If you own a house, at some point you will need to hire remodeling contractors to help you fix it up. You have probably heard a horror story or two about a bad experience a friend or acquaintance had with a contractor. It is challenging to know where to start when finding the perfect contractor to tackle your project.
Hiring Remodeling Contractors
Contractors can help you with almost any project, including painting, installing new kitchen countertops, carpet installing or redoing an entire bathroom with new light fixtures, or fixing up any room of the house.
Where to Find Contractors
There are many places you can go to find a legitimate contractor:
- Call your local business builder's association
- Ask your friends for referrals
- Ask your realtor
Always solicit two or three bids for each project to compare costs and better help you choose the right contractor for your job.
Before hiring a contractor, you want him or her to come take a look at the future project and give you a bid. While the contractor is there, ask for a bid for any other projects you are considering, like track lighting or other details you might need. During the estimate, ask:
- What states are you licensed to work in? (Check your state laws to see if a license is requied.)
- What experience do you have?
- Whose homes have you worked on?
- What is your experience with this particular project?
- How many projects do you do a year? (If the answer is only a few, they may be a hobbyist or may not work well in tight time frames.)
- When can you start?
- Who is responsible for the building permits? (Some cities require the homeowner to apply.)
- How long do you estimate the project will take?
- Do you guarantee your work? (What happens if something does not look right or breaks?)
- Have you ever failed a code inspection, and if so, why?
- Will you be subcontracting any of the work? (Some contractors will subcontract work to electricians or plumbers. Make sure your contract includes who is responsible for paying these workers.)
- May I have the names and numbers of at least three previous satisfied customers? (You want at least three names so he does not just give you names of friends and family.)
- Do you have any pictures of your work I can look at?
- Do you carry your own workmen's compensation insurance and general liability insurance? (Make sure the remodeling contractor is protected in the event he or she gets hurt, or ruins your home.)
- Are you bonded?
- Do you charge per hour or per project? (If the contractor charges per hour, make sure the contract states the maximum number of hours the project should take so the contractor can't deliberately slow down to cost you more money.)
- Do you guarantee completion times? (Some contractors will offer a discount if the project is not completed by a certain date.)
- How do you manage your work area?
- How long is your bid good for?
When the potential contractor enters your home, take in his or her appearance and the way they respect your home. If the person tracks in mud, that can be an accurate first impression of how he or she will work in your home.
Before giving you a quote, good remodeling contractors will inspect the area where you are planning the renovation. The contractor should take notes on measurements, details, and estimated time to complete the project.
The contractor should ask you questions about what you want done and see if there is any other work in the house he or she can help you with.
The bid is the amount of money contractors want for doing the job. Make sure it covers the completed project. Keep in mind that the highest and lowest bids are not always a reflection of the work you will receive. Look at the whole package, including the contractor's experience and referrals, before choosing who you want to do your project.
Recommendations and Referrals
Always ask for recommendations and referrals. Find out:
- What relation the referral has to the contractor
- How the client met the contractor
- If the client is satisfied with the contractor's work
- How the contractor treated the home and work space while working on the project
Do not let a contractor into your home without a signed contract. The contract spells out the terms the two of you have agreed on and can protect you in the event the contractor does not do the work as spelled out.
- Put all agreements in writing, that way the details and communication are in print form.
- Only sign the contract after it is complete. If you handwrite any changes, make sure both of you initial them in agreement.
- Outline all financial terms, including your negotiated price and payment plans. Include how many days you have after completion of the project to pay any remainder of the balance.
- Include who is responsible for paying for materials.
- Add a section about what is to happen if extra work is deemed necessary, or if unbudgeted materials are required.
- Put in place a cancellation clause you both feel is fair. For example, give yourself three days after signing the contract to cancel.
- Specify all materials, hardware, and colors to be used in the project.
- If the contractor offers any warranties or discounts, get it in writing.
- Include start and finish dates.
Some contractors require a down payment. The most you should pay upfront is one-third of the cost of the whole project to cover materials. Pay the rest upon completion. Do not be too trusting with your money. If the contractor is already paid, he or she may forget to show up for the job.Once you find a contractor you like and trust, you can use him or her for future remodeling jobs as well.