Choosing the right contractor for any renovation, addition or construction of a new home is the most important decision you can make. It’s a choice that can spell the difference between success and disaster.
In addition to technical competence, it is important to choose someone that you can trust, communicate well with and who is genuinely interested in working with you to solve problems and deliver quality work. Here are eight important tips to follow.
1. Get referrals
As you embark on your search, ask friends, relatives and co-workers for references and research trusted websites.
2. Interview at least three contractors and verify credentials
Ask a lot of questions and get a written bid from each one. When you compare bids, make sure each one includes the same materials and the same tasks, so you are comparing apples and apples. Ask to see their license. Write down the license number, company name and contact the appropriate licensing agency to verify the license and insurance status.
3. Choose the right contractor for the right project
Just because a contractor did a good job tiling your neighbor’s bathroom does not mean he is necessarily the right person to build an addition to your home. Find a company that routinely does the kind of project you want done.
4. Sign a detailed contract
Make sure your contract spells out exactly what will be done, including deadlines, progress payments, the exact materials that will be used down to the model number and who will provide which materials Any change in the project, whether you change your mind about products or ask for additional projects, should generate a written change order that includes the new work, materials and cost.
5. Get proper permits
Nearly all home renovation projects require permits. Many disreputable companies, as well as some licensed contractors, will suggest the job be done without permits to save money. Not only does that violate local ordinances and subject you to fines if you are caught, it means the work will not be inspected by the city or county to make sure it iss up to code. Be wary of contractors who ask you to get the permits – that is the contractor’s job.
6. Do not pay more than 10 percent of the job total before the job starts
You do not want a contractor to use your money to finish someone else’s job. Your contract should include a payment schedule.
7. Talk to your contractor frequently and negotiate ground rules
For a big job, you may need to talk every day. If you see a potential issue, speak up immediately. Something that is done wrong will be harder to fix later after your contractor has packed up and moved on to his next job. Discuss what hours the contractor can work at your home, what kind of notice you will get, what bathroom the workers will use and what will be cleaned up at the end of every workday.
8. Do not make the final payment until the job is 100 percent complete
Contractors are notorious for finishing most of the job and then moving on before they get to the final details. Do not make the final payment until you are completely satisfied with the work and have all the lien releases and receipts.