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Hiring a Contractor Checklist and Tips

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Hiring a Contractor Checklist and Tips

When planning that next extensive renovation, you need to choose the right contractor for the job. You must make sure that they are qualified to handle your scope of work. A great contractor should provide you with a detailed estimate of the project. These points can help you determine whether you have the right contractor for your renovation or new build. Here are some tips to use when hiring a contractor. 

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What Items Should You Check When Hiring a Contractor?

a couple checking on floor plans

With any contractor, you want to make sure that they are licensed for the job. Some contractors can say they are qualified, but they might not have the proper local and state licenses to complete the work. Licensed contractors will be more likely to know the building codes and ensure that their project meets those requirements. 

You should also check out the past work of the contractor. Any reputable contractor will have photos or a portfolio of their past projects. In many cases, these contractors will give you the name of previous clients. You can follow up with these customers and ask them about the type of work provided by the contractor. 

Plus, make sure to reach out to the Better Business Bureau. This agency will help you gauge the experience of other clients. If there were any disputes, these problems would be reported to the bureau. The BBB is a valuable resource for you to discover the reputation of a specific contractor in your area. 

Related: Is It Cheaper To Build Or Buy A House? 

Insurance is another item that you need to check. If you hire an individual who is not insured or bonded, it will only lead to problems for you. These professionals must carry specific insurance that will cover them from any damage or injuries on the job. Along with that, that insurance protects you from any legal liabilities. All reputable contractors will have a certificate of insurance. You will see the insurance company's name, policy number, and limits covered for the contractor on that document. Take that information and verify it with the insurance company.

How can you tell if a contractor is bad? Any contractor who is not honest or upfront with their experience should be avoided. If you feel that the contractor is hiding details from you, stay away from them. Unfortunately, there are many unscrupulous people in the construction industry, with many of them preying on unsuspecting homeowners. With these individuals, you are guaranteed to have problems on the job site and with the quality of work. 

What Should You Not Ask a Contractor?

You should never feel that you cannot ask your contractor questions about their work, the estimate, or anything else related to the project. Any contractor who wants to dismiss you will be seen as a red flag. A professional contractor is there to get the project completed in time, but they will take a few minutes to update you about its progress. If a prospective contractor seems to rush you through the interview process, then you should find someone else. 

How do you know if a contractor is good? An open line of communication separates great contractors from low-quality ones

Related: How Much Does It Cost To Hire An Electrician: Rates & Costs 

Do You Negotiate With Contractors?

a homeowner holding a construction estimate

Before starting the negotiation process, you want to get an estimate. You should talk to several contractors, getting at least three estimates. These estimates should include the price of building materials, the work schedule, and labor costs. Don't always go for those low estimates. You may regret it as the contractor does poor quality work at your property. 

Once you have the estimates, you can negotiate with the contractor. You might like one contractor, but the price is too high. Take the estimate of the other contractors and see if they will come down on the price. Negotiations don't always work with every contractor. Some may price match, while others will set their prices in stone.

You should always take your time to make a decision. Don't feel pressured to make an immediate choice. If a contractor wants you to make a large upfront payment, be a little cautious. When looking at the estimate, read the fine print. Some contractors will add fees and other costs to the contractor. If you don't read those details, you could be left paying hundreds of dollars more on a project. 

Should I Pay a Contractor Half Upfront?

You never want to pay for the total price of the project upfront. In some cases, the contractor will ask for a percentage of the costs as a deposit. You always want to make a check payable to the company and never hand out cash. Many reputable contractors will ask for that one-third payment for the deposit. While half the costs are not unheard of, you might want to exercise some caution with these contractors. 

When you make a payment, make sure to get a receipt. Some contractors will have you sign paperwork that you have made a payment. You want to ensure that your payment is noted in your records so there is no dispute about any transaction. 

What is the safest way to pay a contractor? Personal checks and money orders are the best forms of payment. You want to have payment options that leave a paper trail. Cash might seem convenient, but you will have no record of those payments. Once the job is complete, you will pay for the remainder and finalize all of the paperwork. 

Related: 10 Things Your Remodeling Contractor Wants You to Know

Keep a Job File

make sure to store any documentation when you're working with a contractor

Even after the job is completed, you want to hang on to those records. Keep all the estimates, change orders, bills, canceled checks, and other information in a file. While you might not need it now, this file can help you with problems down the road. 

These tips can help you find professional contractors who will complete your next home renovation or new build. By taking time to find the right person for the job, you can prevent those headaches down the road. 

Do you need site or plot plans for those local permits? At My Site Plan, we can create and deliver plans to help get your project approved!

 

 

Question Answer
What should I do if a contractor provides a low initial estimate but later asks for more money citing unforeseen issues? It’s common for initial estimates to change, especially if unforeseen issues arise during the project. Always ask for a detailed breakdown of the initial estimate and discuss potential scenarios where costs might increase. Agree on a procedure for handling such situations beforehand to avoid disputes.
How often should I expect updates from my contractor during the renovation process? Regular updates are essential for keeping the project on track and transparent. You should establish a communication schedule with your contractor at the start of the project. Typically, weekly updates are sufficient, but this may vary depending on the project's complexity and duration.
Is it advisable to hire a contractor who offers a warranty or guarantee on their work? Yes, hiring a contractor who provides a warranty or guarantee on their work can be beneficial. It shows that they are confident in their craftsmanship and committed to resolving any issues that may arise post-completion. Be sure to get the warranty terms in writing.
What are some red flags to watch for in a contractor's contract? Beware of vague descriptions of the scope of work, no mention of compliance with local building codes, a lack of a timeline, no detailed breakdown of costs, and clauses that limit liability or your ability to take legal action. Always have a contract reviewed by a legal professional before signing.
How can I check a contractor’s references effectively? Contact the references provided by the contractor and ask specific questions about the project's scope, the contractor's communication, adherence to budget and timeline, and the quality of the work completed. If possible, visit past project sites to see the work firsthand.

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  • Ryan Crownholm