When it comes to renovating your home, researching and finding a reputable contractor will determine the outcome of the renovation process. You and your contractor are going to be spending a lot of time and money together. For the majority of homeowners, the hardest decision in any home renovation project is finding a contractor that’s not only going to install the beautiful cherry hardwood floors they may have in mind, but also a contractor who’s going to perform at a high and professional level of work from start to finish.
The true American horror stories are the ones that begin with, “You will not believe what my contractor has done.” We have all heard the heinous mistakes committed by contractors. You know, “She didn’t have a kitchen for 6 months, and it cost 4 times the original amount,” or, “He just wasn’t who he claimed to be when we started. I can hardly get him on the phone.” Even with a decent contractor, home renovation projects can be stressful, expensive and may award you with unexpected surprises such as messy electrical wiring or a rotted subfloor.
Here are 12 tips to help you find a reputable contractor:
1- Know exactly what you want before you start reaching out for quotes.
You will get a more accurate quote if you are precise in defining what it is you want to be done and the materials you want to use. It’s beneficial to do some research on your project to get an idea of pricing, design styles, materials and timelines.
2 - Ask neighbors, friends & family for recommendations.
Other families in your area or in your social circle might have taken on similar projects in their homes. Asking them who they used and what the process was like for them is an excellent way to get started. In most cases, if your friends can trust their contractor, you can too.
3 - Find the right contractor for the right job. If you’re looking to install and hang new drywall you might not want to hire a contractor who specializes in laying tile. You want your contractor to be knowledgeable and confident in the work they are able to produce. The last thing you want is to hire a contractor who isn’t as experienced in the type of work you need to be done. Be sure to ask contractors you consider hiring what their specialization or expertise is in and how much experience they have doing it.
4 - Establish good communication from the beginning.
You’re going to have questions, and surprises may happen during the renovation process. Keeping an open line of communication will help ease any added stress and help to build a professional and reciprocal relationship with your contractor. Find a contractor who establishes open and consistent communication from the very beginning.
5 - Interview at least three contractors. When getting a quote from contractors, you’re going to have a lot of questions. When it comes time to compare quotes, make sure each one includes necessary tasks and materials. Even if you have your mind set on a specific contractor, interviewing at least three will provide you with the much-needed insight you will need when you are reviewing pricing and quality. Getting various quotes allows you to see what the average pricing of your project is as well.
6 - Check references & reviews. Take it upon yourself to reach out to some of your contractors’ most recent clients. Ask them about their experience and how it was working with the contractor. Did he communicate well? Was he professional? Was the jobsite clean? Were they satisfied? These are important things to know before making a final decision. Looking up online reviews is an easy way to find out about a contractor's reputation as well. If the contractor doesn’t have an online presence, ask him to provide you with a few references.
7 - Verify licensing. Some states require contractors to be licensed. Texas, for instance, doesn’t require general contractors to be licensed, but electricians and plumbers must have a valid state issued industry license to operate. When interviewing, ask to see any necessary licensing before performing any work on your home or even before signing a contract. You can refer to local disciplinary boards or the Better Business Bureau if you are suspect of any problems.
8 - Verify insurance coverage. You’re going to want to know what is covered by your homeowner's insurance and what is going to be covered under your contractor’s business insurance. This will give you peace of mind knowing that you are dealing with a reputable contractor if something were to go awry. An insured contractor is one that takes precaution. If something goes wrong, you want to know that your contractor has it all under control and will protect your home.
9 - Don’t sign a contract for your entire budget. A good contractor will always advise you to leave a little wiggle room in your budget. You never know what you’re going to find when you’re ripping up carpet or taking on a demolition project. Allowing yourself a pocket space for surprises like this will help aid you on the financial side of things. You don’t want to have to sacrifice your initial plans for an unfaulty surprise.
10 - Don’t pay the entire amount upfront. Never hire a contractor that requires 100% of the payment upfront. A reputable contractor will only ask for a portion of the total price to cover the cost of initial labor and material. Be sure to establish how you will pay your contractor before signing any contract to avoid misunderstandings.
11 - Secure proper permits. Some home renovation projects are going to need building permits. You may come across a contractor or two who will say that they can do the job cheaper if they bypass securing the proper permits. This violates city ordinances and also means you will be subject to fines if you are caught. Some permits will need to be secured by you, the homeowner, while others will need to be taken care of by your contractor. Be sure to ask your contractor what permits will need to be secured and by whom.
12 - Expect a delay before renovations begin. It could be weeks or a few months before a contractor begins working on your home. With the majority of renovation projects taking weeks to months to complete, contractors and their teams are some of the busiest professionals. Be patient with them as they fit you into their schedule.