Do you have a long list of things you want done around the house? Or, perhaps you have one big project that you are hoping to accomplish. I have both…not that both are going to get done anytime soon, but I have ideas, and hope to implement them someday. I just don’t know when, at this point.
What I do know though, is that through previous experiences on home improvement projects, I have a detailed plan on how to find the right contractor. There are many great contractors out there. I’m sure of it. Unfortunately for me, I have found some who are not. Fortunately for you, I am going to share my plan on how to not let that happen to me again.
I love the show Holmes on Homes. It’s about a wonderful contractor by the name of Mike Holmes, who comes into homes that had experienced a home improvement nightmare…to rescue the homeowners from despair. As much as I enjoyed that show, I don’t want to be a candidate for it. And, if you follow my plan that I am about to share, it will lessen your chances of becoming one as well.
Step 1 - Decide what Projects You Hope to Complete
Sounds simple, right? That’s because it is. If you have several small tasks you hope to tackle, make a list. It’s best to work with a contractor who knows what you want before you hire them. This way, they can let you know right away if something on your list isn’t a project they will tackle.
You might be thinking of a larger project to take on, such as a new roof, an addition to the house, or a new cedar fence to enhance your landscaping. If that is the case, I would look for a contractor who specializes in that specific area, or one who has a list of sub-contractors they are familiar …and comfortable with to complete the job.
Step 2 - Talk about It
Start talking about what you want to do, and what you are looking for as far as information. Your friends and family most likely have some experience of their own, or someone they know, to help guide you in finding the right contractor…or, to avoid one.
Pay attention to what they say, because they will be giving you one of the most unbiased opinions you will get…unless they personally know the person, that is.
Step 3 - Utilize Contractor Sites
You might have heard of AngiesList.com by now, as they advertise quite often. They are an online platform for contractors and consumers to find each other. It allows for posting reviews, which are not anonymous, so you know that it’s not the contractor ‘padding’ his own reputation.
I have not personally utilized this site, but have read up on it. What caught my attention is that negative reviews will not be removed, nor will a poorly rated company profile. This tells me that many of the providers on here will probably be serious about their work, knowing that if they ‘mess up’, it’s on this site for good.
There is a minimal fee, but it includes the following:
- Access to a Provider List
- Angie's List Magazine
- Member Discounts
- Complaint Resolution Team
Again, the fee is minimal…and will depend on where you live, but could be well worth it, especially if you have several projects you want to accomplish, or plan on utilizing other service contractors such as the medical field.
Step 4 - Get Multiple Estimates
It is best to get more than once estimate, especially for larger projects. Find at least 2 contractors appear qualified, and then get their estimate. Make sure they are willing to break it down for you, so you know what would is labor compared to supplies.
This is important, so you can gauge their honesty. For example, if they say item A will cost you $100, but you can find it for less, question them on it. Licensed contractors often get a discount. So, if you…a non-licensed layman can find it for less than they can, I would think twice about working with them.
Step 5 - Interview Each Candidate
Interview each candidate you are interested in. It’s not common practice for a business to hire someone without an interview. And, you are hiring someone…even if it’s not an employee.
Besides the estimate, ask them how long it will take to complete the job, if their crew is insured, and if you will need a permit. The key to this interview is to know the answers ahead of time, if possible. For example, if you know you need a permit for a new roof, but the contractor says it’s not necessary, run.
Step 6 - Write up a Contract
The contractor you choose will most likely have a basic contract, even if it’s part of their written estimate. But, there is no reason why you can’t write one up yourself. Don’t make it complicated, but have a few things in there to protect your pocketbook especially from a project that never seems to end.
After a bad experience, the next time I will draft a brief contract, which states that running over the estimated time (at no fault of mine) will not add more charges than the original estimate. In other words, if the project takes a month longer than anticipated because the crew rarely shows up, I’m not paying extra for a new crew.
And, another thing to have in writing is a payment schedule. They will need some money upfront for supplies. However, NEVER pay the balance before the project is complete, and you are satisfied.
Step 7 - Once the Job Starts
While this doesn’t help you find the right contractor, it’s just as important. After the project starts, meet with the contractor once a week for updates and ‘inspection’. You need to stay on top of the project, but keep out of their way at the same time. A weekly walk through will help you do that, and they should be willing to accommodate that request. In fact, mention it before you ever hire this company.
Also, take notes and photos as the project progresses. Any reputable contractor will not only allow this, but welcome it.
Step 8 - Fire a Bad Contractor Before it Gets Worse
Finally, if you see a contractor is not working out, end the relationship before it gets worse. If it’s poor workmanship, why let them do more damage before it’s done? Cut your ties (make sure you put that allowance in the contract), and start the process over again.
I certainly hope I have shared some valuable tips in how to find the right contractor. As I mentioned earlier, there are several who are reputable. However, a bad one can wreak so much havoc on the household, as well as the pocketbook, that you should be careful when hiring one.
About the Author
Rick Mercado has a successful career as an Internet marketer and freelance writer who typically tackles topics that he has some experience in, or is stemmed from information he learns on the Internet. Sometimes it’s both, as the above article after visiting a company’s website about getting a quality fence in Milwaukee. Rick lives in Halifax, Nova Scotia with his wife, and enjoys fishing, seafood, kayaking, and Canadian history.