Everyone has heard horror stories of renovation projects gone wrong. Unfortunately, all the negative talk about building projects can make it easy to forget that there are, in fact, many excellent contractors dedicated to the highest standards of quality and deeply committed to the success of their projects. Finding a qualified professional contractor for a home improvement project doesn’t have to be a difficult or scary task. Follow these guidelines to help ease the selection process and be better prepared to make an informed decision.

How and Where to Find a Contractor:

  • Get referrals from friends, family, and social media. They are the best place to start because they will give honest feedback about the contractor’s performance. 
  • Use online resources that provide certifications and references from previous jobs. Houzz.com and Homestars.com have ratings and reviews from real customers.
  • Ask for referrals from designers, engineers, and architects. They work with contractors every day and know the industry well.
  • Source multiple bids if you need to but don’t shop on price alone, and always be wary of the cheapest quote. Quality of workmanship matters, and will ultimately save you money in the long run, as anyone who has made the mistake of hiring a cheap contractor has learned the hard way.  Hire a contractor who cares about good workmanship, is principled and communicative and with whom you have a good rapport. You will be dealing with this person for a while so be sure that you get along and communicate comfortably.

What to Ask For:

  • Ask for their area of expertise, to make sure they have experience with the type of project you are looking for. For example, some contractors may be experts in kitchens and baths but lack experience in building new additions. Others may have experience with new homes but not older ones.
  • Ask for the contractor’s credentials. They should be licensed and insured (general liability and worker’s compensation). Ask for a copy of the Certificate of Insurance. 
  • Ask to see photos of past work.
  • Ask for references.

When Starting Negotiations:

  • Begin by making a list of projects that need to be completed (scope of work). Make sure the work you want fits into your budget and makes allowances for unforeseen situations (contingency budget for asbestos or mold or whatever else may be lurking behind your walls that cannot be seen during the quoting stage).
  • Sign a contract. Any reputable contractor will have a standard contract to present to you.

Make sure they include the following:

  • Estimated time – exact dates typically don’t work in this industry due to weather, change orders, unforeseen issues, etc.
  • Budget – know what is included and what is not
  • Have a contingency budget (10% of the project budget is fairly typical)
  • Payment schedule – how much is due and at what milestones.
  • You may also want to consider a binding arbitrations clause, which may enable you to resolve disputes without litigation.
  • Warranty – which may cover some materials and workmanship.

Remodeling your home should be an enjoyable experience. Choosing the right contractor for you will help ensure the process runs smoothly, on time and on budget.