Choosing a contractor is no easy task. Of course there are dozens of contractor referral website these days, but even that can be a bit of a chore to find which contractors service your area, what they will charge, and if they are the best match for your specific task. And how do you ensure that the company you hire and give your down payment, will actually complete the work as expected?
In addition to searching contractor referral websites, ask for references from friends, family or a Realtor you trust. Once you have a few names, schedule a meeting with the contractor to see what rapport you have with them and how professional they are about their job. No matter how many positive referrals a contractor has by other people, if the two of you don’t have “chemistry”, don’t hire them… period.
Once you have a few names of possible contractors, there are certain criteria you need to look for before you even agree to meet with them for a quote. For large jobs, you will want to make sure that the contractor is licensed (and get their license number). You also want to contact your state contractor licensing board to make sure that there are no complaints filed against your contractor in the past three years. That’s a key indicator that they’ve abused a client in the past and won’t hesitate to do it again.
Next, ask the contractor if they have insurance and get a copy for your records. Workman’s Compensation and General Liability is the best option but just General Liability is acceptable. Under no circumstance should you accept a contractor who has no insurance. In those cases, even if a worker was under the influence of drugs and alcohol and hurt himself as a result of his own stupidity, he could sue you for any damages incurred while on your property.
You should also find out how long your contractor has been in business. Obviously, a longer track record is ideal. If a relatively new contractor is bidding on your job, you may want to ask to see photos of previous work or even ask to be able to visit a past clients home to inspect the work yourself.
Lastly, but extremely important, you want to consider scope of the project and pricing. Make sure you have everything in writing, including a detailed description of the scope of work, a guarantee of the work, and that all verbal agreements are represented in writing as well. The payment schedule and deliverable dates should be clearly laid out in your contract. You should be clear about how much money you will be required to put down initially. Will the balance be due at the end of the project or will there be intervals where additional payments need to be made? If payments are due at intervals, are there deliverables that should be completed before payments are made? These are all things that should be clearly stated in the contract. You don’t want to get into a situation where you have submitted payment for your project to get started and then your contractor asks for more and more payments yet you don’t see the proper amount of work being done. I have seen situations where a contractor threatens to stop the work and put a lien on the homeowners house when the homeowner didn’t want to submit additional payments even though the deliverables had not been completed. If at any time, you feel the contractor is pressing you too hard to make financial decisions, it may be time to look for another contractor. no matter how long he or she has been in the business, should be easily accessible via phone, email or in person. If you only have a phone number and the contractor is hard to reach before the job begins, imagine how difficult they would be to reach when you have issues.
Corinne Matthews, principal at Dream Room Designs, is known for her cutting edge and innovative approach to design. She skillfully transforms ordinary spaces into her clients’ dream rooms. Corinne has been recognized for her work in Atlanta, New York, California, Texas, and North Carolina. Learn more about Corinne and Dream Room Designs.