Are you planning a home remodeling or building project? Hiring a home improvement contractor can feel like an overwhelming task. You’ve likely heard horror stories of contractors who do substandard, haphazard work. Some cut corners and leave homeowners in unsafe living conditions. How can you avoid falling victim to an unscrupulous contractor? Here are eight tips for working with contractors and getting the beautiful home makeover of your dreams.
1. Check the Contractor’s Credentials
Bad contractors are often smooth salesmen who can convince homeowners that they’re skilled. However, industry credentials are one thing that can’t be faked. Don’t let yourself get tricked into hiring an unlicensed contractor. Do your homework to research a contractor’s training. Ask contractors to show you actual documents of their licenses.
Next, verify the license by contacting your state’s regulatory board. Access the Better Business Bureau website to find a contractor’s ratings and reviews. Look up contractors on the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) database. Use the same diligence when checking that contractors are insured. Contractor insurance is essential in case a home improvement injury happens.
Third, check Yelp reviews. See what your neighbors have to say about their experience with the contractor.
2. Conduct an In-Person Interview
In today’s digital age, homeowners commonly find contractors online. After you’ve narrowed down your search, take your contractor search offline with in-person interviews. Meet with a few potential contractors face-to-face. Ask hard-hitting questions to determine the contractors’ competence. Inquire about recent projects they’ve completed. Raise questions about how long they’ve worked in home improvement. Ask about the materials, suppliers, and subcontractors they use. Have them give you a project plan and estimate. Only pick contractors who demonstrate good communication skills. Remember strong, detailed answers trump charisma.
3. Request Contractor References
Less than stellar contractors count on new targets not knowing their shady past. Hearing from former clients is the best way to evaluate a contractor — that’s why you should be sure to ask for references from every contractor. Honest, hard-working contractors have a trail of happy homeowners singing their praises. Request the names and phone numbers of contractors’ latest clients. Don’t settle for hearing from references that are years (or even decades) old. After all, you never know when contractors will get lazy and change their habits. Reach out to recent clients and inquire about their home renovation experience. Ask about the contractor’s punctuality and management style. You should also request photos or video tours of the contractor’s work.
4. Organize a Project Timeline
So, you’ve decided on a licensed contractor you feel is dependable. What comes next? Setting a project timeline is a pre-planning necessity. Agree on a project timetable that works for you. Highly trained contractors know how to estimate timelines fairly accurately. He or she should be able to outline exactly how long your home improvement will take. Don’t fall for contractors who promise big projects will be finished in a week. Overly short timelines suggest the contractor might take risky shortcuts. Overly long timelines suggest the contractor won’t be dedicated to your project. Ask contractors for a definitive project start date and realistic completion date. Inquire about how contractors will handle setbacks and unforeseen obstacles too.
5. Create a Payment Schedule
Scheming contractors generally want the entire project cost paid in full before the start date. Then, they can run off and abandon your project without ever lifting a finger. Always be suspicious of contractors who demand full compensation in advance. Upfront costs should only be a portion of the project total. As the project progresses, you can pay the contractor in increments. Never pay the whole balance before the home remodeling is completed. Use money as a motivator to keep contractors in line and on time.
6. Get an Ironclad Contract in Writing
Treat your home improvement project like a job and make contractors sign contracts. Any contractor unwilling to sign a contract should be dismissed immediately. Before the first hammers are thrown for demo, get a written contract. If anything goes awry, you have a written document for reference. Institute a well-written contract that outlines the project plans you require. List the start date, completion date, project materials, and payment schedule you’ve agreed upon. Also, ensure there is proof of liability insurance and lien waivers. Have contractors sign at the dotted line with their license number.
7. Require Change Orders
Even the best-laid plans can get ruined by unanticipated incidents. Home improvement projects can turn sideways for many reasons. Perhaps a storm rolls in and pushes the timeline back days. Maybe mold or asbestos is discovered and must be remedied first. Once demo happens, contractors can stumble upon other issues that need to be addressed. Given that, you must require that your contractor provide change orders. Change orders are written add-ons that alter the initial contract. Don’t simply settle for contractors verbally telling you about changes. Get the change order in print with both of your signatures. Double-check that the change order describes the extent of the new work, extra costs incurred and adjusted project schedule.
8. Supervise Contractors on the Job
Hiring a contractor relieves you of the stressful, and back-breaking work of a remodeling project. But you should arrange to be onsite as often as possible to answer questions, catch mistakes, and make changes along the way if desired. Watch for red flags in day-to-day operations, such as tardiness or alcohol use. It’s a good idea to keep an eye on your renovation and ask for regular project updates.
Overall, homeowners must be cautious when hiring remodeling or building contractors. Choosing a contractor is a decision to take seriously. Avoid picking contractors solely based on their bids. Don’t fall for the temptation of a cheap project price. Selecting the lowest estimate can lead to shoddy, unprofessional work. Break down your project’s needs and calculate a cost you see as reasonable. Paying a bit extra for a project done right by a skilled, sincere contractor is worth it. Use these eight homeowner tips for working with contractors as your blueprint for a successful renovation.
When you’re ready to renovate, give the building experts at Trinity Homes AZ a call, or visit our projects page to be inspired.