We know how difficult and frustrating it can be to find an experienced, qualified contractor or tradesmen/women! I am sure most of you have heard many horror stories from friends and family and most of them have probably been true! But it doesn't have to be that way. While it’s not easy to find a competent, ethical, do-right contractor to work on your home or business, it CAN be done so read on for some practical advice!
Real world information is very hard to find when you are starting your search. Newspapers and magazine articles mean well but none of them are able to provide you with real testimonials and experiences of previous customers who worked with any particular contractor.
We have put together a quick checklist for you below:
The best way to start is through friends and family. However, these referrals need to be qualified and checked as well. For example, your friend might have used a great contractor for her garage addition but may have no idea whether the company is also experienced in kitchen cabinets
and tile replacement. You need to find out whether the referred company is also experienced in the specific job you are interesting in getting done.
Hardware stores and material manufacturers are also a good resource. But once again, make sure you check references and portfolios.
Engineers, architects and other contractors in similar industries are also an excellent resource. Once again, check all references and experience regardless of how good the referral sounds.
Spend some time and research each candidate. Check with the search engines for anything you may find. And most important of all, trust your instincts.
PREPARE BUDGETS AND SPECIFICATIONS
If you are serious about finding a good contractor, it will be important for you to be realistic about your budget and the work you can afford to complete.
Any professional contractor and tradesperson will appreciate the fact that you have prepared your specifications in advance and will be more responsive as a result. He/she will also be able to quickly determine if you can afford what you want, will help determine how much of what you want is possible with your budget and you’ll have the assurance that everyone you’re interviewing is pricing the same job. Many times, contractors seem unreliable or unresponsive because customers do not seem serious about the work they need done or have no idea how much things will really cost. Do your homework in advance and you will get a much better response.
We CANNOT stress enough how important this step is!! Before you give your final word and sign on the dotted line, make sure you follow these steps:
1. Make sure your contractor is INSURED for both Worker’s Compensation and General Liability. Don’t take the contractor’s word or accept a copy of an insurance binder from the contractor. The only secure way is to get the name of the contractor’s insurance carrier, look the number up in the phone book yourself, then call and ask for a Certificate of Insurance. The carrier will be happy to send you one in the mail.
2. Check the contractor's professional associations. For example, contractors who are members of NARI (The National Association of the Remodeling Industry) are usually the type who takes pride in their professional credentials.
3. Find out how long the contractor has been in business. Many small businesses go out of business in less than a year. Make sure your contractor doesn't run out of capital on your job.
4. Call the company's bank and find out whether their account has been handled responsibly.
5. Find out how long the contractor has been working with his crew? A long-time crew is a sign that your contractor treats his workers well and that there should be no revolving door on your project. You want to avoid the "learning curve" new employees bring to a project in progress as much as possible.
6. Find out what will be handled by the contractor's staff and what will be subcontracted? Get names of the subcontractors and call them. Ask if the contractor pays on time? How reliable is he? Also ask for the names of suppliers and check out the contractor with them.
7. Find out how many other projects the contractor will be working on simultaneously if you choose to hire him/her. Will the contractor be able to devote the time you need to your project?
8. Ask the contractor to provide you with references of projects similar to yours and call them up.D id the job stay within budget and on schedule? Was the site kept clean? Did the contractor pay his bills? Would you work with this contractor again? Ask if you can visit to see the results of the project.
And finally, just like anything, go with your gut feeling. For more info on how to find a good contractors, come back for the second part of this article where we will discuss how to negotiate a good contract before beginning the work!
Good luck and happy building and remodeling.