Even if you’re a pro at various DIY projects, sometimes it’s best to hire an experienced contractor for larger or more complex home renovations.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, when more people started staying at home, Google trends indicated an 8% increase in searches for general contractors in one year. However, choosing the right one for your remodeling project is essential and requires you to dig deep into their qualifications and expertise.
Thankfully, finding a good contractor is not impossible. Here are six things you should look for when hiring someone to work on your home.
Always begin your search for a contractor by making sure whoever you find is licensed. Each state has its own licensing board and requirements that general contractors must meet. Visit your state’s Department of Labor website to find a directory of contractors in your area.
Keep in mind that hiring a licensed contractor is essential if you intend to sell your home in the future. Otherwise, your renovation project can decrease the value of your home and will likely be excluded from the transaction.
Homeowners may also need to pay to redo the work by a licensed professional or potentially end up with other legal liabilities, even if they were unaware that the contractor they initially hired wasn’t licensed.
It’s important to know upfront that your contractor has met industry and state standards to work.
2. CERTIFICATE OF INSURANCE
Whoever you decide to hire as a contractor should maintain general liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Always be sure to ask right away to see their certificate of insurance to verify the policy is still in effect.
General liability insurance ensures your contractor is covered for injuries that may happen on your property and any unnecessary damage they may cause to your home. However, it does not cover injury to their employees or subcontractors.
If your contractor hires additional people to work on your renovation, workers’ compensation insurance is a must to protect others from accident expenses and industry-related fatalities. Most states require general contractors to carry workers’ comp even if they only employ one person.
Sole proprietor contractors may choose to opt-out of holding workers’ compensation for themselves to drive down their premiums.
You will want to look for a contractor with ample experience in the project you need completed.
Search for contractors specializing in painting if you’re looking for a color makeover. Hire a roofing expert for repairs or replacements. Other specializations may include kitchen or bathroom remodels, plumbing, electrical, flooring or new construction.
You should ask the following question when interviewing a general contractor:
● How long have you been in business?
● What sort of experience do you have with this kind of job?
● Do you have before-and-after photos of work you’ve done?
● What’s your vetting process to ensure subcontractors are qualified?
● How long have you worked with your subcontractors?
● What steps will you take to protect my property?
Communicating your project needs and inquiring about their skills and backgrounds will give you better insight into who will be working for you. You’ll have a good idea of their professionalism and ability to do a great job.
4. COST OF SERVICE
You should be getting multiple estimates and bids as you search for a contractor. Find out the estimated cost of your project — materials, labor and contingency fund — as well as payment options, payment schedules and your right to cancel.
Do they accept credit cards or checks? Do they require a down payment before starting the project?
Some red flags to be aware of when it comes to costs of services include:
● Never pay for a project in cash. Many times, this may mean it’s a scam. You can also then use your cashed checks as a receipt.
● Always make checks payable to a company rather than an individual.
● Never pay more than one-third of the project costs as a down payment.
5. TURNAROUND TIME
Nobody wants to wait around forever for a home project to be completed, especially if it’s large enough to displace you or gets in the way of everyday life.
Ask your contractor how long they expect a project to take from start to finish. Remember that delays sometimes occur, such as poor weather conditions or supply chain issues in obtaining the materials.
Regardless of the turnaround time outlined in your contract, be prepared to adjust your timeline and have a little bit of flexibility when unforeseen circumstances arise.
6. REVIEWS AND RECOMMENDATIONS
When push comes to shove, the best way to look for a contractor is by searching for reviews, recommendations, and word-of-mouth.
Ask friends, family and neighbors who worked on their houses and how they liked the finished product. It would help if you also looked the contractor up on Google, Yelp or another site where customers can leave reviews.
Research the company’s profile on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to read through any complaints and search for keywords that indicate a scam. You may even ask the contractor if they have a list of local references you can contact.
These tools can be beneficial as you decide who to hire.
BE CONFIDENT IN YOUR HIRING DECISION
Searching for a good contractor may seem like a project on its own, but the more you know about them, the more trust you’ll have in the work they can do. Following these six steps should help you make the right choice.
Guest Contributor: Rose Morrison