The biggest challenge for many homeowners when planning to upgrade or repair their homes is finding a reliable contractor. There is a huge difference between a good contractor and a great one based on the quality of their work. By now, you must have heard of a contractor who tore down the kitchen only to disappear once they realized they’d bitten off more than they can chew. To avoid being the next victim, it’s vital to find a reliable and experienced contractor.
This article will look at the top 8 tips you can utilize to narrow down a cluster of contractors so that you can pick the right one for you. It will also look at additional tips you can follow to ensure your project finishes on time, within a budget, and is professionally done, which you will learn if you read on.
Know What You’re Looking for In a Contractor
Before taking off in search of a contractor, it’s essential to know the qualities that you need your contractor to have. For instance, if your project involves kitchen remodeling and designing a patio, your ideal contractor should be experienced in both areas. It would be illogical to hire someone who specializes in designing kitchen cabinets to handle your patio.
Consult Subcontractors to Know the Scope of the Work
It’s challenging to know the exact scope of work by looking at the area you want to be improved. The easiest and the quickest way to have a clear idea of the entire project is by consulting with subcontractors you already know, such as electricians. Since they’ll be working on the same site, they might have an idea of how big the contractor’s project will be, the materials that will be needed, and an estimate of how long it might take. However, their opinion is not final since a lot can happen on a construction site.
Ask Family, Friends, or Neighbors for References
It takes a lot of time and effort to find the right contractor, especially if it’s your first time needing one. That’s why your first source of information should be from people close to you. Ask around your social circle for anyone who had a similar project about the contractor they used. Even if none of them have had a similar problem, they might have heard of someone who did. It’s also the best way of knowing which contractors to avoid based on their previous performances.
Interview More Contractors
More is always better, especially when you’re interviewing contractors. Not only will doing this help you get a good contractor, but you’ll also benefit from their different opinions regarding your project. Make sure you interview at least five contractors before choosing the one you feel to be the right fit for the project. Also, it would be beneficial to conduct these interviews face to face so that you can learn more about the contractor. A good contractor should have the following qualities:
- Show confidence in their skills without coming out as arrogant
- Understand what you need and have a plan of how they can deliver
- Have a general knowledge of the materials needed and their current cost
- Be willing to listen to your ideas
Check for Licenses and Past Projects
As a general rule of thumb, great contractors should have all the necessary licenses that permit them to offer their skills up for trade. For contractors to get their licenses, they should pass their trade exams and have worker’s compensation insurance. Ask for all these documents before making any commitments with the contractor. No matter how skilled or talented a contractor is, avoid hiring them if they don’t have the necessary paperwork.
Depending on where you reside, a good contractor should hold at least one of the following licenses:
- Class A licenses– They’re allowed to work on any project regardless of its complexity. They’re primarily engineers with extensive knowledge and experience in their trade.
- Class B licenses– They can handle residential or commercial projects, such as remodeling or improving the structure.
- Class C licenses– They handle mostly residential projects, such as renovating single-dwelling houses.
Make sure you check in with your local authorities to know the type of licenses a contractor should have to qualify for work. While you’re there, check the authenticity of the documents you received from the contractor.
Do A Background Check on the Contractor
After identifying the contractor you believe would be a good fit for the project and authenticating the paperwork, it’s time to know a bit about their past work. While it’s not advisable to meddle in their personal life, there is nothing wrong with checking how they performed in their previous projects.
If possible, you can reach out to their previous clients for information, but be cautious since some people don’t like to be asked about their personal projects. The easiest way would be to ask the contractor for references and talk to these people regarding their projects.
Brainstorm With the Contractor
Once you’re comfortable with the contractor of your choice, the next logical step is to brainstorm ideas for the entire project. Listen to their opinions and recommendations, and make sure you all agree on the project’s specifics before anything starts. Also, it would be best if you knew about their availability, such as the number of days they would be working on the project in a week. Are they comfortable working overtime if needed? This information would help you estimate the period it would take to complete the project.
