Hiring a Contractor 101

A contractor holding a hard hat and gloves.

Getting the best contractor for your project can take time. If you don’t have the time necessary to find the right person for the job, don’t rush things. It’s a good idea to put off the project until you are sure you have found someone you can trust to get the job done right.

Before you go looking for a contractor for a home renovation, decide what work you want to be done and how much time and money you want to spend on the project. Put your plans on paper before you start the process of getting a contractor to manage all of the work.

Check with Family and Friends

Begin the process by talking with your family and friends about contractors they have used. You can then verify those names with the National Association of Remodeling Industry, the Better Business Bureau, and the Consumer Protection Agency in your state.

Interview Potential Candidates

Once you have finished building a list of potential contractors, call each one and ask about their experience and expertise. Be sure that the top contractors on your list have a valid license to work. Licenses issued by government authorities typically expire each year, so be sure to ask to see that the paperwork is up to date. Questions you might ask should include:

What size of projects do you manage?

Would you provide a list of references from suppliers and financial companies with whom you deal?

Can you provide me with a list of your most recent clients?

How many projects do you typically manage at the same time?

Which subcontractors do you use and how long have you worked with them?

Speak With Clients of Top Choice Contractors

Use the information you receive from these discussions to determine the top five contractors that meet your needs. Contact their clients to determine how well each contractor managed the projects. Schedule a time to go and view the work that was completed. Your discussions with previous clients should allow for the following questions:

Did the contractor begin the project on time?

How much was the down payment for the project?

Were there any problems that arose?

Was the contractor polite and pleasant with you and his employees?

Were there any unexpected surprise costs?

Do Your Homework

Contact your insurance company and speak with your representative about your renovation plans. Check to see if you require any type of extra coverage for your project. All permits required for your renovation are the responsibility of the homeowner. Ensure that your contract outlines that the contractor will supply all of the permits, that all work will meet building codes, and that a licensed and certified professional will verify that all work is done properly.

Get Quotes From Short Listed Contractors

When you have determined that the top five choices on your list have a proven track record, you will need to sit down with each one to discuss the work you want to be done. A reputable contractor will create a set of blueprints based on the project you want to be done and will provide you a list of the costs for all of the work involved. Have each contractor provide you with a broken-down list of all of the labor, materials, and extra expenses for your project. About two-fifths of the costs should be for materials, and the remaining three-fifths should go to labor and profits.

Check the Payment Schedule

The part of the document that details all of the costs should also include a payment schedule. This will ensure that you are aware of how much you will need to pay at specific points throughout the completion of the work. Be aware that a contractor that expects to receive half of the funds before beginning the work may be experiencing financial issues.

A typical payment schedule begins with a payment of ten percent of the costs upon signing the work contract. Throughout the project, three payments of 25 percent are made at evenly set intervals and a final payment of 15 percent is made when all of the work outlined in the contract has been finished. Avoid scheduling your payments according to specific dates. Instead, schedule the payments to be made only when specific portions of the project are complete. When making your payments for the project, always pay by check.

Compare the Services of Your Top Contractors

When you are comparing the potential costs of each contractor, keep in mind that the lowest bid is not always the best option. A contractor who uses substandard materials or employs unskilled workers may offer a lower bid, but the work may not meet your expectations and could potentially be unsafe.

Choose the Best Contractor for Your Project

Once you have gone over all of the information provided by your top five potential contractors, choose the one that will be best for your situation. Have your chosen contractor write up a contract that includes the contractor’s business name, address, phone number, license number, along with each part of the project including your scheduled payments, evidence of liability insurance, proof that workers’ compensation has been paid, the beginning and completion date of the project, a list of all of the materials that will be used, a list of all of the subcontractors who will be working, and lien releases from all of the suppliers and subcontractors.

The document should be legible and easy to understand. Ensure that the document includes wording that no payments will be made for costs not outlined in the contract. Both the contractor and homeowner should sign the paperwork. Any changes made to the project should be noted in the contract, signed, and dated.