5 Tips for Choosing a Contractor

When choosing a contractor to head up your remodel, these simple steps can mean the difference between complete confidence and sleepless nights.

Ask for Referrals
Word of mouth, hands down, is the best way to find a qualified professional to tackle the job. Ask relatives, friends and neighbors whom they’ve had good experiences with. Ask what made it a positive experience, how the contractor handled any problems that arose, and whether he or she would use the same contractor again. Online reviews and rating with the BBB is another great reference to use.

Look at Credentials
Get recommendations and do some preliminary research, whether it’s with a phone call or a visit to the contractor’s website. Find out whether he or she holds all the required licenses from state and local municipalities, along with designations from any professional associations. Look for contractors who have invested in course work and passed rigorous tests to earn particular certifications. What professional associations are they a part of? BATC, NARI and NKBA all have high standards that must be met to become affiliated with them.

Interview Candidates
Next, narrow down the list of contenders and set up meetings. Try to keep it to four contractors, because things can get confusing beyond that. How a contractor answers questions is extremely important, but communication goes both ways. Candidates should ask plenty of questions, too.

Check References
Asking to see photos of the contractors’ work is ok. If you approve of them, request references and follow up on them by calling contractors’ former customers. Ask how the contractor did at executing the projects. Were they on time and stay on budget? Were the customers pleased with the outcome? Was there anything that could have been done differently?

Remember that when you’re hiring a remodeler, you are buying a service and not a product. Quality of service will determine the quality of the finished project. Here are some things you’ll want to explore and questions you’ll want to ask when interviewing a remodeler.
Does the remodeler:

  1. Maintain a permanent mailing address, e-mail address, personal phone number, fax number, cell phone and voicemail?
  2. Carry insurance that protects you from liability? Ask for a copy of the remodeler’s insurance certificates to be sure. Also, ask the remodeler how much the project will add to the home’s value and attain additional insurance from your provider.
  3. Have an established presence in the community? How long has the company been in business under this name? Does the remodeler maintain solid relationships with contractors such as plumbers and electricians and work with them as a team?
  4. Possess a trustworthy reputation among customers and peers? Is there a track record of success?

Get It in Writing
After you have selected the contractor of your liking, take a look at the documents he or she has prepared. Do they look professional? Scrutinize the contract. Does it seem fair and balanced? And make sure the legal agreement includes the following:

Draw up a contract that details every step of the project: payment schedule; proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation payments; a start date and projected completion date; specific materials and products to be used; and a requirement that the contractor obtain lien releases (which protect you if he doesn’t pay his bills) from all subcontractors and suppliers. Insisting on a clear contract isn’t about mistrust, it’s about insuring a successful renovation.

Finally, remember that as soon as a change is made or a problem uncovered, the price just increased and the project just got longer. The four most expensive words in the English language? “While you’re at it….”


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