Choosing a Contractor

One of the most important factors in planning a remodel is your contractor selection. A contractor can make or break your project. This is the person responsible for executing your vision and attending to the logistics of your project. But how do you know who is right for the job?

A quick internet search will show you just how many contractors are out there, but they can’t all be top choices. So here are 6 steps to help you select the right contractor for your project.

Ask around – The internet may be the best place to find a recipe for fettucine alfredo, but when it comes to picking service providers, the old-fashioned way is still the best. Talk to your friends and family about contractors they’ve hired. Ask around your neighborhood. You could even talk to local building inspectors. They’ll be sure to know which contractors have a reputation for good work, and which to avoid.

Call them up – Once you have your list of potential candidates, give them a call to find out a few basics. Describe your project to them and make sure they are comfortable with your project size. Ask about references and previous clients, how long they have worked with their subcontractors, and how many projects they handle at one time. These are important questions, but it’s also important to gauge your potential working relationship. If you have any trouble communicating, they’re probably not your guy.

In-person interviews – Once you have narrowed down your list, it’s time for your face-to-face interviews. Talk to at least 3 potential contractors to get a good frame of reference. In this meeting you can discuss more specifics about your project. The most important aspect here is how well you work together. This person will be a continuous contact throughout the duration of your project. But don’t rely on your discussion alone. Make sure you follow up on the references. Visit current jobsites. Look at how the jobsite is managed; is it clean and organized, or chaotic? Check with the Better Business Bureau or your local consumer protection agency to see if there are any complaints lodged against the contractors.

Select a bid – Get your bids in writing from each contractor. Include as much detail as possible. To accurately compare, make sure each contractor gives a bid based on the same materials and specifications. Each bid should break out materials, labor, profit and additional expenses. Be wary of suspiciously low bids. The adage is famous for a reason: you get what you pay for. In this case, a low bid may indicate a contractor who uses subpar materials or labor, or who is desperate for work. A bid somewhere in the middle may turn out to be a safer bet.

Get a written contract – Once you have agreed on a bid, put it down in writing. This should be as detailed as possible. Don’t worry about offending your contractor; this is for both of your benefits. Make sure to include start date and completion date, liability insurance, workers comp, lien releases from subcontractors, and a payment schedule. Be wary of contractors who want a significant amount up front. A typical payment schedule has 10% due at signing, with additional payments at intervals throughout the project, and 15% due upon completion. A request for significantly more up front could be a red flag.

Communicate with your contractor – Once you have hired the team it is important to establish a plan of communication. Arrange to have weekly conversations with the foreman or team leader to stay on top of the project. Also, plan for the team’s arrival. The workers will need access to your house, restroom facilities, equipment space, etc. Talk to the contractor ahead of time and discuss the logistics so that there are no surprises when it’s time to get started. Make sure this includes daily start and end times. You don’t want to be awakened by unexpected workers before the alarm goes off in the morning.

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