How To Hire A Contractor
Most building professionals have integrity and truly enjoy helping turn your house into a home, but they're also human. The idea that a prospective remodeler could be a liar, thief or worse is terrifying, and your hard-earned money and home are at stake.
When it comes to building or remodeling, almost everyone knows or has heard of someone who has been burned by a contractor — or they’ve been burned themselves. Maybe a contractor left a project before completion and won’t return phone calls. Or perhaps one asked for money up front, did a shoddy job, and refuses to fix it.
So, how can you avoid a bad situation? Gut feelings go a long way, but if you’re looking for a better method, here are five steps to help sift out the best contractors before you hire them:
1. Provide references.
Be very suspicious if prospective contractors don’t have references or refuse to provide them. This could possibly mean two things: either they haven’t done any building or remodeling before, or they don’t think their previous clients will give them a positive reference. Besides calling a contractor’s prior clients, ask to see completed and current jobs in person, and even request a few subcontractor references.
If you speak with homeowners, ask about contractor responsiveness (how quickly they responded and their preferred method of communication), was the job site relatively clean throughout the process, were there any lengthy gaps in work, were there any surprise charges, and if so, how did the contractor handle them?
Ask trades and subcontractors whether they had any problems getting paid or if they ever felt belittled or bullied by the contractor. How someone treats subcontractors may be an indication of how you might be treated.
2. How much deposit required?
It’s fairly routine for contractors to ask for a deposit before work starts. Ten percent is customary. However, if your contractor requests more than that, say 50 percent, slowly back away, and run! A request for a bigger deposit is often associated with financial problems.
3. Do they have a plan?
Any contractor who quotes a price with no scope or plans has likely overlooked or not included something in the bid. A clear specifications document that you understand and agree with is essential and helps avert potential problems.
Ideal specifications label each individual room of a project and detail all materials and aspects of the build or renovation.
4. Why is their price so low?
The first reaction is often to go with the lowest bidder. However, if the bid in question is thousands less than others, find out why. Is the contractor using poorer grade materials or are they expecting you to purchase and provide all allowances, such as tile, flooring, appliances, plumbing fixtures and lights? Are the cabinets constructed out of particle board instead of wood? As is often experienced in life: if something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
5. Do they have insurance?
A contractor without liability insurance is a disaster waiting to happen. If anything goes wrong with your home or with anyone working on your home, and your contractor isn’t insured, you most likely will be held responsible and sued.
A $1 million commercial general liability policy is minimal. If your contractor works on higher dollar jobs, the policy may be $2 million or greater. You should also find out whether a contractor requires subcontractors to carry liability insurance as well. It’s likely that nothing will happen, but if it does, insurance should cover most costs.
In summary, remain aware while seeking a remodeler or builder. Pay attention to your feelings, but be sure to research prospective contractors’ track records and references.