to Find the Best Contractor
It's finally time to tackle that big
home improvement project you've always wanted to do. Or, you might
have waited so long, now you need to do the project. Which leads
to your first question - "Where do I start?"
Well, the truth is... some jobs are
simply too big, too complicated, or require too much time to handle
on your own. Whether it's remodeling a kitchen, installing gutters,
or electrical rewiring for your business - you'll likely need an
A contractor, or subcontractor, can
be your 'knight in shining armor' when it comes to completing your
project. But, wait... you've heard so many horror stories connected
with "shady contractors" that you're starting to re-think
this re-model. But statistics show that the huge majority of contractors
out there are honest, hard-working professionals. Most people are
happy with any improvement project they undertake.
"Fine," you say. "How
can I protect myself and make sure I find a great contractor?"
I'm glad you asked. Here are some standard tips you can follow to
make sure your repair, remodel, or installation goes well:
o Got License? Most states require
that a contractor have a license to operate in that state. Once
you find a contractor, check to see if he or she has a local contracting
license to do the job.
o Check References - get at least
three references from satisfied clients. And if you want to get
really fanatical, go to the contractor's current job site. See if
the site is messy. Are the workers taking care of the property?
o Get Bids - if you have the luxury,
get multiple bids from several contractors. Don't always assume
that the lowest bid is the best, because that contractor may be
desperate for work or might cut corners on the job. But if you get
contractor's from several sources, you could get a really great
o Get it in Writing - the days of
the "handshake deal" are far behind us. Get a detailed
contract together and throw everything in (even if the project doesn't
involve the kitchen sink!) The more you clarify, the fewer headaches
you'll have if things go wrong.
o Do You Take a Check? Don't ever
pay in cash. Can you say, "Proof of payment"? I thought
you could... Keep logs of all payments (for example - 10% down,
20% by one date, another 20% by another date, final payment when
work is complete) and pay with check or credit card only.
"Wait a minute!" you protest,
"That sounds like a lot of work!" Sure it does. Because
it is a lot of work. If you think a renovation or remodeling job
is expensive, imagine having to pay for it twice! Do your homework
and you'll avoid being a horror story.
"Are there any warning signs
of a bad contractor?" you ask. Boy, you sure do ask a lot of
questions. And that's good. Always ask a lot of questions. The more
you know, the better prepared you'll be to handle the unexpected.
Okay, these are signs a contractor
might not be your best choice:
o If required by the state, your contractor
doesn't want to show you his or her license. Or won't give you references.
Or you two don't get along. Keep in mind: this person may be in
your home, working side-by-side with you, for several months - you'd
better get along!
o Your contractor wants you to pay
for the entire project... up front. Run for the hills.
o Your contractor has a "friend"
in the financing business that can get you a "good deal"
on a loan for your project. You'll end up with a huge "2nd
mortgage" at a ridiculously "high rate" and your
"contractor" just got a juicy "commission" on
o Your contractor doesn't have a business
address, a business card, and it looks like the contractor sleeps
in his or her pickup truck. Run really fast for those hills.
Okay. Now you know some of the warning
signs. Here are some signs you may have found a really good contractor:
o The contractor has at least 4 to
5 years experience. It shows they can manage their business and
complete their projects.
o The contractor has insurance. Liability
and worker's compensation are the most important types of coverage
to make sure everyone is covered.
o The contractor has more than references
- he or she may even carry a book of photos showing past work projects
that have been completed.
o The contractor provides cost breakdowns
for the job. These breakdowns show specific details of what the
project will cost to complete.
o The contractor is flexible. Communicate
all your requirements and specifications for the project. Whether
you two decide that you want to supervise the work or you want to
let the contractor make all the decisions, your contractor will
be flexible enough to work with you.
"Okay, am I ready?" Yes,
now you're ready to hire a professional to help get your home or
business improvement project off the ground. One of the best ways
to protect yourself is the act of due diligence. Webster's defines
due diligence as: "The care that a prudent person might be
expected to exercise in the examination and evaluation of risks
affecting a business transaction." In simplified terms - Do
your homework. And you'll do just fine. Have fun and make the most
out of your experience!