At some point in everyone’s life, home improvement becomes necessary. Whether it’s as simple as giving your bathroom a light makeover or as drastic as completely changing the layout of your home, many projects or homeowners will require the help of a contractor to complete some or all or the work. Unfortunately, not all contractors are created equal. Before you recruit your second cousin’s best friend or the first contractor listed in the phonebook, here are some important questions to ask and points to consider.
Consider the source of your referral.
I know that you love your neighbor’s new countertops, but pause before hiring based solely on their recommendation. Find out who the pros recommend! If you have a skilled laborer who you use and trust, ask them for a recommendation. It’s likely they’ve worked with many a contractor and have insider insight into their business practices and standards. It’s beneficial to make your decision based on real life observations, not just a contractor’s squeaky-clean website and snazzy marketing campaigns. As a side note, take online reviews with a grain of salt… some less than scrupulous companies may pick and choose which reviews to display, leaving out some that may raise a red flag. You can always consort the Better Business Bureau or Angie’s List to view multiple recommendations for your area.
You’ve done this before, right?
Okay, there are definitely some important things to know about any potential contractor you’re looking to hire. Is he experienced? Ask about how many years they have been in business and what type of projects they usually take on. Hiring a bathroom guy to redo your kitchen may not end up so well. A good contractor should be able to present examples of their completed work, and even references. If you’re going to talk to past clients, make sure you call more than one to get a more rounded view of their abilities and practices from a former customer’s perspective.
Licensing can matter.
Not all states require contractors to be licensed. Just as in any area of life, there will be a plethora of good and not-so-good contractors, licensed or unlicensed. If they do have a license, check to make sure it’s current! Consider the work and studying that go into the licensing process. It may be tempting to hire an unlicensed contractor for many reasons; he’s offering a cheaper price, a faster timeline, of maybe he’s just got a great smile. Construction is a science; some contractors may not practice all the nitty-gritty details of a job that are required to maintain safety and ultimately soundness of your completed project. Do your research and be knowledgeable about what a contractor is capable of.
Insurance matters, too!
Say an accident occurs while work is being done on your project, and the contractor, licensed or unlicensed, doesn’t have and insurance? You might be liable. Not double-checking that your contractor is properly insured may saddle you with costly medical treatments or legal disputes. General liability insurance will also protect you from any accidental damage that occurs during the course of the project.
Where’s my warranty?
Did you even know that was a thing? Just like you can have a warranty on your car or a new kitchen appliance, a good contractor can give you a warranty on the work that is being completed.
Educate yourself about requirements and expectations.
How early will they be starting in the morning and what time will they finally finish up at night? Know about city laws that may restrict the hours of noisy construction. What is the projected timeline, and what are you expected to do to get things completed? This may involve being absent for certain portions of the project or even something as drastic as relocating for several days. What about city permissions? Permits may be obtained by the contractor, but not necessarily. Make sure you communicate about who is responsible for these important city-granted permissions so that construction isn’t inconveniently postponed.
Construction and remodeling can be stressful, but it doesn’t have to be a nightmare. Making sure you’ve got a knowledgeable and responsible team in charge will keep your project running smoothly, and help you weather the bumps and snags that will inevitably occur. Happy contractor hunting!