Hiring a Contractor

So you’ve decided to finally remodel the kitchen that still reminds you of Grandma, or the bathroom with the psychedelic blue fixtures. You’ve also decided to hire a contractor to complete the job. How do you know which contractor/company is the right one for the task? We offer our tips from theHomeMD below.

Initial Steps

Plan ahead: Most contractors, large or small, book jobs quite far in advance. If you’re planning for a sizable remodel or even multiple small jobs, begin your search at least several weeks before you’d like to start the work. Obviously, emergency repairs are an exception and there are companies who specifically do that type of job.

  • Get referrals and reviews: Ask friends, neighbors, and family members who may have used contractors for recent projects. Check online for reviews and profiles of local contractors.
  • Once you have narrowed it down to a few choices, contact at least three companies for estimates. Always get at least three estimates for any significant job at your home (you may need to call more than three to get three to actually come out to your home). Any reputable company will provide one free consultation to look at the work and provide an estimate. If they want to charge for the first visit and estimate, don’t hire them.
  • Be clear with your timeline and expectations: Make sure to let the contractors know when they come to your home any deadlines you have for receiving an estimate and start/completion of work.

Decision Day

Once you’ve had a few contractors to your home and received estimates, it’s time to decide whom you’ll hire. There are several important factors when making this decision.

  1. Cost. This is by no means listed first as a matter of importance in hiring, but the fact is that the majority of homeowners have a budget for the job. The cheapest quote isn’t always the one to go with (which is addressed in the remaining factors), but if you get an estimate that is much higher or much lower than the others, be wary.
  2. Experience/References. Ask the contractor for local references specific to the type of work you’re having done. Also ask to see pictures of previous jobs or for their website that showcases their work. Sometimes experience and knowledge are worth paying for.
  3. The Intangibles. In many cases, the person you hire will be in your home for an extended period of time. Consequently, you should hire someone you trust in that situation. Some folks will feel comfortable with a large company that is nationally known for a standard product or service. Others will prefer a local small business that is a member of the community and will give them personal attention and custom craftsmanship.
  4. Bottom Line. There is no one single factor that is most important when hiring someone to work in your home, (including cost -sometimes you get what you pay for!). Each homeowner needs to consider which aspects carry the most weight when deciding whom to hire.

And So It Begins

So  you made it through the research, estimate, and hiring process, now what?

  • Be sure you’ve gotten a written contract that includes the scope of work, what is provided by each party, a start date (estimate within a reasonable timeframe), project duration, and payment schedule (deposits, progress payments, final payment). Check your state and local codes for any contract requirements before signing on the dotted line.
  • Expect to pay up to a 1/3 deposit for the job before the contractor will schedule the work. Deposits shouldn’t exceed this amount and should NEVER be more than 1/2 of the total contract amount. State and local regulations may have a bearing on the maximum deposit amount as well.
  • Once the work starts, be hospitable to the workers. They are often performing very physical work over long days and want to make you happy. They appreciate gestures of water, food, and hospitality. If they enjoy working for you, they’re more likely to go the extra mile for you wherever they can.
  • Stay in communication with your lead contractor (owner, project manager, GC, etc.). If everything is going well from your perspective, let him or her know that. If something needs to be addressed or you have a concern, voice that opinion also. If you have an issue, mention it promptly and clearly. Just be sure to be respectful and professional, and you should expect the same in return.
  • Don’t hover. The last thing anyone wants is for someone to watch over them while they do their job. You wouldn’t enjoy it if they came to your office and stood over your desk while you worked. Be mindful that they are working while in your home and want to get a job done well in a timely fashion. Distractions from the homeowner can throw that off track and be frustrating for the workers.
  • Final Inspection. Once the job is complete, be sure to request a walk through with the lead contractor prior to issuing final payment. If there are any items that need to be addressed, put them in writing and do a walk through again once complete before paying in full.
  • Sign off on the job. Make sure you and the contractor both sign off on the satisfactory completion of the job and full payment once both are final. This protects both you and the contractor.

Ultimately, finding a good contractor for your home improvements and repairs can be a very positive experience if you do your due diligence. If you don’t, it can be a nightmare. Even sometimes when you do your homework, things can go wrong, but you have resources available if they do. If you take the time to prepare and follow theHomeMD advice before starting your home project, you will likely be very happy with the results and may forge a long lasting relationship for your home.