In a home renovation project, selecting the right contractor is the critical first step.
Here’s how to make sure you hire the right contractor for the job.
Get referrals. Check-in with family, friends, and neighbors. Request from the National Association of the Remodeling Industry a list of members in your area. Talk with a building inspector about which home renovation contractors routinely work to code. Ask a nearby lumberyard where contractors buy quality materials and pay on time.
Interview all referrals over the phone. Make a quick call to each, and ask the following:
· Do they take your size projects?
· How many other projects will they be doing at the same time as yours?
· How long have they worked with the subcontractors they use?
· Can they provide a list of previous clients?
· Can they give you financial references from suppliers or banks?
Meet three or four candidates face-to-face. Choose three or four contractors to meet with and discuss the job. Make sure they answer your questions to your satisfaction—you must communicate well with each other. Don’t be influenced by their personality—focus on their expertise.
Do background checks. Call former clients to find out how the job went and if you can see the final product. If you can, visit a current job site to see how the contractor works. Is the site organized and safe? Are the workers polite and respectful of the homeowner’s property? Check the state consumer protection agency and local Better Business Bureau for any history of disputes with clients or subcontractors.
Get bids from three candidates. Tell them what you want out of the project and what you’re planning to spend. Have them all specify the cost of materials, labor, and other expenses. Materials usually make up 40% of the total, the rest for labor and profit margin.
Make your decision, but don’t base it just on price. Experts advise rejecting the low bid since it could indicate the contractor is cutting corners. Your decision should be based on technical competence and how comfortable you are communicating with the contractor.
Set up a payment schedule. Payment schedules can vary from 10% to 50% upfront, with the rest evenly spaced during the duration of the project, and the final payment made when every item is completed. Have this put into the contract.
Review the contract. It should include the start date and expected completion date; a detailed description of the job; materials and products to be used; and a requirement that the contractor get lien releases from all subcontractors and suppliers (to protect you if the contractor doesn’t pay them); proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation; and the payment schedule. Make sure you understand everything in the contract before signing it.
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