Spring is a popular time to do home improvement projects. Sometime you can tackle those projects yourself and other times you need some help. For big projects, you’ll need a contractor. But how do you make sure you hire a trained professional and not a con-man? And where do you begin? Here are a few tips for finding a reputable contractor.
Define Your Home Remodeling Project
Before you even start looking for a contractor, make sure you know what type of work you want done on your home. Hiring a contractor to do a variety of renovations is not a good idea. Instead focus on a single repair and hire the expert who specializes in that type of job. For example, if you want your roof repaired, it doesn’t make sense to pay an interior contractor to do the job.
Get a Recommendation
Start by asking your friends and family for references. You can also talk to your neighbors who may have had work done on their homes. You should also do some online research and read reviews by real homeowners who have used a contractor’s services. Make a list of reputable contractors based on the information you gather.
Conduct Phone Interviews
Once you’ve put together your list, call the possible contractors and ask them if they will take on your project. You can also ask for financial references, proof of proper licensing, a previous client list and how long they have worked with subcontractors. The more information you gather, the more you’ll get a sense of a company’s reliability, availability and how attentive they will be to your home improvement project.
Meet Contractors Face-to-Face
Once you’ve done your phone interviews, pick three or four contractors to meet face-to-face and get estimates. Communication is very important when it comes to projects like these, so look for a contractor who you feel comfortable with and answers any questions you have. You can also double-check in with your state’s consumer protection agency to make sure the contractor doesn’t have a history of disputes.
Ask for Bids
Now that you have a short list of contractors it’s time to get bids. Ask each company to break down the cost of labor, materials, profit margin, payment schedules and duration of the work. Materials typically account for 40 percent of the total cost. Profit margin is usually 15 to 20 percent. For large home improvement projects, a typical payment schedule starts with 10 percent down and three payments of 25 percent, spaced over the course of the project. A check for the final 15 percent should only be due when you are satisfied that the work has been completed, according to ThisOldHouse.com.
Get it in Writing
Make sure a contract is drawn up that details all the costs, schedule, materials, steps of the project, proof of insurance, etc. A start date and projected completion date should also be included. Without a contract, it’s your word against the contractor’s, should there be a dispute over the work.