Hiring a contractor for any home improvement or remodeling project can be a scary process. To get the proper results from any contract, hiring the right business for the job is essential. But how can people be sure that the hire is correct, and what steps should be taken first?
Hiring the right contractor starts with checking local channels like friends and family. After a shortlist has been collected, find their reviews on the local Better Business Bureau and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry. Be sure they have relevant experience and communicate well.
Much of the process relies on communicating between the contractor and others, like references and friends. Be open during the process, and it should be much smoother. For more information on what to do and tips to make it easier, continue reading below.
Checking In With Local Channels
Checking in with local channels should always be the first step when finding a new contractor. While your friends and family may not be experienced with home improvement, they have likely worked with some remodeling industries in the past. They can provide highly valuable feedback.
Gaining references and tips on where to start from friends and family is key. They likely have similar expectations as you and have personally worked with some contractors before. Heed the advice carefully to either find a gem or avoid a wreck.
This is a step that you have likely already started doing. Just by mentioning a potential repair or remodel to friends, they probably respond with information about someone they know. It is commonly referred to as word-of-mouth, and contractors often get plenty of business in this way.
You do not have to stop at just friends and family. Local businesses, lumber yards, colleagues – anyone you know who may have dealt with local contractors before can help. Most people are happy to talk about their experiences or help someone out, so ask away!
In a pinch, if you really cannot find anyone to talk to, you can turn to the internet. Try to find local forums or forums specific to your remodel for extra help. Sights like Yelp or searching Google Reviews are good places to start, but you can also look for Facebook groups that are located nearby.
What To Ask About When Talking To People
Throughout this whole process, you will be talking to people from different walks of life. While the questions you ask should change – asking the contractor the same questions as you would a friend is probably not the best idea – some general guidelines apply to everyone.
While asking questions, focus on the following sections:
- What was the experience like?
- How was the communication?
- Would you go back to the same people in the future?
- Were they professional?
These have been worded to best work among friends and references but can easily be adapted to work with the contractor or a local Better Business Bureau.
Do Your Due Diligence To Narrow Down Results
After asking around and getting a few recommendations, it is time to start your own research. Most of the time, this starts by contacting the contractor directly. There are a few extra steps you can take, however, to lessen your workload while searching.
Call and directly talk to the list of contractors. Focus on their professionalism, communication, and experience. It is important to feel confident in their skills both as a business and worker. Get their credentials and references if things feel good before moving on.
It can be helpful to remember that the contractor is running a business. Just like when interacting with any other business, if you get unprofessional or fake vibes from them, it is likely best to turn away. There are plenty of contractors out there that do great work, and you can always start your search over again if needed.
Your goal while talking to the contractors should be to narrow down your list. Try to get the total number to something manageable, like three to five. This will stop you from investing too much time into one contractor before deciding they are not a good fit.
Phone Interviews Are Extremely Helpful
Conducting phone interviews with each contractor on your list is a great place to start.
Quick phone discussions provide valuable information like:
- Company history
- Cost estimates
- Experience with relevant jobs
- Permit and licensing information
They should also be able to answer any other questions you may have, as well as references. If the contractor is professional and has satisfactory answers to all your questions, it is time to focus on their communication.
Do you feel confident they are trustworthy, professional craftsmen? They should put you at ease and make you feel like you are making a good investment. Be picky at this stage, as you are heavily narrowing down the candidates.
Ask For Their Credentials And References
Getting a contractor’s references and credentials is one of the best first steps you can take. After talking with them for a little while over the phone and asking basic questions, you should know how comfortable you feel with them. Remember to trust your gut!
All successful contractors should freely give references and make it easy to find their credentials. Grabbing these two sources of information is very common in remodeling jobs, and any contractor who seems hesitant may be unprofessional or lack the skills you need.
This is especially important if the job you need is large, as some states require certification to do work. You can find a list of contractor licensing requirements here. In general, however, hiring licensed and certified contractors is always a better option.
As expected, the specific license they have will change depending on their specialization. If you are looking for a large job that requires multiple sub-contractors, such as a full bathroom renovation, you can also research the sub-contractor credentials.
