Select the Right Contractor

When you want to start a house renovation project or home renovation project, you are probably thinking of hiring someone to help you with the work. Even a handyman homeowner experienced in home repairs may have to hire a contractor or renovator because of the size or level of difficulty of the job.

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But, how do you choose the right contractor?

First of all, let’s understand what exactly a contractor is. A general contractor is a licensed professional accredited in your local jurisdiction to perform construction work.

There are different types of contracting licenses that let you only do small renovation work to building hundred story skyscrapers. The type of license they hold will determine the amount of work they are allowed to perform.

Who Is The Best To Hire?

The contractor you hire should have the technical, business and interpersonal skills, the tools and the experience needed to do the job you want done.

For large renovation projects, you can hire a renovator to take charge of the whole job since many renovation contracting companies are set up to handle both design and renovation work. Some general contractors self-perform some activities while subcontracting other activities to specialty contractors or renovators. However, general contractors (which can be an architect or architectural technologist) may also provide their services to oversee your project, which may include obtaining all necessary permits and supervision of the work.

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Choosing A Right Contractor

1 – First of all, start by looking for several suitable contractors. You can find references for a good contractor from a family member, friend, or neighbor who has had similar work completed. They can give you much information about the dependability of the contractors they worked with, the quality of the work and their overall experience with that company.

2 – Other sources are your local homebuilder and renovator associations; local building supply stores; and through contractors’ websites on the Internet.

3 – Never used an unlicensed contractor. All legitimate contractors are licensed and they are required to demonstrate their knowledge and experience through testing and referrals. Licensees are required by the State to be bonded. This means that if the contractor fails to perform, the bonding company will stand behind him up to that amount and the State will require the contractor to come into compliance or the license can be revoked. Most generally, if the unlicensed contractor fails to perform, you the homeowner, suffer the loss.

So, ask the contractor if he is licensed and have him show you his Municipal Contractor’s Occupational License. Be sure it covers the municipality that you want the work done in.

4 – Discuss your project with a few potential contractors to get their advice and suggestions on how they would do the work. At the first meeting, some may give you a rough estimate of costs, depending on the project’s scope and complexity.

5 – Another important factor to look for is to see if the contract is responsible and responsive. That means a contractor should respond to your all of your questions and requests within a timely manner (especially if there was a deadline posted on that response) and respond with an answer that makes sense. Ask a lot of questions, such as:

– How long have you been in business?
– Will you provide a written contract?
– How will you deal with the health and energy efficiency aspects of the job?
– What work are you, or your subcontractors, licensed to do, e.g., electrical, plumbing?
– What kind of work do you specialize in?
– Have you done a similar job before?
– Will you use your own crew for the work or will you subcontract all or part of the job?
– How would you handle a specific problem related to this project (e.g., installing kitchen cabinets on your sloping floor)?
– How and when do you clean up, particularly fine dust?
– Will you take out all required permits (e.g., building, plumbing, electrical)?
– What work schedule will you follow?
– What kind of warranty do you offer and what does it cover?
– Do you carry workers’ compensation and liability insurance?

If they cannot respond in a professional manner, this probably means they did not understand the scope of work involved with your project and unfortunately you can be sure your project probably will not run in professionally manner. Being a responsive and responsible contractor is key your hiring process.

Most importantly, be sure you can get along with the contractor. If you cannot communicate effectively with the contractor, things can get very tense in a lengthy project.

6 – Get written estimates and make sure they are itemized enough to be able to compare them to each other. Get a detailed list of the materials to be used and payment methods. Beware of any request for unusually large sums of upfront money before beginning work. In the same time be wary of contractors with very low bids – they may have cut corners to make a profit. Remember, price is only one of the criteria for selecting a contractor.

 How many estimates do you need? As a general rule, with the proper drawings and specifications, three estimates will usually provide sufficient information for you to make a decision. To get estimates, especially for substantial projects, you’ll need good-quality drawings and detailed specifications.

7 – However, you need to be specific too. It is imperative to know very well what you want: what type of flooring, what kind and brand of doors and windows, what kind of finishes you want.

8 – Finally, and probably most importantly, get everything in writing.  Make sure to develop a contract with the contractor (that is why they are called contractors, after all) that puts into writing everything you want them to do and everything you do not want them to do.

Do not be tempted by a contractor who doesn’t have an address, doesn’t want a written contract and offers a discount if you pay cash. For example, contractors who insist on cash may be unlicensed and uninsured; and without a written contract your cash advances are unprotected.

An underground contractor may do poor work and create health and safety problems. If one of the contractor’s crew is improperly trained, is injured on the job or damages your property or a neighbor’s property, your homeowner’s insurance policy might not cover you and you could be liable.

The Job Contract

Your job tender, and the contractor’s bid on it, will provide the basis for the contract, which basically specifies what you and the contractor are each responsible for.

DO NOT SIGN a document that you’re not fully satisfied with. You and the contractor will sign two copies of the contract, and you’ll each keep one.