Every homeowner knows renovations could go either way, but finding a reliable and genuinely good contractor can make doing your own renovations seem as easy as pie. With that being said, knocking down walls or installing new tiles or kitchen cabinets requires a contractor who knows what they are doing and who will give you the best level of service from start to finish.
Even if you’ve done thorough research on people search engines, everybody has come across a lousy contractor once in their lives. We know how hard it can find a good contractor. So, to help keep your sanity and temper under control, we’ve come up with ten smart tips that will help you find a reliable home contractor.
How To Choose The Right Contractor
Choosing the right contractor can be a real challenge, even for those who are experienced in finding them. Getting the right contractor could make or break your project in the blink of an eye. For big projects, a general contractor is who you’ll need to get things done.
This contractor will hire subcontractors (such as electricians and plumbers) for specialty work. However, it might be challenging to hire a contractor who knows what they are doing. That being said, those who already have experience in renovations can be the general contractor themselves.
But, that means you’ll be the one looking for the subcontractors. It will be time-consuming and also stressful checking upon whether the work is going right or not and keeping an eye on things all the time. The only positive here is that you get to save money.
1. Make Sure You Know What You Want
First things first, you need to be 100% sure about what you want. Make a plan and come up with ideas yourself before you consult with a contractor. The more specific you are about your project, the more accurate the estimate you’ll get from your contractor.
That even includes the materials you’ll be needing. Let’s say you don’t know what you want, and you hire a contractor anyway. You give him a half-baked idea about your project, or you don’t provide him with anything definite to work on at all.
Chances are you’ll end up with a confused contractor, pay more money, waste time, and also not like the project all at the same time. Best to be prepared and confident about what you want with your contractor!
2. Cross-Check References And Reviews
You must cross-check references and reviews before you hire a contractor. It’s also essential you know what to ask when you’re looking for recommendations. Start with the people living in your neighborhood. Check out the projects and renovations they’ve done and asked them about their sources.
It’s even better when their projects are similar to yours so that you can get a better idea of the quality of the work. You can check with people in building trades or your local hardware store employees who can also give you referrals as well. As for online reviews, they could be a bit tricky.
There are too many sites who give false reviews, but there are sites where they give legit reviews and also let your site check to see whether they are true or not. However, you must keep in mind that checking references and reading reviews are not the same thing. So, do your research well!
3. Interviews And Comparisons
After you’ve sort out the candidates from the references, next comes taking interviews. The first rule of taking these interviews is that you ask a lot of questions. Make sure you get a written bid from each of the candidates you interview. This way, you can compare the bids you get from the other contractors.
It’s also best when you include the same materials and tasks, and you get a much better idea about how they are. The great thing about comparing bids and interviewing is that you get to learn a lot of things as well.
Remember to do some initial haggling at the interview, but also be prepared to do negotiations after you get the bids and before you sign a contract. Don’t be afraid to ask questions and compare the bids thoroughly.
4. Stay Involved All The Way
No matter how trustworthy your contractor is or how long you have known them, stay involved in the project all the way through. Being physically present at the site and available to answer questions or give feedback instead of leaving everything up the contractor is essential.
Ask them what their employees are working on and what the subcontractors are doing. Get a list of the employees your contractor has hired so that you know they actually did hire them. A lot of contractors just hire workers off the street.
This could result in delays, insubordination, and unpleasant work conditions. It’s easy to simply sit back and let the experts know what they are doing, but it’s helpful to be involved in your own project and learn something.
5. Check Up On Everything
Right before you hire your contractor and the subcontractors, keep in mind to check their licenses as well as the complaints and problems from disciplinary boards, local court records, or the Better Business Bureau. You can even ask the contractor to give you a copy of their and the subcontractor’s licenses. However, the license checking procedure may vary from state to state.
Talk to their subcontractors as well. Check out whether they pay them on time or not. Also, check to see if you can talk to their previous or current clients or not to get an even better idea about the people you are hiring. Get to know their side of the story and the experiences they have had.
6. A Detailed And Thorough Contract
Having a clear and detailed contract is vital because builders could refuse to do something that you want them to do. Write up a document and include payment deadlines, progress reports, and the kind of materials you’ll be using to the number. For added measure, include the name of the person you’re getting your materials from. Your builder should have a written document as well.
If he doesn’t, write it up yourself, or you could choose to add your own postscript. If there’s any change in your work or you change your mind about a particular idea, write up a change order that includes the details of the new design, including cost and materials. Encourage your contractor to do the same as well. Keeping things documented helps the process go smoothly.
7. Getting Proper Permits
It’s no secret that any kind of home renovation requires permits. There are some licensed contractors and unreliable companies who will suggest working without permits to save time and money. When that happens, just walk away because not only will you get fined, but you’ll also violate local laws as well.
Your work won’t even get inspected by the county or the city to see if it’s up to code or not. You’ll also have problem selling if you go for unpermitted work. Be wary of these contractors and always insist on getting permits before the job begins.
8. Never Pay In Full Until It’s Done
Whatever you do, never pay the full amount BEFORE the work is done. Your contractor could be using up the money you paid to finish someone else’s work, and you’ll never even know about it! Most contractors might ask for 30% in advance if the project requires expensive materials, and that’s acceptable. Your contract should include payment schedules and actions for progress payments.
Some contractors might finish most of the job but move on to a new project before they add the final touches. This will happen when you pay in full before the job is done. Never pay in full until you are satisfied with the work and always keep an eye out! You don’t want a contractor to use your money to finish someone else’s job.
9. Communicate And Negotiate
The key to getting your project to go smoothly is to have open communication with your contractor. Discuss in detail the kind of notices you might get, what hours they can work at your home, what they need to clean up, and finally, which bathroom they can use.
You may need to talk to them more frequently and more in-depth if it’s a big project. Never hesitate to speak up when you spot something wrong or if there’s a potential issue. It’s better to say something right then before it’s too late to fix it.
10. Receipts, Releases, And Insurance
Lastly, keep copies of receipts for all the materials that are being bought. Ask for the receipts before paying the progress payments. You also need to get lien releases from all subcontractors and the general contractor before you pay them.
If your contractor doesn’t pay their suppliers or subcontractors, a mechanic’s lien can be filed against your house. Also, it’s equally crucial to know how much is covered by your homeowner’s insurance and by your contractor’s business insurance. Get copies of the insurance policies for reference.
Renovations are stressful even with a solid contractor, not to mention expensive. There are so many surprises you can come across, including rotted subfloors, leaking pipes, dangerous electrical wiring, etc.
With surprises comes unexpected costs. Always anticipate the worst when you’re renovating, and stay informed about who you’re working with and the progress of the project. Following these ten tips will help you complete your desired project with ease and perfection.
If you are interested in even more lifestyle-related articles and information from us here at Bit Rebels, then we have a lot to choose from.