Do These Things Before Hiring a Contractor for Your Next Home Renovation Project
Home renovation projects can be intimidating to take on on your own, but when you need to hire someone to do it for you, finding the right contractor for the job can be just as difficult. Comparing prices, experiences, and timelines is much more difficult when you have an active water leak or furnace problem. There are a few simple things to keep in mind when the task of selecting a repair technician seems daunting.
Get advice from friends (or other contractors)
The first thing to consider when choosing a contractor is whether they are recommended by others who hired them. Looking at reviews can give you some insight, but it’s better to get advice from people you know who have done similar work. Another reliable source are other contractors you have worked with and trust who are not doing the work you need for this project or renovation but may have a working relationship with someone who does. Contractors often stake their reputation on such relationships, so getting a recommendation from them can narrow your choices considerably.
Check license and insurance
To further weed out potential problematic contractors, look for the proper licenses and credentials. The contractor should be able to show you their insurance and license information in advance for any work you need to do. If they don’t have this, the repair may not meet your insurance company’s requirements, let alone comply with local building codes. Anyone who cannot provide you with their paperwork in advance should not be considered a candidate for a major overhaul.
Look at their work photos and descriptions
Look at the potential contractor’s previous work and make sure you hire someone who specializes in the job you need to do. For example, if you own a heat pump and the contractor you want to hire doesn’t have heat pump examples in any of their portfolios, they might not be the right fit for the job. If they don’t have examples of their work listed beforehand, ask them to provide photos or descriptions of previous jobs. If they can’t or won’t provide them, that’s a red flag.
If you can find reference information for a contractor, it may help support any previous experience listed on their website. Checking their work with people who have agreed to be referrals to them and have worked with them in the past is a good way to make sure they are honest about their skills and customer service. If the contractor doesn’t have recommendations, you can ask for them, but if they can’t provide them – especially for expensive repairs – they may not have much experience. Worse still, a non-recommended contractor may not want you to talk to their previous clients, as there can be a long list of dissatisfied clients.
Request for proposals and selection of a contractor
The next step is to request some rates. The general rule is to ask for three offers to see if you can set a fair price range – you can always get a few more if the prices vary a lot or if the cost difference is small. Choosing the cheapest offer is not always the right move because there may be a good reason why the contractor is offering a low price. Going with a medium range is usually a smart move. However, trusting your intuition is also important. Don’t choose a contractor based on price alone if you don’t have a good opinion of them. Also, if you have a specialized renovation, such as an old house, you may end up paying more for a good job.
As part of the bidding process, you should also get an idea of the timelines offered. A contractor who wants to start tomorrow is likely not very busy, and lack of demand is a wake-up call. However, a contractor who has no vacancies for a year will obviously not work if you have an urgent repair, so again, it’s best to go somewhere between these two extremes.