The Do’s and Don’ts of Hiring A Home Contractor
You have decided to take the plunge and finally remodel your home’s interior to match your mind’s eye. The dreaming, the planning, and the picking out of paint colors have all been completed, but now you need someone to help you accomplish your project. Selecting a home contractor can be overwhelming, so where do you start? What do you need to look for? Better yet, which aspects do you want to avoid? To get you started, we have compiled some do’s and don’ts for hiring a home contractor.
THE STARTING POINT
A great place to begin is with friends and family who have been pleased with a smooth process and a completed project by a contractor. Ask questions about whether or not the contractor stayed within their estimated bid, how they handled changes, and how well their work was timed. If this route stops at a dead end, then start with local building suppliers who have established relationships with contractors. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry also has a website, NARI.org, where you can search for a professional based on your specific needs and location. Don’t settle for someone who refuses to give out references or prove past job experience.
HIRING A PROFESSIONAL
When we say professional, we mean someone with plenty of experience and all the legitimate documentation that comes with it. Your contractor should be insured for the job and have a license specific to your locality. Different states and counties have different laws. Red flags for this portion include a license number that doesn’t check out when you call your state office, an estimate with no license number listed, or someone who wants you to be the one to pull any necessary construction permits (needed for the really big jobs) because this means that you are the one held liable if the job goes awry. The same state or county office that vouches for the contracting license will also have a record of any complaints. For companies, the Better Business Bureau is also a good reference guide for reviews.
MATTERS OF MONEY
Money is not something to be trifled with, especially for the really big projects. For starters, get a written estimate from the contracting company or individual. Make sure this is a fixed estimate, and ask for the person to itemize the charges. If they refuse to itemize and only offer a blanket sum, don’t do the deal. This could be trouble down the pike if there are any items, such as the wainscotting or luxurious pre-chosen tile, that you want taken off of the project. Without itemized charges, the pricing gets fuzzy. Also, don’t go for an estimate that is drastically lower than all of the others. This could be a sign of cutting corners or desperation for work; both are bad news. As far as payments go, never give money up front. One way to guard against this is to offer the first installment after the first day’s work is completed. Agree to a payment schedule that will follow closely with the construction schedule. Have all loans or insurance payouts be made out to you instead of the contractor so you can stay in charge of the money. Once the work is completed, we suggest living a few days with the changes to be sure everything is working properly before paying out the last installment, giving the contractor some monetary motivation to make any necessary changes.
Now that the hard part of finding a reputable contractor is over, let the fun and creativity begin! There is nothing like doing a remodel that makes your house easier to live in and more of an extension of you.