Essentials Tips for Hiring a Contractor

Know What to Look for and Ask the Right Questions

couple looking for contractor for their home
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Remodeling and home improvement projects are investments. Who you hire makes all the difference in how well the job turns out and what your experience throughout construction will be like. It can be stressful looking for someone who is reliable and communicates well. Don’t give up and settle for the first pop-up ad that comes your way. These tips to hiring a contractor can help you find the right person for the job.

Take a deep breath, start with tip number one and, before you know it, you’ll be negotiating bids with confidence.

Have a Plan

Before you make a phone call, figure out what you want and what kind of contractor can make it happen. You don’t want to waste time looking for specialty contractors when your project calls for an architect. The more specific you can be, the better answers you’ll get out of your research. How big is your project and what is your desired time frame? Perhaps most important, what is your budget?

Use Word-of-Mouth

Reach out to people you know or that are in your area who have had similar work done. Find out who they worked with and what their experiences with them were like. Would they recommend the company they hired? These people likely did a lot of their own research before deciding and will have useful information about companies’ reliability and reputations.

Ask Important Questions

Now that you have friends’ suggestions and you've done your own research, it’s time to start making calls.

We suggest having a list of 10 to 12 companies to contact. The following questions, along with an assessment of the contractor’s demeanor and communication style, will help you narrow down your top options:

  1. Do they have experience in the work you need done and how much?
  2. How long have they been in business?
  1. Do they have insurance?
  2. Are they licensed according to the laws of your state?
  3. When could they start?
  4. Where do they get their materials?
  5. Can they give you a list of references?

After these calls and follow-up research, you should be able to cut your list down to five or less people. Schedule a time to meet them in-person. Meeting in-person is a better way to establish a positive, communicative working relationship. During the visit, continue with the next set of questions.

  1. Can you visit a current job site to see how they work?
  2. What permits do you need for the job-at-hand?
  3. How much of the work will be done by subcontractors?
  4. Do they have a good relationship with their subcontractors?
  5. Can they give you an itemized bid?
  6. Is their bid an estimate or a fixed price? (You’ll want a fixed price before the job starts.)
  7. What will the payment schedule be?

Get a Detailed Bid, Contract and Payment Plan

Your final bid and contract will be extremely important to your project. This is how you ensure that you are getting what you pay for and that nothing is left out.

The itemized bid should lay out how much of the cost is going to factors, like materials, labor and equipment. It is recommended that you aim for a bid that is at least 10% to 15% below your available budget.

This way you can afford to handle any snags in the plan along the way.

The contract should include absolutely everything that you want done. It should also include a time frame and schedule, the company contact and insurance information, the names of every laborer who will be involved, all materials to be used and the agreed-upon payment plan. It should also state that the contractor is responsible for acquiring permits.

The payment schedule must be decided up-front. Typically, the schedule begins with a payment of 10% with periodic payments of 25% throughout the job. Once all work is complete, you pay the remainder. You shouldn’t be expected to pay 50% to start and 50% to finish.

All-together, this process can seem daunting. However, the time you spend searching and the detail you put into your contract will be reflected in the final product.

It would be a headache to work with someone you can’t rely on. You could find yourself with an unfinished remodel or a maxed-out budget. Allow yourself the time to do your research and ask the necessary questions.