Choosing a contractor to handle a home repair or renovation project is a major decision. Home renovations are major projects; the sort of thing homeowners often spend a while saving up enough money to be able to afford. The last thing you want to do is make the mistake of hiring someone who won’t do the job right.
Home renovations can be stressful even in the best of circumstances and hiring the wrong contractor can only make things worse. Here are a few helpful hints to help you find a good home contractor and hopefully avoid some headaches and frustration.
Do Your Research
You can always check online to see if there are any reviews for a contractor, but one of the best ways to find a good contractor is by asking your friends, family, neighbors, or coworkers for recommendations. If they’ve had a similar project done at their home in the past, they’ll probably be happy to give you the name of the person they hired. Better yet, they might be able to show you the work that person did so you’ll be able to examine their work up close.
Depending on the experience your friends have had with their contractors, they might also be able to recommend people to avoid, which can be just as valuable to know as it is to know who the good contractors are.
When you’re interviewing potential contractors, don’t be afraid to ask questions. Ask about things like how many similar jobs they’ve handled in the past year, if they’re licensed and insured, how long they’ve been in business, if they can provide references, how many other projects they have going on right now, if they use subcontractors, and if a job requires a permit. No reputable contractor will be bothered by answering these sorts of questions.
It’s particularly important to know if a contractor is licensed and and insured. Contractors should carry insurance coverage for personal liability, property damage, and worker’s compensation. If a contractor doesn’t have insurance and something goes wrong with the job, such as a subcontractor is injured on the job or your property or a neighbor’s property is damaged, you could be on the hook for the damage. If you want to verify that a contractor is currently licensed, contact your local consumer protection agency or building department.
If a contractor works with subcontractors, be sure to ask if they’re also licensed and how long the contractor has worked with them.
Be Clear About Your Needs
Are there any particular constraints that come along with your job? Do you absolutely need a project completed by a certain date? Do you only want contractors to work during certain hours? If so, make sure you make this clear to a contractor before hiring them. Details like these could make a big difference in whether or not a contractor is a good match for you. A contractor might have other jobs to finish before starting yours, which would be a problem if you need a project completed right away. Only being able to have a contractor work during certain hours might not be a big issue if you’re dealing with a small project, but it could mean a larger project could take longer to complete.
Be Skeptical of Low Estimates
There are lots of times in life where you can go with a less expensive option and everything will be fine. Trying to find a contractor is not one of those times. If you ask for several estimates and you get one that is considerably lower than the others, there might be a very good reason for that. A person charging an exceptionally low amount for a job could be inexperienced, unlicensed, lack proper insurance, use subpar materials, or cut corners in some other way. It’s easy to get excited about a low price, but in many cases, going with the lowest bidder for a home improvement job can end up costing a lot more in the long run.
Find Out What You’ll Have to Do
Before a contractor starts to work on your home, there might be some things you’ll have to do first. For example, many contractors will not move furniture or other items out of a room because they don’t want to be liable if something is damaged. You may also have to make sure your pet is kept in an area where it will be safe and out of the way. Asking about these things ahead of time will help ensure your job gets off to a smooth start.
Get it in Writing
Once you’ve found a contractor you like and want to hire, make sure you have a written contract. The FTC has a great list of things any good contract should have when working with a contractor. So many business arrangements run into problems because there’s confusion about what’s expected of them and a clear contract prevents that from happening. Even if you hire a contractor who happens to be someone you know, you still need a contract.