8 Tips for Hiring a Contractor

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Sometimes it makes sense to hire a professional contractor rather than take on a job yourself. But choosing the wrong contractor can lead to delays, subpar work, and even legal problems. This guide will help you choose a contractor and ensure a good working relationship.

A contractor could be in your home and around your family for days, weeks, or even months while changing the way your house looks and functions. So if you don’t like a contractor for any reason, don’t hire him or her, says Tony LaPelusa, past president of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI).
“The biggest thing is choosing the right contractor,” he explains. “If somebody says something that’s even an embellishment, it’s enough of a reason not to trust him and move on to the next contractor. You have to trust the contractor 100 percent, not 95 percent.”

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1. Make Sure the Contractor is Licensed, Bonded, and Insured

Having a license and insurance demonstrates a contractor’s credibility and knowledge. The license shows that contractors have taken an exam and proved they know building codes and processes. A license minimizes the risk to homeowners of getting ripped off. To be sure, get the contractor’s license number or look up general contractors registration.
If a contractor doesn’t have insurance and a worker gets hurt on your project, you could be liable. The same goes with accidents that damage your next-door neighbor’s home. If you have scaffolding that fell and damaged the property next door, you want the contractor’s liability to cover the cost of that damage.

Get proof of insurance.

2. Pick a contractor who specializes in your project type

It’s important to research contractors to know if they have experience in a type of project. Today, so many projects are regulated and code-specific that you want someone who knows the details of what’s required.
The professionals often take classes and research the kinds of projects they undertake, so they’re experts in their fields. This enables them to address potential problems and perform the work correctly. A good Remodeler knows how to anticipate the nuances of the work.
If you’re asking several contractors for a bid, make sure each one is using the same set of plans and specifications, the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) advises on its website:

“You can’t effectively compare estimates from contractors who plan to use different brands of building materials.”

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3. Have a Detailed Contract in Place Before any Work Begins

The contract should cover costs, brands of items being installed, approximate start and finish dates, and the complete set of drawings being used with written specifications. There’s never too much detail in a contract. If a specific brand for a part hasn’t been agreed upon yet, the contract can include allowances instead, such as “up to $500 for a front door.”
A lot of homeowners talk to multiple contractors to get bids on the job, and then they can’t remember who told them what. The contract spells out everything. A contract is really an expectation setting, right down to what color the hinges are. It’s all about expectations. If we agree on everything upfront, then there are no surprises.

4. Find out Who’s Performing the Work

Will the person you’re hiring do the work himself, or will it be subcontracted to someone else? It’s nice to know who will be showing up on your doorstep, and large jobs like additions and major kitchen remodels often involve multiple subcontractors, such as electricians and plumbers. General contractors often subcontract specialty jobs, like roofing or vinyl siding, to other pros.
Having subcontractors is sometimes a good thing. They have a more thorough knowledge of their part of the job. It all goes back to hiring a contractor you can trust because he’s never going to put a bad subcontractor on your job.

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5. Give the Contractor Guidelines for Working In or Around Your Home

If you don’t want the workers showing up before a certain time, staying past a certain hour, using your bathroom, or you need to have the project finished by a specific date, tell the contractor before you hire him. The contractor may not want or be able to accept the job based on your parameters.
The contractor has to know what your limits are and what your expectations are. If people don’t want you starting until 9:30 and want you out by 4, that project—instead of taking 30 days—might take 45. That means it might cost additional money.

6. Know Your Responsibilities

You may have to move everything out of a room so it can be painted or remove a fence so a concrete truck can be driven into your backyard.
SemBro Designs, for instance, doesn’t move items out of a room because they don’t want to be responsible for broken TVs or stereos. Because we recommend a furniture mover, we hold a pre-construction meeting with homeowners to discuss their roles. We set all of those expectations in writing. It may be that you need to take everything off those six walls and move the furniture out of the room.
The biggest fear, to be honest, could be losing someone’s dog or cat. It’s good to know upfront where you’re putting the cat or dog.

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7. Look at Work Samples

This lets you see a contractor’s handiwork and may spark ideas for your project. Samples are more important than references. They allow you to see the quality of our work. You can see the designs we came up with and how creative we are.
Looking at a contractor’s past projects also lets you see the variety of work the company has performed, such as contemporary, Craftsman, or historic designs.

8. Think Local

Area contractors who have been in business for a long time are usually reliable and safe bets for projects. If they didn’t do good work in your community, they wouldn’t still be around. You should look for an established business location with a show room on site. You could check the Better Business Bureau for any unpleasant complaints, how long they have been accredited with the BBB and what rating they hold. Shopping locally is the best approach. The company is involved in the community, the workers are probably local, and if you have a problem later, a local contractor is going to be on top of it.


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How to Hire a Remodeling Contractor

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Are you looking for Home Remodeling Contractors in Residential Construction? Your best bet is to narrow down to exactly what you are looking to remodel in your home. You should look specifically for Kitchen Remodeling Contractors or Bathroom Remodeling Contractors and not for just a handyman. Here are some tips when selecting an working with a qualified professional contractor.

Get Recommendations

Start with your friends and family and then check in with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry for a list of members in your area. You can also talk with a building inspector, who’ll know which contractors routinely meet code requirements, or pay a visit to your local lumberyard, which sees contractors regularly and knows which ones buy quality materials and pay their bills on time.

Do Phone Interviews

Once you’ve assembled a list, it is recommended that you make a quick call to each of your prospects and ask them the following questions:
• Do they take on projects of your size?
• Are they willing to provide financial references, from suppliers or banks?
• Can they give you a list of previous clients?
• How many other projects would they have going at the same time?
• How long have they worked with their subcontractors?
The answers to these questions will reveal the company’s availability, reliability, how much attention they’ll be able to give your project and how smoothly the work will go.

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Meet Face to Face

Based on the phone interviews, pick three or four contractors to meet for estimates and further discussion. A contractor should be able to answer your questions satisfactorily and in a manner that puts you at ease. It’s crucial that you two communicate well because this person will be in your home for hours at a time. On the other hand, don’t let personality fool you. Check in with your state’s consumer protection agency and your local Better Business Bureau to make sure contractors don’t have a history of disputes with clients or subcontractors.

Investigate the Facts

Now that you’ve narrowed your list, put your research to use. Call up former clients to find how their project went and ask to see the finished product. But you shouldn’t rely on results alone. Even more important, visit a current job site and see for yourself how the contractor works. Is the job site neat and safe? Are workers courteous and careful with the homeowner’s property?

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Don’t Let Price Be Your Guide

Throw out the lowball bid. This contractor is probably cutting corners or, worse, desperate for work—hardly an encouraging sign in a healthy economy. Beyond technical competence, comfort should play an equal or greater role in your decision. The single most important factor in choosing a contractor is how well you and he communicate. All things being equal, it’s better to spend more and get someone you’re comfortable with.


Put it in Writing

Draw up a contract that details every step of the project: payment schedule; proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation payments; a start date and projected completion date; specific materials and products to be used; and a requirement that the contractor obtain lien releases (which protect you if he doesn’t pay his bills) from all subcontractors and suppliers. Insisting on a clear contract isn’t about mistrust, it’s about insuring a successful renovation.

Finally, remember that as soon as a change is made or a problem uncovered, the price just increased and the project just got longer. When this happens be sure to get an amendment to the contracted price and scope of work.

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Tell us your stories and share any tips on choosing a Great Remodeling Contractor in the comments below.

As always please share on your favorite social media with your friends, so they are not left cold in the dark when they have to choose a Remodeling Contractor.