How to Choose the Right Contractor for Your Project, in Four Easy Steps
After all the careful planning that goes into the construction or remodeling of a home, it often all comes down to one moment—the moment the contractor breaks down that first wall. Indeed, of all the players in a home-improvement project, it’s the contractor who arguably has the most important part, given that he or she is not only charged with bringing the project to life, but can also be the source of mistakes whose repairs cost already-stretched homeowners in time, money, and emotional well-being. Indeed, given that the goal of most home-remodeling projects is to fix existing sources of frustration, a contractor who fails to listen or follow plans carefully; lacks in skill or attention to detail; or simply tries to cut corners at quality’s expense can cause the opposite of project’s intended effect: more irritation and regret than comfort and aesthetic satisfaction.
With so many contractors out there, many of whom offer similar services and claim to be experts at every kind of remodeling job, the task of choosing the right one may seem as difficult as translating your vision for your project onto paper (and into a budget you can afford). Here are some things to look for and ask that can make the experience easier, and hopefully lead to the best results.
Check the Licence
Before hiring a contractor, and certainly before signing a contract, look up his license to verify information that he provides, as well as to check complaint disclosure. Also, check that your contractor is a valid HIS (Home Improvement Salesperson) card holder, which is issued by the state of California after diligent background checks to ensure your personal safety. Licenses and HIS status can be verified at www.cslb.ca.gov, which allows you to search either by licence, by company name, or by the licence holder's name.
Finally, make sure to note whether the company is listed as a sole proprietor, LLC, or corporation, since while a sole proprietor without employees does not require worker’s compensation insurance, a company that employees numerous individuals to work on your home project is obligated to carry worker’s-compensation insurance. This is critical, as if someone gets hurt on the job, the company’s insurance covers the medical bills; if the company lacks insurance, an injured worker could sue the homeowner to foot the medical bill.
Ask About Experience
Always ask how long an individual or company has been in business, and how many projects like yours a contractor has done before. Ask, as well, to see a portfolio of a contractor’s work, ideally with before- and-after photos. They may have hard copy or direct you to a website, but always insist that you be shown examples of successful projects before entrusting a contractor with your own.
Also, if your project or any part of requires non standard work or specialized skills, such as laying intricate tile patterns in a bathroom wall or installing tempered-glass back-splashes in a kitchen, inquire as to whether a
contractor has ever done this specific kind of work before, or works with a trusted sub- contractor who can manage the task.
Follow Up on Referrals
Don’t be afraid to ask for names and numbers of satisfied customers; this is standard practice in the industry, and any contractor who either doesn’t have or withholds this kind of information is almost certainly not the one you want for your job. Some sample questions to referrals about contractors include whether or not the contractor stayed on schedule; if he kept the site neat and cleaned up adequately at the end of the day; if he was responsive to concerns and complains; and if the final cost matched the estimate and the timeline met expectations.
Go Line By line
When asking a contractor for a price quote, insist that he provide an itemized list of all estimated costs, and for each type of material used. A good contractor will be open and clear about the scope of work and its expense, and never begin a project without the customer’s full understanding of what he or she is about to undertake. Ask a contractor to explain any differences in price between one bid and another, and why, for instance, he prefers working with a certain product, or doing things in a particular order. In some instances, spending more will result in a better outcome, but you’ll only know through a clear and detailed conversation with your contractor in the decision-making stage.
Finally, once you’ve checked off all the above items on your list, make sure to confirm one more: chemistry. Especially for large products like custom-home builds, your contractor will be the person with whom you interact on an almost-daily basis, and to whom you bring all your questions and concerns. It’s imporant to find a contractor with whom you feel comfortable speaking and raising issues, and who in turn is honest with you about potential challenges beforehand and unexpected problems that may arise.
Ultimately, if you select a contractor who has the necessary licensing, experience, and proven track record of customer satisfaction, and someone who acts like a real member of your team, your home- improvement project is likely to yield the results you’re after, for a long time after its finished.