SET THE BAR
Things to consider when hiring a contractor
Do it yourself? Or hire a contractor? With the recession receding, a lot of homeowners are able to hire contractors once again to take care of those projects they have been putting on hold.
We would hope that the contractor we choose is honest and trustworthy and does a great job. But unfortunately, you cannot assume that your Contractor will set the bar as high as your expectations are. But you are paying someone to do a great job, aren't you? After doing some research, I have come up with a few pointers to help you select the right guy/gal for the job!
WORD OF MOUTH
Everyone knows someone who does something! Ask around to friends and neighbors and other contractors to see if they know anyone who can do what you need done. Stop by the hardware store or local fix-it retailer and ask customer service if they can recommend any top notch contractors - ones who buy good materials and pay their bills on time! Yes you can ask that.
MAKE A LIST
Compile a list of potential contractors, and do some recon of your own. You can find a lot of information on the internet. In your research, note if they have a website with photos of their work. See if there are any negative reviews of their business floating around. Make sure they are legit. I typically do not trust everything I read on the internet. In this day and age, a good strong business will have a website, that shows they take pride in promoting their work and want more.
PICK UP THE PHONE
Once you have researched and chosen a couple contractors you think may be a good fit for your project, call them! Communication is key when working with anyone. Especially if there is a lot of money at stake. If you get a voicemail and no call back - RED FLAG! Contracting is a busy business, so don't get discouraged if it takes a little while for someone to get back to you. Once you get someone on the phone, ask if they are taking on new projects. Discuss what you are looking to have done and see how comfortable you are with their answers. You will need to wait your turn "in queue" to be added to a decent contractor's schedule of existing work flow. Do they seem personable and knowledgeable about their craft? Are they licensed and industry trained or certified? Ask them if they can get you in touch with previous clients, so you can speak with them and see the work that was completed. Ask if they use sub-contractors and how long they have used them for. This question is pivotal, because you want to know who is supervising the job. Set up an appointment with the ones you felt the most comfortable speaking with, to come to see the job and get you an estimate.
First impressions really do matter. Are they on time? If they were late, did they communicate that with you? What are they driving? Show them where the work will be done and feel free to ask questions. Are you comfortable with their answers? Are they receptive of your concerns? It is very important that they make you feel at ease. They may be working with you for a long time depending on the size of your project, and you need to trust them at your home. Go with your gut!!!
Have the best candidates provide an estimate for you. Sometimes there are design fees associated, depending on the detail they provide you with for the scope of work. You really do want them to provide as many details as possible. Plans or drawings are a huge plus. Get a couple estimates. Do not feel you have to settle. Also, do not go with the lowest price! If you have 3 estimates and 1 is totally low balled compared to the other two, there is a reason! They more than likely cut corners, use cheap materials, have unqualified employees, or are desperate for work.
You have your estimates, you are starting to envision your future completed project and getting excited. Have you asked the potentials if you can stop by a job of theirs that is in progress? I would highly recommend this! You can get a feel of how they are on a job site. Are there workers milling with productivity or is the whole site in shambles? Is it tidy and neat? Is everyone on the phone? Is there a job supervisor, keeping production flowing? Is there a portable restroom on site? How about the equipment being used and the people operating it? Do you see them utilizing safety equipment? Seeing how a business operates before hiring them is one of the best road trips you can take.
Congratulations, you have decided which contractor you will be hiring to complete your project. Now, get an agreement in black and white. Discuss your payment details/schedule.
DO NOT PAY CASH. Checks are a paper trail, if something should go wrong. Be sure you have a contract/agreement drawn up and have step by step details of how the job will be outlined. Have the contractor provide you with proof of liability insurance and their workman's comp. coverage. Once you are satisfied with the agreement on paper, SIGN YOUR NAME! And be sure the contractor signs as well. A written agreement signed, sealed and delivered will cover everyone involved and is proof of what you were promised will be included and completed for you.
Construction of any sort creates dust and debris. Discuss a site clean up plan with your contractor before making up your agreement. Have them specify how day to day debris and messes will be maintained and also who is responsible for having the debris cleaned up upon completion and how it is going to be hauled away. Typically this would be included in the contract price, BUT you can never be too sure. Also check to see if any stock piled material will be left behind upon completion. You may want to hang onto a case of tile, or a few extra bricks, but beyond that, what are you going to do with a pallet of drywall?
Before the work begins on your property, be sure to store away any items you do not want damaged, or to potentially walk away. Your patio furniture for example. If you are having a deck done, it needs to be out of the way anyway, if not it will be covered in saw dust, or could be used as a work horse! Tuck away your hoses and shovels if you are having concrete or stone work done, because chances are, what you have is not construction grade and will take a beating if they are used by the contractor.
After your job is completed, the contractor should be more than willing to do a final walk-through with you to ensure all items outlined in your contract were completed to your satisfaction. This is the time to write down anything that was not completed (a punch list) and be sure they are buttoned up before you make your final payment.