Completing a home improvement project will require help from a professional. Even if you are an experienced DIYer, certain things need to be done by a pro. Some repairs might be dangerous, so you don’t want to hurt yourself. Or, you don’t have the needed equipment and tools to complete them. Whatever the reason is, we must admit that a professional contractor is a must in many cases. After all, it is their job, and they have the needed experience.
Keep in mind that finding the right contractor might not be as easy as you think. Many good contractors offer their services. But, there are other factors that will determine your choices, such as the price, availability, and deadline for completing the whole project.
YYou should also be aware that there might be scammers or bad contractors on the market. You will need to be very careful when choosing the right one. You probably have heard lots of stories about people that have had awful experiences. Some fake contractors have even taken the money without even performing the job. Others did the job so badly, that homeowners
needed to hire other contractors to fix the damage. Of course, this brings additional costs for homeowners that made an unfortunately wrong decision. And lastly, you might hear of contractors that keep postponing the completion of the project or go way over the initial budget. In all of these cases, you will lose time and money. That’s why you should be very picky when it comes to choosing the right contractor.
There are a few things that you should know. We suggest that you check our ultimate guide on how to find the right contractor that will suit your needs!
Contractor vs Handyman
Some might think that a handyman can solve any of their problems that occur around the home. But, keep in mind that their proficiency is limited. There is a clear difference between a contractor and a handyman. How do you know which one you need?
A handyman will tackle simpler repairs around your home. They can solve minor problems such as leaking pipes. You can also give them a call for repairing a fence, drywall, flooring, minor HVAC issues, or other projects that don’t require specialized knowledge.
Some home improvement projects require in-depth knowledge and experienced personnel. They work on jobs that require a permit to be done. A contractor has a legitimate license and the proper skills for more complicated projects. They can build a deck or an entire house. You can also call them for other major projects such as installing an HVAC unit, rewiring, replacing plumbing, tile installation, and many others.
Which one should you choose? It all depends on the project. For simple projects, call the handyman. They will charge less for the job done. But if you need someone certified to do the job, you will need a contractor. You will pay more, but you will get a professional doing service only they can do. According to the rule of thumb, if a project lasts more than a week you should call the contractor. Make sure that you don’t do certain DIY projects by yourself to avoid getting hurt.
Ask for recommendations
Finding a good contractor is not that easy. You can start finding yours by simply asking for recommendations from your neighbors or friends. If they have done home improvement projects, they might know a good contractor that works in your area.
Another place where you can ask for help is the local chamber of commerce. They will certainly recommend the pros that cover your area. But also, you can contact your insurance company. Even if they aren’t involved and don’t need to cover anything, you can simply ask for a recommendation. They work with a list of professional contractors in the area, as they don’t tolerate any mistakes. When you are their loyal customer, the insurance companies will be very happy to assist you even with this kind of issue and recommend you trusted contractors.
Do your research
In the digital era, every contractor is present online. All you need to do is type the specific service and your location on Google. You will instantly get access to all the contractors that work within your area. This is very helpful, especially if you are new to the neighborhood and don’t know which contractors are serving your area.
Read the reviews carefully
When you have one or more potential contractors on your mind, you should start reading their reviews. The written reviews now replace the classic word of mouth. A review is basically a written text that sums up the experience of each customer. If you don’t know anyone that has had experience working with your preferred contractor, you can always read some online reviews.
There will always be negative and positive reviews. And you might feel overwhelmed or scared by one negative comment. However, consider the following tips to help you go through the reviews:
- Make sure that you pay attention to the descriptive reviews. There will always be someone that wasn’t satisfied with the service and will say negative words. But, make sure that you keep your eye on the lengthy reviews that express the customer’s experience. When they tell the experience from their point of view, you will know in detail how it looks to work with that specific contractor.
- How does the contractor deal with problems? We know that problems can occur in any home improvement project. Even if it is due to unforeseen circumstances, a real professional will know how to deal with the problem. People are always willing to share how did the contractor fix any problems during the process.
- How does the contractor answer to negative comments? In many of the platforms, the company is able to comment on the reviews. A real professional will offer assistance if there are any negative comments. Usually, they will encourage the customer to contact them so that they can solve the problem. This means that the contractor is reliable, and you don’t want them to let you down.
Contact is crucial
You might have a few good contractors on your mind. Or, maybe you aren’t 100% sure about them. When you already have selected a list of a few specific companies, it is time to contact them to get rid of all your doubts.
