Are you about to embark on your first big remodeling project? If so how do you choose a reputable contractor that is the perfect fit for you?
If you’re a fan of HGTV (who isn’t?), then you’ve probably seen the show Holmes Makes it Right, where host Mike Holmes rescues homeowners who were the victims of home renovations gone wrong. So how do you select a contractor that will do a great job, and not leave you as a candidate for Mike’s show?
I’ve been in the design and construction industry for over 30 years, and let me tell you I’ve seen it all when it comes to working with contractors – the good, the bad and the downright ugly. Don’t get me wrong there are some REALLY GREAT contractors out there, but there are some bad ones too. In this blog post I’d like to share with you the 10 Things You Must Do When Choosing a Contractor.
I created the list from all my years of working in this industry and if it will spare you some pain, while making you a more educated consumer then I’ll be one happy camper. Read on . . .
- Get Recommendations – The best place to start is with friends and family who have done a remodeling project like yours. Other places to look for reputable contractors are ones who are members of the National Association Of Remodeling Industry. You can also ask your local Building Inspector, or if you know of someone who is a member of BNI (Business Networking International) ask them who the contractors are in their local chapter.
- Do Phone Interviews First – Weed out contractors on the phone first before you set up a face to face meeting. Ask them the following questions:
- Tell them about your project and ask have they done jobs of a similar nature?
- Do they use subcontractors and if so how long they have had this relationship?
- How many projects do they schedule at one time?
- Ask what is their typical work day routine like on a project?
- When is their next availability to start a project of this size?
There will be plenty more questions to ask during the face to face meeting, but these questions should help you weed down the pack to 3 or 4 contractors.
- Meet Face to Face – During this meeting you will ask more questions, and it’s also the time to see if you are a good fit with this contractor. Remember, they will be in your home for quite some time – are they a good listener, do they communicate well, do you feel comfortable with them?
- Ask About Their Business History – How long have they been in business under this name? This will allow you to check with the State Attorney General or Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints or legal action were filed against the contractor. Are they a sole proprietor or a corporation? A contractor who works out of the back of their truck is going to have a very different business structure than a contractor who has a physical office location with employees.
- Are They Licensed in Your State? Check out this list from National Contractor License Service to see if a license is required in your state. Ask that they provide proof of their license.
- Do They Carry Insurance? Do they carry liability, property damage and workman’s compensation insurance? Ask that they provide proof of this coverage.
- Ask for Client References – Any contractor who is reputable and has been in business for some time should be able to provide you with many client references. Call as many of these references as possible to ask about their experience working with this contractor. Ask if they are willing to allow you to view the finished product.
- How Will the Job Be Supervised? Ask who will be the lead go to person for your project. It might not be the company owner as they may assign a project manager or lead carpenter to be in charge of your project. Also ask how subcontractors will be supervised when the lead isn’t on site.
- Ask for a Project Timeline – Your contractor should provide you with a realistic timeline on when the job will start, how it will progress and when it will tentatively be completed. Of course this is subject to change if materials are delayed or changes are made, but you should know ahead of time how the work process will flow.
- Get a Written Contract with a Clearly Defined Payment Schedule – Do not agree on anything verbally. A well written contract, at the minimum, should clearly spell out the following:
- A Scope of Work on what is to be done
- The materials that will be used and who will be providing those materials
- Who will be pulling the permits and how debris removal is handled
- A must have inclusion is that the contractor will obtain lien releases from all subcontractors and vendors in case the contractor does not pay his/her bills.
- How change order requests are handled
- How disputes are handled
- A clearly defined payment schedule – tied to deliverables – should be outlined.
Now that you have all this info it’s time to do your homework by following up and investigating the facts. Once you’ve narrowed the playing field down, how do you decide on one contractor? One of the best pieces of advice I can give you is – Don’t Let Price be Your Guide – the lowest bidder isn’t always the best. And finally if all things are equal, who do you feel will be the best fit for your project? What does your instinct tell you? I’m a firm believer in listening to my gut and my heart . . . they’ve never steered me wrong.
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