Ask any homeowner and they will tell you that often the most difficult aspect of any home remodel or renovation project isn’t the actual work itself, it is how to find a quality home contractor to do the work. Whether it’s adding a room, knocking down walls, installing cabinets or remodeling the kitchen or bath, the aggravation that comes from selecting a unprofessional, unreliable home contractor could be worse.
Most people have heard horror stories of home contractors that seemed to be professional who after starting the job and tearing things apart, started to not show up, work very slow or come up with extra costs doubling or even tripling the original estimate.
“I remember hiring contractors, plumbers, electricians, painters and other professionals to work on my own homes and hearing their constant excuses”, says Jordan Wexler founder/CEO of SmartGuy.com®, the largest exclusive business network and directory to find local professionals.
Back then, homeowners who wanted to find a quality home contractor had to either pick a random name out of the phone book or bug their neighbors for a recommendation. The fact is even with quality contractors, legitimate things come up that no one expects; for example, rot in the walls or under the floors, leaky pipes or unsafe wiring.
If you are doing a large remodel, you want to find a contractor with not only renovation experience, but with a good crew of professionals that are reliable, trusted and quality.
Here is a list of 15 tips to help you find a quality home contractor.
Take the time to think it through. Change order are one of the biggest unexpected costs”, Wexler says. “Come up with your own plans and ideas and then talk to family and friends and get their suggestions. This will allow you to get a more accurate estimate from contractors for the actual work you will do.”
Get referrals from family, friends and online. While family or neighbors might be able to suggest a good plumber, or a good electrician, they might not know a quality contractor to recommend. Websites like SmartGuy® allow you to not only find contractors, but up to 1,500 other categories of professionals in 5,500 cities around the world.
Don’t jump at the first contractor you interview. Be sure to speak and get estimates from at least three different contractors, making sure they write down a detailed estimate as to what they are going to do and include the materials they will use. After you get the three estimates, compare them to make sure they are all truly bidding the same amount of work,
Ask the Contractor what work he himself will be doing. While many contractors do most of the work themselves, others subcontract out virtually the entire job. You want to make sure that the people who you are hiring are the ones doing the work. Insist that they all have worked for him many times before and that they are high quality, experienced and of course insured. You do not want him using labor he finds off the streets.
Check their specific experience. While having a general contractor’s license allows a professional to do a broad range or work, you want to make sure they are experienced at the specific work you need done. For example, someone who typically does bathroom remodels, might not be as experienced building a pool. You want to choose a contractor or company that routinely does the type of work you need.
Do background checks. General contractors and most subcontractors should be licensed and therefore have boards that would list any infractions they may have suffered. Other good sources include online posts, the Better Business Bureau and local court records. You can always search on the internet for their name followed by “scam” or “reviews” to access any and all information listed. Keep in mind however, that what you read online is one person’s opinion and there is usually two.
Ask the contractor for references. While they are probably not going to tell you any bad references, it does help to talk to recent homeowners that have done the same work you want to have done. Ask them about timing, prices, quality of work and any problems that arose, as well as what he did to resolve them.
Detailed contract. Take the time to make sure that not only does the contract list everything he is going to do in detail, but as the job continues, any change that comes up, must be mutually agreed upon prior to starting work on it, including any extra costs.
Make sure to pull all necessary permits. While a contractor might suggest not to in order to save money or time, that is a warning sign. Always get needed permits. This will ensure the contractors and subcontractors work is being inspected by local officials and will avoid fines and delays which can result if you are caught. Permits should always be kept in case you want to sell the home down the line. The new owners will want to make sure everything was done to code.
Provide a minimal deposit. Most people only give a deposit of 10% before the job starts. Unless there are a great deal of materials that must be purchased, most homeowners don’t want the money they are giving to the contractor to be used to finish off another of his other jobs. Also, be sure to leave 20% until the very end when all permits have been completed and signed by the city and everything has been inspected to your liking.
Plan to go 20% over budget. Even if you write up a detailed contract and know exactly what you want done, there are often things that come up when construction begins, including ideas you might come up with later, that will change your original budget. No one can see through walls or read minds.
Expectations. Make sure to have a written document which clearly points out what is expected. If it is a large job, you might want to schedule time to talk to the contractat every day or two. Which bathroom will the workers use? What time will they be working? How will they have access to the job? Will they clean up after each day? Better to discuss everything before you sign the contract.
Lien releases and receipts. Did you know that If your contractor doesn’t pay his subcontractors or suppliers, his suppliers can actually put a mechanic’s lien against your house.? It’s true. Make sure the contractor provides you with copies of all receipts for any and all materials, plus lien releases from all the subcontractors and the general contractor before you pay.
For many homeowners, the excitement of remodeling or renovating one's home is very rewarding personally and financially; however, it all begins with a good plan and finding a quality home contractor.