Take it from the experts at the Federal Trade Commission when they warn against just hiring anyone. As they say at their site, “Finding a good contractor is important — a home improvement project gone wrong can cost you. A good ad isn’t proof a contractor does quality work. Find out for yourself.” Naturally, the next big question becomes, “how do you find out for yourself” about a particular contractor?” That’s what we’ll focus on here and uncover the questions to ask and the answers to expect.
While it is said that word of mouth is the best way to find just about anything, with contractors, it is wise to be a bit skeptical of all recommendations. The good work in one homeowner’s opinion might be a lousy job in another’s. Instead, we suggest you use the following steps:
- Ask around with friends, neighbors, and colleagues who have had the same sort of work done
- Go online and look at any ratings, feedback and even the BBB website to see if they are rated or have reports against them
- Narrow down the options to no less than three
- Contact the most likable candidates and ask them to come out and provide an estimate. NOTE: If they charge for this, skip them and move to another provider.
- Ask each of the contractors about similar projects, and even if they have clients or sites you can visit.
- Get written estimates and scrutinize them for specifics. How much for labor? Materials? Extras? Remember that you get what you pay for, so don’t just choose the cheapest.
- What sort of licensing, insurance and/or bonding does that contractor have? Call the local building department to discover what sort of licensing is needed, if you are unsure.
- Do they have any warranty options on the work or materials?
- Will there be any subcontracting going on? If so, you may want to reconsider working with that firm. Why? Because it means, you will have to make certain that the subcontractors have insurance coverage and licenses, too.
- Always get at written contract before the work begins, and read it thoroughly to know all about the terms. If a contractor demands payment in full before beginning, work with another provider. Be sure they’ll get the permits (if needed) and handle even the finer details. Additionally, be sure that the contract is clear about issues like “change orders”, all of the materials (including make, model, brand, and so on), and details about canceling the contract.
These basic details can help you find the best providers, but you can also use online resources like Home Advisor to begin screening the nearest and top-rated contractors. Though you will always want to do the steps mentioned above and keep documentation of the entire project along the way, you can save yourself some headaches by working with pre-screened candidates. With good track records and proven histories with other home or property owners, you can rest assured there are dependable providers listed.