How to Choose a Contractor

You need some work done on your home, but maybe you’ve never hired someone before or you’ve moved to a new area and need to find a contractor. Choosing someone to take on your project can be a little overwhelming.

The last thing you need on top of a home renovation is a problem with your contractor. After all, you’ve hired someone to do the work to make your renovation easier, not more stressful! A few simple guidelines will ensure that you find the right contractor to make your project a reality with as little stress as possible.

Creating a List

A quick Google search will probably list many contractors, quite a few more than you want to call and get bids from. So before you start calling, ask friends and family who have done similar renovations for their suggestions. If your friends and family can’t help, ask a trusted Realtor, an insurance company, or the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (which can give you a list of its members in your area) for suggestions.

Once you’ve got some recommendations, check Google and social media sites for reviews. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau in your area to see if anyone on your list has unresolved customer complaints. Also, websites of local newspapers and TV and radio stations may have consumer advocacy reports about the contractors you’re interested in.

Make sure your potential contractors are licensed. Contractors who say they can’t get permits for a job have probably either had their licenses revoked or have not obtained licenses in your area. You can also ask contractors about certifications they have earned or professional associations they are a part of, but remember that all certifications are not created equal. All contractors should have liability insurance and workman’s compensation for all employees (ask for proof). Additionally, make sure that the contractors on your list have established addresses and phone numbers, preferably local ones. You want to be able to get in touch with someone if you have a problem.

Getting Bids and Interviewing

Make a list of your job’s details so you can be sure you describe your project the same way for each bid. Additionally, ask for references for recently completed jobs that are similar to yours. Call those references and ask if the contractor was on time and on budget. It may be possible for the contractor to arrange for you to see previous work, as well. Do not consider contractors who cannot give any references.

Remember, bids should come in writing after a contractor has done a careful inspection of your home and has talked thoroughly with you about what you want done. Someone who can give you an instant bid over the phone should raise your suspicion. If you don’t know what your bid is based on, you cannot negotiate a better deal or compare bids. Any mention of a “huge discount,” especially one that has a time limit for acceptance, is a red flag. Another red flag is a contractor who requires full payment upfront; you should pay a only percentage before work is complete.

Remember, the single most important thing to keep in mind when hiring a contractor is that you need to be able to communicate and be comfortable with the person you hire. Additionally, watch how the person you hire interacts with others, particularly with any subcontractors that may be a part of your project.

Contracts

Make sure that you get a contract and read it thoroughly. Getting a good contract is the best thing you can do to ensure a successful renovation. Ask questions about anything in the contract that you don’t understand, and don’t be shy about asking for changes. A contract should include:

  • Price (with breakdown for materials, labor, and profit margin)
  • Payment schedule
  • Start/end dates
  • Specifics about scope of the work
  • List of specific materials to be used
  • Changes clause
  • Dispute resolution clause
  • Closeout procedures, including cleanup
  • Warranty information
  • A waiver of lien (protects you if your contractor doesn’t pay suppliers)