References are slightly different but are just as important. High-quality and experienced contractors should be able to provide you with a shortlist of references – previous clients – that you can talk to and see examples of their work. They serve as a mix between a portfolio and extra interviews.
While talking to references, ask relevant questions and keep things short. If you have any specific worries about the job, they are likely the best people to ask. While they are a good resource, you should also keep in mind that they were hand-picked by the contractor and likely represent their best work.
Investigate Contractors Through Official Channels
There are plenty of official channels you can cross-reference your contractors to. Doing so should help you feel narrow down the most professional and best-servicing options left from your list. Plus, you have the added benefit of extra security.
Large channels like local Better Business Bureaus and the National Association of the Remodeling Industry track and certify contractors. These agencies focus on tracking customer complaints and interactions, dealing with issues, and certifying and educating contractors.
Double-checking for issues through big companies can help you:
- Feel more secure
- Notice any issues that have not been mentioned
- Avoid personal biases
Getting additional feedback on contractors is always a good thing, but it is important not to go overboard. If you are considering a contractor who you need to double-check everything on, they are likely not the best fit.
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry
The National Association of the Remodeling Industry, or NARI for short, operates as a kind of gold standard of contractors across the United States. They offer a variety of services for contractors and businesses but are most useful for crosschecking certifications.
NARI provides certifications, accreditations, and awards to particularly great contractors. Their certifications can be for general remodeling or specific to particular jobs, like kitchen remodels.
Contractors who are certified need to undergo training and must pass an examination for the specific certification. The certificate must also be renewed annually to ensure that contractors keep up with education and advancement.
Most importantly for consumers, you can crosscheck certifications on contractors by calling NARI or going to their homeowner website. Keep in mind that your contractor may have other certifications, which will have to be checked out through other means. Still, this is a great place to start. Whatever certification your contractor provides you with, you can double-check after.
Local Better Business Bureau
Checking in with a local Better Business Bureau is a great step to finding an accredited business. Local chapters can provide you with official reports, complaints, and reviews from past customers.
The better business bureau also has a searchable list of accredited businesses on their website. If you are starting from scratch on your search, it may be a good idea to start here for better luck.
You can also file your own complaints or reviews with contractors after the job is finished. This is a nice way to support the contractor and get the good word out for them or warn others if the experience was less than pleasant.
If you are interested in finding additional reviews or complaints, you can also check other places online. Sites like Yelp or Home Advisor can be useful for reviewing customer interactions, but it is best not to rely on them. These sites can be flooded with ratings from non-customers for both good and bad.
Rather than finding a contractor with these sites, use them only to cross-reference what other people are saying.
Finalize The Deal With A Well-Read Contract
After going through additional research and narrowing down your list, you have likely found the finalists. Do not move on to the contract stage with any more than three options; narrowing down to just one is ideal. These are the people you want to meet and talk with once again in person while confirming the final details.
Ask the contractor for the documents and contracts that will make the work official. Ensure that these include specifics for the work to be done, a warranty, dispute resolution, and payment schedule. It may be worthwhile to have a lawyer review the contracts before signing.
When it comes to contracts, it is generally best to be as specific as possible. Contracts should include everything necessary to protect both you and the contractor. Some of the key areas that must be included are:
- A detailed description of the work
- A payment schedule based on a previously provided bid
- Estimated timeline (including completion date)
- Applicable guarantees
- A change-order clause
Many contracts include additional sections, and you should be comfortable with the contents before continuing on. However, each of these should prevent you from being blindsided during the process.
Finally, remember that nothing in business truly matters until it is in writing. Do not sign a contract without everything expressly written, and feel free to take the time you need to review it. If you feel pressured into signing the contract upon your first look, something may be wrong.
Hiring the right contractor for a home improvement job contains many steps that all involve talking to people and doing research. The best contractors are certified, have a history of relevant work, are professional, and communicate well.
You can double-check certifications and past work through agencies like the better business bureau and NARI, as well as references. Do your work before signing any documents and feel confident to feel confident about the final choice.
Element Home Remodeling East Bay is a home remodeling contractor serving The Bay Area. We are highly rated online by past customers and pride ourselves on high quality work as well as excellent customer service. Contact us today to learn more or to schedule a free consultation.