Tips on Hiring a Contractor

Are you faced with a home renovation project or home repair and you need to hire a contractor to do the work?

Finding a contractor that is trustworthy, does a good job, and completes the project to your satisfaction and in a timely manner can be a daunting task and many people don’t even know where to begin.

We’ve been working with contractors for over 35 years and we’ve learned a lot of do’s and don’ts along the way, some unfortunately have been through personal experience.

We thought we’d share some hard earned wisdom with you, so that maybe it can save you some frustration and heartache as a homeowner.

Where do you find a contractor?

People claiming to be contractors can be found a dime a dozen these days, but just calling yourself a contractor doesn’t quality you to do the work. 

Here’s a few tips when looking for someone to hire for your project –

  • Ask friends and family for referrals – This is a great way to get a feel for a contractor.  Your friends can tell you what their own experience was like, and they can often warn you who to stay away from.
  • You can find contractors and companies in Yellow Pages, Online, and through various forms of advertising – If they have their own website, facebook page, or listing, the odds are they are a legitimate company and can be taken more seriously.

The musts for hiring a contractor

Get at least three estimates

  • Don’t hire the first person who gives you an estimate.  You need to be able to compare prices and scopes of work.
  • When comparing estimates make sure you are comparing apples to apples.
Example:  Contractor A may have given you a great price but the materials he is using are of a lesser quality than Contractor B who is using premium materials and offers a warranty.

This is why it’s important to have everything in a written estimate, so you know exactly what each contractor is going to be doing.  The more specific the better.If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is

“If it sounds to good to be true, it probably is”

Ensure that the person or company you hire is licensed, bonded, and insured

  • Licensed  – Most counties require any contractor doing work to carry a general contractors license.  Specialty fields such as plumbing and electrical call for specific licenses that require actual schooling.
  • Bonded and Insured– Being bonded is different from being licensed, although the two are sometimes related. When a contractor is bonded, this means he has purchased a surety bond. This is a type of insurance policy that protects a property owner.

Hire the right man/woman for the job

  • If you need plumbing work done, your best bet is to hire a professional plumber not just a general contractor who does general remodeling.  If you need a roof replaced, hire a roofing company that installs roofs every day, not someone who has only done 2-3 roofs a year.
  • Many GC’s will say they have the skills for a particular job but it doesn’t mean they are good at it, have experience, or will serve you well.

Ask for referrals and photos

  • Don’t be afraid to ask for referrals or photos of previous jobs.  A legitimate company will have these on hand and be ready to show you examples of their work.

Make sure you have a contract agreement

  • This is vitally important as it protects you as the homeowner as well as the company you hire.
  • Make sure all of the terms are spelled out.  Price, payment, timeline, what exactly is being done, who is providing materials, and expectations for cleanup.

Do not pay up front

  • This is the easiest way to get scammed.  Someone who is a good talker claiming to be able to do the project will have you pay up front and then take off with your money.
  • Most contractors on smaller projects won’t require payment until the job is complete, while larger projects that require purchasing specific materials for the scope of work may require ½ or ½ down.  Make sure this is clarified in your contract.

Inspect the work

  • If you aren’t happy with how the project is going, if you have a special request, or if you want to change something,  speak up before it is too late.  Also keep in mind that contractors will often charge extra for changing or adding things to a project as this is outside of what they initially bid for the job.
  • Walk the job before final payment and do not pay a company until you have inspected the project and are satisfied.

While there is never a 100% guarantee that everything will go as planned or that there won’t be any problems, but taking these steps can eliminate many frustrations or issues that might arise.