A professional contractor knows that it is very important that they build trust. And they already have excellent communication with their customers. Also, they will be able to respond to all of your questions. Whether you are a new homeowner or have a lot of experience, there is certain info that they need to share with you.
Just for a check, you can ask for licenses and certificates. Professionals have all the needed documentation ready for reference. You can also ask for their license number. Every legal business has a license number. When you know it, you can contact the municipality and ask if the business is legal.
Ask if the contractor has proper insurance, in case anything goes wrong. They should explain to you their coverage, and it should include liability insurance too.
Interview them at your home
This is a crucial step in the process. Once you have narrowed your list to a few contractors, have them come over and let them see what exactly you want to do in your home. This is a crucial step because it’s your opportunity to interview them without them hiding over the phone. When discussing a large project, dont let them give you a bid. They will need plans of precisely what you want, which will provide them with a realistic idea of labor and material costs. Also askes them various questions of how the job will be done and maybe suggestions on how to do it differently. If they can’t answer and at least give you some issues or pitfalls with what you want, then don’t hire them. If you need plans done by them ask them, because they may not charge, but remember they are not designers, just skilled laborers. Call an architect if you need specialized designs.
Payment is another important thing that you should discuss upfront. Keep in mind that reliable contractors won’t ask for a whole upfront payment. Instead, you will need to pay a certain deposit upfront. You will agree on the amount of the deposit. Also, keep in mind that you will need to pay regular payments during the project. Keep it clear and arrange the payments in specific phases of the project or dates.
Your contractor should also enclose a written estimate of the total costs. This included both the costs for the supplies and the labor costs. Many contractors will make it clear and break down the costs into different categories. This way, you will have a clear idea about the costs for each section of the project. Also, they will use the materials indicated in the plan. They should indicate materials used for example lumber, concrete, windows and their exact prices. A reliable contractor won’t substitute them with cheaper materials on their own. If some of the materials are out of stock or unavailable due to various reasons, they will contact you to ask whether you agree with the replacement.
When you know the total budget, you can always adjust it to your specific budget. If it is too expensive, then you might be able to replace some materials with less expensive ones. You should have a signed agreement where all of the costs are stated. Keep this document in case any inconveniences happen.
Details for the project
A reliable contractor will always be ready to answer your questions in detail. And you should be ready to ask them any type of questions that you find important. The truth is that the project might change your daily life until the competition. And there are some important things that you should have on your mind.
Ask about how loud the work will be. This is very important if a family member is working from home or studying and needs silence. Also, ask if you can stay at home, or you need to move away for a few days. If they are working with some kind of toxic materials that can cause harm you might be at risk. They will advise you in which ways to protect yourself, or your belongings.
Another important topic is trash. Keep in mind that home improvement projects can create piles of debris. And you simply can’t get rid of it in the usual way. Ask whether you will need to rent a dumpster or the contractor has already included this in the plan. It is very important to know whether your workers will clean after themselves.
You might be overwhelmed by all of these details. But, it is better to have everything arranged upfront. You should have clear expectations on how the process will look like so that you can avoid any the inconvenience.
Things to avoid
On your way to choosing a contractor, you might meet scammers or ones with bad reputations. Once you know all the things that matter for choosing the right contractor, you should be able to see if any red flags pop up.
Be careful with the following:
- Contractors with bad reputations might go from door to door. They offer their services directly to people. And they don’t offer any document to prove the arranged price for the project. Make sure to stay away from any contractors that are too pushy or don’t require a written contract. At the end of the project, they might require a different price than the one that you agreed. Also, keep in mind that they might not be licensed and skilled in completing this kind of project. Going from door to door is not a common practice for reputable contractors.
- A contractor that requires the total sum upfront is not a good one. Reputable contractors will ask for a maximum of 10% upfront payment of the whole sum. We have heard of many cases when the contractor takes the money and leaves with no job done. Not having a thorough contract that is legally binding, basically stops you from filing anything in a courtroom .
Avoid too low bids. Lastly, avoid budgets or bids that come in low, its a red flag immediately. They can initially start with a low price, but then overcharge you with additional unexpected costs later. A low price can be a sign of an inexperienced company that wants to gain experience in your project. But it is very likely that they will do something wrong and you will need to pay additional money to fix the damage. Check a few bids from different contractors. They should all have a similar bids for your project. If one of them is too low, ignore it.