How to Choose a Good Contractor

Builder Sawing
Finding the Right Contractor

You have the blue prints for your home renovation in hand and you are ready to break ground. But, first you need a contractor. Finding the right contractor is vital to your renovation and can be a tricky one. How do you know who is qualified for the job? How long will construction take? Better yet, where do you even begin? The following is a basic guide to help you to get on the right path to finding your right contractor.Referrals as always are a great place to start. Talk with your neighbors, friends and families who have had home renovations done recently. Ask what they had renovated in their home and what they liked and did not like about their contractors. Speaking with your current insurance company is helpful as well. Your insurer may be able to provide you a list of contractors they work with and you may be eligible for a discount. Asking around your local lumber yard is another great idea, this will allow you to find out which contractor uses the highest quality material and if they pay their bills on time. Getting in touch with a building inspector is another good referral tool, an inspector knows which contractors continually pass building inspections and meet city codes.

After you have put together a list of contractor referrals now is time to conduct phone interviews. Do not be offended if a contractor does not answer right away or does not return your call for a day or two. This shows the contractor is busy with other projects and is in demand. Once you are able to get a hold of a contractor ask them a several questions. Some good example questions may be:

  • What type of home renovation do they specialize in?
  • Do they take on home projects of your size?
  • How many other projects will they be working on, at the same time of your renovation?
  • Will they be doing the work or will it be mostly subcontractors?
  • How long have they worked with their subcontractors?

When you have completed your contractor phone interviews put together a list of 3 or 4 contractors you felt you had good communication with and found their answers favorable.

The next step in finding the right contractor would be to set up an individual consultation with the 3 or 4 contractors you liked. Asking roughly the same questions you did in the phone interview will help you verify their honesty to you as a customer. During the consultation show the contractor blue prints of what you would like done to your home. Make sure you have a clear understanding and vision of your blueprints, wants, and needs to show your knowledge and commitment to this project. Ask for the contractor’s opinions and ideas, this will allow you to get a better understanding of the way the contractor thinks. This stage may be a good place to ask the contractor for a cost estimate of the renovation. If the contractor throws you a low ball estimate this may be a red flag, but more about warning signs later.

After the one-on-one meeting with the contractors it is now time to narrow down the list again. Find 1 or 2 contractors you felt you were able to clearly communicate your ideas with and valued their input. This stage is where you really begin to knuckle down and do your background inspections. Visit current job sites these contractors are working on. Are the job sites neat and safe? Does the home owner’s property look well respected? These are all key indications of how your home may be treated during the renovation period. Take a look at the contractor’s license and insurance coverage, make sure they meet the requirements of the state, county and city.

Lastly, when you feel you have found the perfect contractor for you who meets all your own personal requirements and legal requirement you will want to have a clear written contract laid out for your home renovation. The contract might include the following:

  • Details of every step of the renovation project
  • Proof of liability insurance
  • Proof of worker’s compensation insurance
  • Start date and anticipated end date
  • In depth list of materials and products being used
  • Lien release from all subcontractors and suppliers.

These are only some ideas you may want included in your contract. For more ideas about what should be incorporated in your contract visit your state’s attorney general website for more information.

Always consider the warning signs when looking for a contractor. A few red flags to take into consideration may include the following:

  • Contractor does not have portfolio or any relevant work history
  • Contractor makes you pay 50% or more of the cost up front
  • No proper license, registration or insurance
  • Pressured into signing a contract right away
  • Does not act professional.

In the end, when picking the right contractor for your renovation it is clearly very important to do research. Your home is one of your most important assets and you want to protect it. For more information on how to find a good contractor a few helpful websites are the Better Business BureauFederal Trade Commission, and The National Association of the Remolding Industry.