It makes sense that the best way to find competent contractors is to ask friends, family members, and neighbors about contractors they’ve had a good experience with. Some other sources for good recommendations are the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and if you happen to know one, a building inspector may also share with you the names of some contractors who consistently produce work that is up to code.
Speak With Potential Contractors
Once you’ve put together a list of potential contractors, pick up the phone and give them a call to conduct an informal interview.
Below are some questions you may want to consider asking:
- Are they insured and bonded? Can they provide you with a certificate of insurance if hired?
- Do they do projects like yours? Are they experienced in such projects?
- How many projects are they currently working on?
- Will they use sub-contractors? How long have they been working with them?
- Can they provide you with a list of client references?
Meet the Contractors
After you conduct your phone interviews you’ll want to choose the best three prospects and invite them over to bid on your project. As a homeowner it’s in your best interest to get as educated about your project as possible. The more educated you are about how your project should be done (you can accomplish by reading “how to” information online or in magazines at home improvement stores), the better able you’ll be to decipher a good and experienced contractor from a professional salesman.
It’s also important to find a contractor you get along well with and feel like you can develop a good working relationship with. While it shouldn’t be the only deciding factor, it should factor into your decision-making process since the contractor will be spending several hours if not days in your home.
Do Your Homework
After you’ve spoken in person to all of the potential contractors, begin to do your homework on their credentials. If they’ve provided you with references, you should call all of the references and if possible ask about stopping by to inspect the contractor’s work. You should also see if any of your potential contractors will help you arrange meetings with any of their past clients so you can gauge the quality of their work. You may also want to ask if your potential contractors are working on any projects currently and ask about stopping by to check out the work site.
And since most contractors won’t share with you any bad references, you should consider doing some of your own independent research. My favorite place for research is the internet, particularly search engines. Simply doing a search for your potential contractors and including words like “review” or “complaint” or “feedback” will yield several results with feedback and comments from previous clients which can be extremely helpful. Another option is to contact your local licensing body and ask if any complaints have been filed for your prospective contractors. You can also check for complaints at the Better Business Bureau.
When asking potential contractors for bids, you’ll want to ask them all to categorize them in a similar manner to make the bids easier to compare for you. Have the contractors break down the bids so at-a-glance you can see the cost of materials, the cost of labor and other expenses. Make sure the contractors list any warranties on workmanship or materials in the bid because those should be a factor as well.
When making a decision on which contractor to hire, it’s almost always a bad idea to go with any lowball bids. Lowball bids are usually indicators of a contractor who is struggling financially or is cutting corners somewhere on your project. Make sure to choose a contractor you feel comfortable with and have an easy time communicating with.
Draw Up a Contract
Before beginning any work on your home, make sure you have a signed contract which details every aspect of your project down to the date you expect the project to begin and end.
Below are some other things you should consider adding to your contract:
- The materials you plan on using
- Certificates of insurance from your contractor
- Lien releases from sub-contractors and suppliers
- A payment schedule
- A detailed list of all the work to be done
Drafting a contract serves to protect both you and the contractor. When drafting a contract make sure you include all the work you plan on having done. This is also a good time for you to check and make sure you’ve detailed all of the work you want to be done. Any changes to a contractor work plans or your contract will result in additional costs so that’s definitely something you want to stay away from!