Are you getting ready for a renovation, kitchen upgrade, finished basement or some of those much needed repairs? Finding a good contractor is the first and most important step in your home improvement project.
The type of contractor you choose will depend largely on the type of work and size of the project you will be undertaking. Here are some examples that might help you in choosing the right contractor for your needs.
- General Contractor – A general contractor is typically someone who manages the entire project which would include hiring and supervising subcontractors, obtaining proper permits and scheduling inspections.
Specialty Contractor – This would be a contractor who specializes in a specific area like plumbing, electrical, remediation, tile, flooring etc. These would be the individuals you would hire for a kitchen remodel or to repair your foundation.
- Architect – An architect is the one who designs homes, room additions and some major renovations that require structural changes to your home.
- Design / Build Contractor or Designer – This is an individual who does the design as an architect and completes the actual work either as a general contractor or a specialty contractor.
Finding a contractor with a good ad online doesn’t guarantee a project completed on time, on budget and done right. A good referral doesn’t always guarantee a job well done but in most cases you can count on a referral.
Do your Research
Check online for reviews and ratings. Look specifically for any negative reviews and see how the contractor handled them. A bad review doesn’t necessarily mean that the contractor is bad….. look at the problem to see if the reviewer was fair and look to see if the contractor made an attempt to rectify the problem
Check to see how long the company has been in business. Everyone has to start somewhere so keep in mind that a new company isn’t necessarily bad. Find out how much experience they have and ask for a list of satisfied customers that you can call and talk to about the quality of their work. An established company should be able to easily provide you with a list of happy customer and lots of before and after pictures.
Check their qualifications. Most states will require contractors to be licensed and some will also require bonding. Your local building department will be able to provide you information about the license requirements in your area. Obtaining a license varies by State, some will require an extensive qualification process while other States require a simple registration. Get the contractor’s license number and check to make sure it is current and not expired or in default.
Along with qualifications you want to make sure that your contractor is carrying proper insurance coverage’s. Contractors should have personal liability insurance, workers comp insurance and property damage insurance. It is okay to ask for copies of their insurance certificates and you want to make sure that they are current. If the contractor’s insurance has lapsed you could be responsible for any injuries or damages that occur while working on the project.
You’ll want to get written estimates from more than one company but you aren’t necessarily looking for the lowest price. Ask questions so that you understand why there is a difference in price. Once you have decided on the contractor you want to hire for your project, make sure you have a written contract. Not all States require a written contract but you should always ask for one. The contract should include the cost of the project, who will do the work, what they will be doing, when they plan to start and finish and what they will be doing.
Keep a copy of all the paperwork related to this project in one easy to find place. This would include the contract, copies of the license and insurance, change orders, payment receipts etc. You’ll want the receipts for tax purposes. Don’t make your final payment or sign a final release until your satisfied with the project. If subcontractors were involved, you’ll want to make sure they have been paid before you release your final payment. In some states the subcontractors can place a mechanics lien on your home. You can protect yourself by asking the contractor and all the subcontractors for a lien waver or lien release.