When it comes to choosing a contractor, you can never be too careful. Not only will this selected professional be entrusted with the very integrity of your home, but they will also become a roommate of sorts–a constant presence in your house until the work is completed.
Thankfully, by keeping a few important deciding factors in mind, you can ensure that the contractor who will be playing a leading role in your home life for the next several months is right the right one for the job.
Make a Wish List
Before calling a contractor, it is important that you pre-determine exactly what you are looking for and how much you are willing to spend. “Keys to a Good Home Improvement Contractor Relationship” recommends that you figure out what materials you prefer and, perhaps, pick out the major items such as appliances and light fixtures beforehand. If you are unable to put your vision into words, you may wish to consult with a design professional.
Get It In Writing
Never enter into an agreement with a contractor without having a written contract. This will protect both parties from ambiguity and misunderstandings while ensuring that promises are kept on both sides. The Federal Trade Commission offers a comprehensive list of what should be stipulated in the contract, some of which includes the estimated start and completion date, the payment schedule, the contractor’s obligation to get permits, a detailed description of all products to be purchased, where the responsibility for clean-up lies, and, of course, the contractor’s name, address, phone number and license number. If any changes are made and agreed upon, these should also be put in writing.
The best way to determine whether or not your contractor’s estimate is in the correct “ballpark” is to secure multiple bids. Better Homes & Gardens recommends getting about a half a dozen in order to get a good idea about the caliber of work that each contractor will provide. Remember, the one that undercuts everyone else on price, may also provide the lowest quality materials and craftsmanship.
Conduct Thorough Research
The whole point of hiring a contractor in the first place is because you want to improve your home. Unfortunately, hiring the wrong one can lead to costly mistakes that can threaten your home’s integrity. That’s why it is imperative that you conduct thorough research before deciding which contractor is best for the job. 17 Contractor Hiring Tips offers some more ideas of what you should check into before signing on the dotted line.
Ask your friends and relatives for the names of contractors with which they have had a good experience. Check out sites that rate contractors such as Angie’s List. Also, be sure to ask the contractor for references and examples of past projects that are similar to the one you need to be done.
- Insurance. Ask the contractor to provide you with proof of personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage insurance.
- Licence. While licensing requirements vary from state to state, it is important that you ensure that your contractor holds the necessary licences and qualifications for your area.
- Permits. You will also need to contact your local municipality to find out what permits are needed for the work that you will be having done. By, subsequently, asking the contractor what permits you will need, you will get a good idea about how aboveboard the individual operates.
- Disputes. This is a very important step. Before signing any dotted lines and handing over a single penny, be sure to find out if your prospective contractor has any complaints filed against them. “How to Hire a Contractor Without Getting Hosed” recommends contacting the Better Business Bureau, the Department of Consumer Affairs, and your local Chamber of Commerce.
Remember, when it comes to selecting a contractor, you need to look beyond the pleasant face and professional appearance. By doing your homework before making any formal commitments, you could save yourself a whole lot of money and grief.
What precautionary steps do you take before hiring a contractor?