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7 MUST DO actions before hiring ANY remodel contractor

Not every home remodel contractor is created equal.  You´ve probabely heard a horror story or two for yourself.

If not, ask somebody. Anybody. Your barber, your accountant, your grocer… almost everybody has had or knows somebody who had a bad experience when hiring a contractor to remodel.

But you dont have to make the same mistakes.  There´s certain steps you MUST take before you sign that contract.  Follow these recommendations and you´ll dramatically decrease the likelihood of a botched job.

1. Get between 3 and 5 written estimates, with 3 being the bare minimum.

Make sure the estimates are IN WRITING.  This is important:  its not uncommon for the price to “unexpectantly” go up once work has been begun.The more contractor estimates you can get, the better position you´ll be in.

2. Only use licensed and bonded workers.

Go to your local licensing board website to make sure your contractor is suited for the job.  Some of the information you should look for there would include:

  • Whether the contractor is licensed to do the type of work you require
  • If the contractor has a surety bond
  • Verify that the contractor has current liability insurance and worker´s insurance

3. Ask questions

Some questions you probably want to ask each remodel contractor you´re considering :

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Do you have experience with remodeling jobs such as this?
  • Do you have references of similar jobs I can check on?
  • How many jobs do you currently have going? How many workers are used to manage those jobs?
  • Will you be working or just supervising? If your only supervising, how often will you be on-site?
  • How often do you communicate with your customers as the job is progressing?
  • The last time you had an unsatisied customer, what went wrong and how did you correct the situation?

Find out as much as you can about your contractor before agreeing to any work order.

4. Check for complaints.

The licensing board should also have information about any complaints filed against the contractor.

You also want to check with the Better Business Burea and Chamber of Commerce.  Its best to check as many places as possible in order to be safe (and not sorry).

5. Ask for references, and check every one of them. Go to see similar jobs the contractor has completed.

  • Were the customers happy with the job?
  • Were there any delays/missed days/etc. ? Was the deadline met as agreed upon?
  • Was the contractor prompt and curteous about returning phone calls?
  • Was there any price overruns and, if so, how come?

One question I ALWAYS ask:

“It sounds like <contractor> did a great job for you. Im curious, if he could´ve improved on one thing on this job, what would it have been? ”

Sometimes you dodge landmines by asking this simple question.

6. Once you´ve found a suitable remodeler, get the contract in writing

This sounds like common sense, but you would be surprised how many people dont get a contract because they don´t want to “insult” the contractor.

Do NOT make that mistake.  In the case of a dispute, without a contract it will be your word against theirs. Never a good situation.

Make sure your contract is clear, concise, and clearly describes the work to be done and the compensation involved.  Some of the most common things you want included would be:

  • Clearly state that the contractor will clean up after the job and be responsible for any damages incurred
  • How changes to the agreement (change orders) will be handled.
  • Spell out the work and the materials to be provided. Be as specific as possible with the materials to assure a certain level of quality.
  • The projected date of completion and what recourse there is for missed deadlines.
  • The payment schedule.

7. Use milestones to mark your payment schedule.

I suggest that, assuming the project is big enough, you split up payment dates into at least 3 milestones.  This will help protect against loosing all of your cash if the contractor doesnt finish the job or is doing it badly.

8. Inspect the work frequently.

This is the only way to make sure that the project comes together as agreed, on time, with the quality you have in mind.

Now this doesn´t mean to be a pest… we dont want an angry contractor remodeling our bathroom.  Dont be a babysitter, just be a responsible BOSS… because at least in this situation thats what you are.

Good luck on your remodeling project!

Published in Hiring Contractors:Tips and Tricks

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