you had during the initial interview.
More from Jennifer Wagner:
Home Improvement Project Considerations
10 Home Remodeling Projects that Pay Off
Should You Turn an Attic into a Living Space?
Personal knowledge and experience
Jennifer Wagner – Yahoo! Contributor Network