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What to Know Before You Hire a Contractor

What to Know Before You Hire a Contractor

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You may have watched so much HGTV that you’re convinced you can take on a large-scale home renovation project, but that may not be the reality.
Home reno projects can be costly and time-consuming enough when you hire a professional. If you try to do the work yourself when you’re aren’t prepared or experienced, it can be an even bigger ordeal.
Certain projects are best left to professional contractors.
A contractor is different from a handyman, who might help you do small tasks around the house.
A contractor is going to come in when you have a bigger project, such as a kitchen or bathroom remodel, or perhaps a whole-house remodel. Contractors are important because they bring expertise and management skills to the project, they should be well-versed at taking the proper safety measures on a job site, and they hire subcontractors such as electrical or plumbing professionals.
When contractors are licensed by the state you live in, which they should be if you hire them, they have to make sure their work meets code requirements.
It’s worth mentioning that a pretty big chunk of contractors’ work comes from fixing DIY projects that have gone wrong, so if you can avoid that and you go ahead and hire a good contractor from the start, you’re going to save yourself money and potentially some heartache.
The key thing to note here is that you need to hire a good, trustworthy, and experienced contractor. Not all contractors meet all of those metrics or even one of them.
When it comes to hiring a contractor, they are required to follow certain regulations. In most states, they need to have a certain number of years of experience, and they have to pass exams to get their license. Licensing boards in most states also require contractors to have workers’ compensation coverage.
The following are some tips to help you hire a good contractor for your remodeling project.

Have a Plan and Know What You Want

Don’t go into the process of hiring a contractor blindly.
You want to start talking to contractors having a concrete plan and idea for what you want or need.
Without that, it’s going to be tough to gauge whether or not potential contractors have the right skills or experience.
You may need a specialized contractor as well, depending on your project, so do your research to have an idea of what’s a priority for you.
You should also have a clear idea of the scope of your project, how long you expect it should take, and what your budget is.
Don’t wait for a contractor to tell you all of these things.
What a contractor will be able to help you with as far as the planning phases of your project is when you need to pull a permit and what type of permits you need.
In some places, you have to use a licensed contractor in most situations. For example, in California, if your project cost exceeds $500 including labor and materials, you have to use a licensed contractor.

Try to Get References First

The best place to start, once you have a plan for your project, is by asking people you know. If you have friends, family, or neighbors who have done renovations or home projects, ask for referrals.
This will give you right off the bat an idea of the trustworthiness and overall work ethic of a contractor.
If you don’t have any options for word-of-mouth referrals, then you might use a site like Angie’s List so you can see what other people say about contractors in your area.

Ask For References

Whether you find your contractor via word-of-mouth or not, you should still ask for references who you can contact. You want to ask those references about the scope of work the contractor did for them, the quality of the work, and their interpersonal experience with the contractor as well.
Ask how well the contractor stuck to budgets and timelines

Get Multiple Quotes—But Don’t Base Your Entire Decision on Price

You want to find a contractor who’s reasonable in their pricing and who stays within your budget if that’s what they agree to. It’s important to comparison shop by getting multiple quotes, but remember the cheapest person isn’t always the best person for the job, especially if they’re significantly lower than other quotes you received.
If a bid seems too low, it probably is.
The contractor may be desperate for work or planning to cut corners on your project, neither of which is what you want.

Have a Face-to-Face Meeting

You need to feel comfortable with a contractor and sometimes you can’t make that determination until you meet with the potential candidates. You want to arrange a face-to-face meeting with all the contractors on your shortlist.
Have a set of questions that you want to ask, and see what their communication skills are like.
Some of the questions you should ask during a face-to-face meeting include:

  • How much experience the contractor has working on similar projects and how long they’ve been in the business.
  • Whether or not they have insurance and are licensed in your state.
  • Where they get materials.

You may also want to visit a job site they’re working on currently to see how that’s going.

Get Everything in Writing

When you decide on a contractor, you should put in writing every detail of the project that you’ve agreed on with that person.
This includes a detailed payment schedule, workers’ compensation payments, and proof of liability insurance.
You also want to include the agreed-upon start and completion date of the projects, and a list of the specific materials that are going to be used.
You should put in a requirement that the contractor gets lien releases. This shields you if the contract doesn’t pay his suppliers or subcontractors.
Hiring a contractor is a big decision, so give yourself time to do it right, rather than rushing in.


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