Sign a Detailed Contract With Them
It might come as a surprise to you, but some homeowners neglect signing a contract with their contractors. What they fail to know is that the contract protects you from any liabilities in case of an accident around the construction site. Even with a small project such as installing new kitchen cabinets, always have a contract in place, and make sure the contractor reads it before signing. If it’s the contractor who came with a contract for you to sign, make sure you read it through before agreeing to any terms in it. By doing so, both of you would be going into this project with a clear idea of what’s required from everyone involved.
How to Make Sure the Contractor You’ve Hired Stays Reliable
Many homeowners have suffered in the hands of incompetent and unprofessional contractors by either paying more than the estimated budget or by the contractor taking off halfway through the project. To make sure that your contractor completes the project under the agreed terms, make sure you follow these tips:
Set Realistic Goals and Deadlines
Start off by deciding how you wish the project to turn out and what it should take to complete it. Involve the contractor in this stage so that you can agree on how the project should run. While it’s also great to have a reasonable deadline, a budget is equally important for unforeseeable events that might derail the project. Brainstorm with the contractor to come up with this information.
Don’t Exceed 10% of the Payment before the Project Commences
A lot of homeowners make the mistake of paying a large sum before the project even starts. While it might appear honorable and coming out as a trustworthy person, it also shows you’re naïve, which the wrong person can take advantage of and manipulate you. It also exposes you to potential scammers or unprofessional contractors that have a habit of abandoning their projects midway.
Get the Required Permits
The last thing you want is the local authorities stopping your project simply because you forgot to get a permit. Not all home improvement projects might require a permit, but it’s safe to contact the respective authorities to know whether you need one.
Check In with the Contractor Regularly
You probably don’t want to be that client who’s always on their contractor’s back trying to control and micromanage everything they do. However, it’s critical to keep checking in with them more often to know how they’re progressing and whether they need something. Regular inspections are great for keeping the contractors on their toes but should be done professionally. Don’t let your presence distract them from their work, and you shouldn’t spend too much time on the site to make them uncomfortable.
Only Pay the Full Amount After the Project Is Complete
Make sure you have indicated in the contract that you’ll pay the total amount once the contractor completes the work and you’re satisfied with the result. Not only will this action motivate the contractor to get the job done, but it will also protect you in case they end up doing poor work. However, you should agree on a down payment of some sort or arrange to pay by milestone. Make sure the contractor understands the terms of your agreement so that they don’t turn on you when things don’t work out.
Make Sure You Stick Within the Budget
A budget is critical in any construction project, and it should cover all the expenses required to get the job done. Make sure you involve the contractor when coming up with the budget since you’ll need their input regarding the cost of materials and other miscellaneous expenses. It’s also best if you budget for unforeseeable expenses that might arise during the project. If the project threatens to go above the budget, kindly talk with the contractor to understand what might cause this problem.
Inspect the Final Results
Take a few minutes to go through the completed project, checking if the contractor did everything you agreed on. Bring in another set of eyes to help you catch any mistakes or areas that need more work. Make sure you do this before the contractor leaves or marks the work as complete. Once you’re satisfied with the work, you can pay them the remainder of their money and send them on their way. In rare cases, a bonus would suffice if they did a great job.
Finding a good contractor is not easy, and it requires a bit of work and effort from your side. Before hiring one, you need to know what you’re looking for in a contractor. Asking for recommendations from friends and families is critical. Don’t forget to interview more contractors to weed out unsuitable ones for the job.
It’ll also help a lot to do a background check on contractors before choosing them, as this will help you learn about their past projects. Avoid making mistakes such as paying large sums before the project starts or nagging your contractor while working to avoid delaying the project. One important tip is to set a reasonable budget and avoid going over it. Don’t forget to reward your contractor if they have done an incredible job.
If you are located in The Bay Area and looking for a highly rated and experienced home remodeling contractor, contact us today for a free consultation. Element Home Remodeling East Bay is an Oakland home remodeling company with experience with projects both big and small. We focus on modern and open designs that will enhance your home.