Guest Blogger #445, Entry #1062, March 31, 2012
No matter how good you are at tackling DIY projects around the house, nearly everyone has limits when it comes to home repair and upgrades. So at some point you may find that you need to hire a contractor in order to get some major renovations completed. Although finding such a professional can be as easy as hauling out the yellow pages or perusing local directories online, these research methods won’t tell you anything about whether or not a contractor is qualified and able to handle your particular project, or if they will do a good job. So here are just a few tips to help you avoid hiring a contractor that is nothing but trouble.
Image via: Design Traveller
Your first step is to get referrals
This requires some legwork on your part as you’ll have to approach family members, friends, and trusted colleagues to discuss their contracting experiences. But considering that it could deliver on a fantastic service provider it’s well worth the effort you’ll put in up front. So start asking everyone you know about their prior experiences with contractors. Although many people will have horror stories to tell about contractors upping the cost midway through a job, tacking on extra fees, or outright disappearing and leaving a job only partially finished, you’ll probably find a few who can’t stop raving about the incredible prices and service they received from a contractor.
The trick here is to take a positive referral with a grain of salt and temper your expectations. Keep in mind that the job a contractor performed for a friend could be night and day when compared to what you want done. Most contractors are fairly versatile and cover a wide range of renovating services (or hire a crew of specialists to make sure the job gets done right), but still they may not be familiar with the particular renovations you’re seeking. Even if they can offer you the same great prices and speedy, caring service that your friends received, they may not be able to give you exactly what you want.
Image via: This Old House
Try to get several bids
You can likely secure a load of referrals from many trusted sources of such information in your life, but ultimately you’re the one who has to be comfortable with a contractor (not to mention confident in his abilities to deliver). Along those lines you should ascertain a couple of things at the outset. First, can your contractor work within your budget? Will he offer you alternatives to help you save money whenever possible (even if it means he loses a little bit in the process)? If he exceeds his schedule, are there consequences (like further savings to you)? Does he have his own liability insurance to cover himself and his crew in your home (and can he provide proof of this so you don’t have to worry about small claims court down the road when a laborer breaks his thumb with a poorly-aimed hammer).
And of course, you must ask if he is licensed and make sure to sign a contract stating that he will be liable should you have to redo any of his work at a later date due to code-related issues. In fact, a contract in general is a good idea to ensure that you have some legal recourse should he bail on your project. Finally, make sure that the payment structure is beneficial, including milestones, and that you don’t pay in full until the project is complete.
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