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Choosing a Contractor

June 30 2008

Chances are, your home is your largest and most important financial asset.  Choosing the right contractor can add long-term value to your home that will easily be recognized by both guests and potential homebuyers.

Finding a contractor

When choosing a contractor, it’s important to consider:

  • How long they’ve been in business.
  • Their willingness to supply you with references.
  • Whether you can see samples of their work.
  • Whether they will be using subcontractors.  If so, who are they and what are their past experiences?
  • Whether they have worked with your architect before.
  • Their insurance coverage – if they don’t have any, you could be held liable for any and all injuries that take place on the job.
  • How many crews they operate and the number of jobs they take on in any given season. (Most good contractors are booked at least one year in advance. Keep this in mind when planning your renovation.)

Before you start any project, get at least three written estimates. This will give you a better sense of the scope and size of your renovation and the appropriate cost.

Telltale signs your contractor is less than professional:

  • They only accept cash
  • They expect full payment up front
  • When digging around the back of their truck, they always seem to have leftover materials that’ll be “perfect” for you.
  • Instead of getting the necessary papers in order, they expect you to get the required paperwork from the local permit office.
  • They’re not concerned with a legally binding contract.
  • Start and finish times are less than firm

After you make your decision, create an open dialogue with your contractor.  In addition to being a skilled tradesperson, manager and people person, you’ll want them to be a great communicator and solutions provider. They should be able to demonstrate the ability to think on the fly and give you the information you need to help move the project along.

Most importantly, don’t rely on the all-mighty handshake. Times have changed and legally binding written contracts are an important part of a renovation to ensure both parties are satisfied and accountable. Clearly map out what work will be done and what steps should be taken if remediation is required. Also, have a clear start and finish date in the contract with firm project milestones so that there are no surprises when the project is “finished.” Save yourself the aggravation by taking into consideration the information above and you’ll ensure the work is completed at a price you can afford.

Finally, keep in mind that the vast majority of contractors are honest hard working individuals. However, as with all professions, there are always a few bad apples.  As cliché as it sounds, doing the extra work up front will help you avoid them.