How to Choose the Right Contractor for Your Home Improvement Project

There’s no doubt that there are some home improvement projects that require the skills of a professional, but how do you find that professional? Do you just read Google reviews and pick one at random? No, that’s not a good strategy.

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Instead, you need to ask around, interview contractors on the phone and in person, get references and check them, check licensing, verify there are no complaints lodged against the contractor, and that’s all before you get quotes. Choosing a contractor for a home improvement or remodel can be daunting, but it’s well worth it if you want the job done right the first time, on schedule, and on budget (or as close to it as can be managed). Here’s your step-by-step guide to finding a contractor for your next home renovation.

Get Recommendations from the Right Places

The right contractor for your home improvement will be one who specializes in doing the kind of jobs you want done. If you don’t know anyone who has recently had similar work done to their own home, and don’t have any family or friends in the home remodeling industry, you’ll have to think outside the box to get recommendations. Start with your local independently owned hardware store. They usually know who the most reputable contractors in town are, because they deal with them regularly. 

You can also call up your local branch of the National Association of the Remodeling Industry to get a list of reputable local remodeling contractors. You’ll still have to vet these contractors, but at least it’ll give you a starting point in your area. You might also consider a home services membership, like the one at https://www.canduhome.com/, which can give you access to a nationwide network of pre-vetted contractors. 

Call Up Contractors

Once you have some names, call them up and interview them over the phone. Ask the following questions and take notes:

  • Do you do projects the size of my project?
  • How many projects do you have going at the same time?
  • Can I get financial references from your suppliers and bank?
  • How long have you been working with your subcontractors?
  • Can you give me a list of previous clients?
  • Are you licensed, insured, and bonded, and what is your license number?

The answers to these questions will tell you a lot about how reliable a contractor is, how much time they’ll have to devote to your project, and how available they are in general.

Check References and Licensing

Any good contractor will be happy to hand over a list of references, and sometimes that list will be long. You can scratch anyone who doesn’t give references off your list. Reference lists should include the dates the jobs were done, so you can see if there were any gaps or if the list is missing recent jobs. Call the references, and ask them how well the contractor kept to their schedule, whether pricing seemed transparent and fair, what they were like to work with, and how well the work has held up. If you can, visit references and take a look at the work in person.

Look up each contractor’s licensing to verify they really are licensed. Check with your state consumer protection office to make sure no one has lodged any complaints against them.

Meet with Contractors in Your Home

Once you’ve narrowed it down to a few contractors, meet with them in your home to discuss the scope of the work and get a feel for how well you’ll work together. While you shouldn’t leave the decision up to personality alone, you need to know that you’ll be able to communicate well and work through issues with anyone who’s going to be working in your home for months. Showing contractors your home will give them a better idea of what needs to be done and how much it will cost.

Get Quotes

Get at least three quotes, but don’t necessarily go with the cheapest one, especially if it’s a lot cheaper than the others. It could indicate that the contractor is desperate for work or cutting corners, or both. You don’t have to go with the highest quote, either. One in the middle is fine, but make sure the quote is detailed and contains estimates for labor and materials.

Hammer Out a Contract

Your contract should put in writing the details of the job, including the work schedule and timeline, payment schedule, which events trigger payments, and what materials are to be used. Don’t hire a contractor who wants more than 10 percent up front — unless they need to buy expensive materials at the beginning of the job, they could be trying to disappear with some of your money. A more reasonable schedule will split payment up into five or six installments to be delivered at specific junctures over the course of the project.

Finding a good contractor for a home remodel project can be just as challenging as the job itself. When you know where to look and what to look for, however, it becomes a lot easier, if still pretty time-consuming. But all that hard work will be worth it when you’re finally enjoying your newly remodeled home.

Due to the amount of comments from all of my wonderful readers, it is not always possible for me to respond to each one. However, I absolutely do read them all, and if you’d like to address something specific, or have a question for me, please don’t hesitate to email me at Kristen@theroadtodomestication.com. I will respond to your email as soon as possible! Thank you for visiting the blog!

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