Hiring a professional is perhaps one of the most difficult elements of your home improvement or renovation project. To help the selection process proceed as smoothly as possible, consider the following expert tips for hiring a contractor.
Planning a Project
At the basis of every project plan, there should be realistic expectations regarding the scope and costs of the work. Building a second floor over a bungalow is certain to take significantly more time than repainting an existing interior, and every cost quote should include an additional 10-20% for any unexpected circumstances.
It is also important to consider the daily disturbances and debris that the project might create for you and your neighbors. Not only should you be prepared the navigate a temporarily altered lifestyle but your neighbors will greatly appreciate the prior warning.
Finally, have a designer and a renovator create detailed plans of the upcoming project in order to provide a visual indication of what the work entails. Now you are ready to select a contractor for the job.
Selecting a Contractor
To select the most qualified, reliable contractor for your project, utilize as many resources as possible. Ask friends and family for references, see information on the contractor on reputable websites like the Better Business Bureau and Angie’s List, read reviews left by previous customers, and determine if any formal complaints have been filed against them.
To narrow down your list to the most qualified candidates, ask each contractor for their history, experience with similar projects, licensing and insurance, and any other information they have about their work. Once you are satisfied with your research, obtain quotes from 3 different contractors that you are most comfortable with.
To ensure that each contractor’s estimate is evaluated fairly, provide each candidate with a copy of the detailed project plan. Next, request that each contractor provides an itemized list of materials to be used, who is responsible for obtaining permits and licenses, work start and end dates, down payment amount (if any), and post-completion cleanup scheduling.
When assessing the bids, be wary of contractors who,
- Accept cash payments,
- Request full payment up front,
- Request large deposits for materials,
- Offer discounts for immediate hiring,
- Cannot assist with permit acquisition, and/or
- Have no brick-and-mortar location and real phone number.
Please note that the lowest estimate is not always best. The best estimate is one that uses the highest quality materials and is most cost-efficient overall.
Obtaining a Written Contract
A written contract is one of the most important requirements of starting a home improvement project. A contract is a legal document that is binding for all parties who sign it, and hence it should be discussed in detail and the agreed-upon terms should be set in writing.
Contrary to popular opinion, there is no such thing as a standard contract: each contract is unique to the project that it represents. Every space should be filled in, including “N/A” for any non-applicable elements. Should any unexpected changes occur once when the project begins, they should be reflected via changes to the contract.
Dealing with Problems
Be it poor workmanship, delays or even simple misunderstandings, problems can and do occur. The first method of conflict resolution you should always attempt is to speak with the contractor directly. If the problem persists, escalate it to a knowledgeable third party, such as a lawyer. You may also request to cancel the project or even report the contractor to the Better Business Bureau and the government agency from which they have obtained their license.
To avoid problems at the outset, select a reliable contractor very carefully and ensure that you will have good communication throughout the project. This means asking as many questions as necessary, developing a clear schedule and budget, and creating a detailed contract.
Payment and Holdbacks
In some cases, a project may require a 10-20% down payment due to the scope of the work. Large projects often require several interim payments; however, payment should always be made for the work completed and not the full project amount. This way, you protect your property against liens that may be imposed on it by a supplier in case of a contractor’s lack of payment.
Needless to say, it is always safer to pay with a check, as it provides you with a record of the transaction should a problem occur. If upfront payment is requested for any special-order materials or fixtures, the check should be made payable to the supplier rather than the contractor.
Do you need professional assistance with an upcoming project? We welcome you to evaluate The Handyman Company using our own tips for hiring a contractor, and we are sure to come out on top. Call 800-931-1106 today for a free, detailed consultation and estimate!