Whether you want to add a room, renovate your garage, or need general home repairs, hiring a good reputable contractor is crucial. Each step of a home improvement project needs to be high quality because if one aspect is shoddy, you’ll have to repeat the process – and a redo will cost you time and money. Some of the ways to verify the quality of a contractor’s work include:
- discussing it with neighbors, friends and other people who have completed a successful home remodeling project with the contractor;
- checking out a contractor’s reputation with the Better Business Bureau;
- assessing written estimates from various firms to compare and contrast quality of materials, thoroughness, and attention to detail. Assessing this last point, attention to detail, is critical. To keep a project on time and on budget, a contractor has to be able to show you that he or she is capable of and experienced with sweating the small stuff;
- visiting examples of past work.
There are many different types of contractors. The one you select will depend on the size and the nature of the improvement project. For example, on a larger project you might want to engage a general contractor to oversee and manage all aspects including scheduling, inspections, permitting, and hiring subcontractors. You would not want to hire a specialty contractor, such as a cabinetry or drywall installer, to manage a larger project because they only have experience with one part of the overall picture. And hiring an architect to manage a construction project can be a mistake. They may understand buildings and create great designs yet have little or no experience with construction management.
Getting a written estimate or a bid from several contractors is key if you are to budget your home improvement project well. Also, several estimates will help you understand your options better. When asking for an estimate, make sure that you give out completely accurate and consistent information about the renovation project. This may include the types of materials you want and what you are striving for in the project. Sometimes it makes sense to hire a construction consultant for a fee to help you develop an accurate request and even craft a scope of work that you will use as a benchmark when assessing the estimates. A consultant’s experience will also help ensure that:
- you compare “apples with apples” when the estimates are received, and
- you know which areas can realistically be modified when the costs come in high.
Deciding on a particular home remodeling estimate may be quite difficult. Check below for some of the things you’ll have to consider before selecting a particular estimate.
Check A Contractor’s Basic Licensing Information
Certain construction specialties are required by law to have a valid registration or license. Often, but not always, this will indicate that they are professional and qualified. You’ll have to check all the provided insurance and registration information. Some contractors might have had their registrations withdrawn and revoked because of unethical business practices. Therefore, check on whether the registration is up to date. If you identify or suspect there is missing information, that should alert you that the contractor may not be as qualified as he/she stipulates. Clean and valid registration means you have some financial recourse if the contractor fails to complete the job acceptably.
You can visit your local consumer protection agency or building department to get acquainted with the registration requirements in your region. Make sure the contractor’s registration matches the work that you need done. It’s also helpful if the registration has been in one name in one location for at least five years. Those who move around a lot, the so-called “fly by nights”, can be a problem.
Obtain An Accurate Itemized Estimate
You should request an accurate estimate from the potential contractors. A good and precise estimate gives a good representation of all the costs as well as a timeline to complete the project. Getting an accurate estimate will help you when planning your project finances. This will eliminate white elephant remodeling ideas that may just add up costs with no possibility of ever being built. As mentioned earlier, you should have your own individual estimate, or multiple estimates, to know what is a reasonable cost for the scope of service requested.
Even though the lowest priced estimate may not be the best choice, it cannot be ruled out. Confirm why the contractor’s pricing is at the low end of the range. You may discover that a contractor who does not rely on sub-contractors may offer lower prices, and better cost and schedule control.
Check And Inquire About The Contractor’s Experience
Inquiring about the experience of a contractor is necessary especially when the estimate is low. Find out how long the contractor has been in business. Ask the contractor to give you names of at least three clients with home improvement projects similar to yours. You can then confirm with these clients the level of the contractor’s service. You may even request to visit a job that is currently in progress.
Most experienced contractors finishtheir work on time with minimal or no mushrooming of unexpected costs. A contractor that has experience with all aspects of the job will be able to give better time estimates than one that has never done a specialty, such as drywall. Also an experienced contractor can always step in to complete a step if a sub-contractor is delayed or absent. You may save money up front by hiring an inexperienced professional. But doing so usually will cost you a lot in the end.
Inquire About Insurance
Typically, a contractor should hold personal liability insurance, worker’s compensation insurance, property and third party damage insurance policy. Any contractor who doesn’t have these coverages shouldn’t be considered for a contract. You can ask for copies of the insurance certificates. Make sure that the policies are up to date. Otherwise you could be held liable for any damages or injuries that occur during the course of your home remodeling project. The issue of insurance applies to subcontractors too.
Check For The Quality of Materials
You expect and deserve high quality and durable materials in your home improvement project. Quality materials come at a cost and any low estimate might mean that the quality of the materials to be used may not be satisfactory. Check the type and quality level of the materials each contractor offers for the project. Ask for samples, to see the quality firsthand. Good and experienced contractors, when asked, can give you a variety of estimates outlining the various types and quality level of material alternatives. Make sure that the estimate includes high quality under-lying material, such as primer or rot resistant components. What you can’t see is just as important as what you can. A good contractor can help you choose the type of materials you want in a way that will not strain your budget unnecessarily.
Despite the fact that quality materials can be expensive, the end result is often well worth it, particularly when it looks great. You want your remodeled home to last and hold its value for the longest time possible. The quality and durability of materials should be commensurate with the project quality guidelines you select.
Other Things To Check
Ensure that when permits are required for the work, the contractor will get them. You don’t want to be associated with an outfit that tries to skirt the law on this matter. In the event estimates are delivered late or incomplete, that’s usually a good sign to eliminate the tardy contractor from consideration. If they can’t submit their bids on time, what about your project? Will they complete it on time?
You can also ask the contractor what has been excluded from your request for proposal. Some crucial areas in your project may have been overlooked or forgotten.
Once you have agreed on the main business points, negotiate the payment options. For example, it isn’t advisable to pay in cash. Try as much as possible to limit your down payment and make sure thatat least ten percent of the total contract amount is withheld until the project has been successfully completed. Lastly, make sure your contract is in writing and, if significant, reviewed by an attorney before signing.
Generally, these are only a few of the many important factors you’ll have to consider before selecting a contractor. For more detailed information on this subject, see Ten Steps To Hiring a Contractor