5 Tips for Hiring Home Contractors and Handling Projects

A long list of home remodelers will bid for your business, but you shouldn’t pick a contractor based on first-responding or lowest-costs. A contractor remodel can take weeks to months, and the initial estimate could be just a fraction of the ultimate bill if you don’t take due diligence when picking your renovation team. 

Before picking any Tom Tardy, Dick Deceitful, or Harry Hack to complete work on your home, make sure you know who you are hiring. Check out these five tips about hiring and working with contractors.

Determine Who and What You Need
Determine Who and What You Need

You may be anxious to meet with a home improvement contractor to discuss your home repair or improvement project. But an ambitious contractor could convince you to do something bigger, more expensive, or different if you do not have a solid understanding of the project. 

Home addition contractors may suggest a larger space or use higher-priced materials. Kitchen hardware can add up quickly if you have 20 or more handles and pulls, for instance, and a fixture that is more expensive than planned could add hundreds to the over cost.

General contractors may be able to handle several types of jobs, from plumbing to flooring, but they typically manage subcontractors. It can be easier to deal with one general contractor than several specialists if you have a big home project.

However, a specialist may be less expensive if you have a smaller job. Some types of contractor specialists include:

  •     Carpenter
  •     Electrician
  •     Drywaller and plasterer
  •     Painter and wallpaper installer
  •     Heating and air-conditioning (HVAC)
  •     Mason
  •     Roofer
  •     Landscaper

Ask yourself about the size of your project. Are you replacing a hot water heater or remodeling a whole bathroom? Start your research to find home improvement contractors once you know what type of contractor you need. 

Research Prospective Contractors
Research Prospective Contractors

You’ve likely heard horror stories about nightmare home repair contractors who charge too much, take painfully long to complete the job, or even abandon the project altogether. Thoroughly researching local general home improvement contractors now can save you headaches and frustrations later.

At a bare minimum, contractors should have:

  •     A state-recognized license
  •     Insurance coverage
  •     Consistent contact information

The best advertising is by word of mouth. Ask your friends, family members, coworkers, and neighbors about professionals they hired. They may recommend a contractor or help you cross a name or business off the list if they had a bad experience. 

Check online for both good and bad customer reviews. Recent customers with similar jobs may be the most useful since you are likely to have a comparable experience. 

Reviews from years ago – or even a year – may not be accurate to current services. Contractors can have employee turnover that alters the work quality for better or worse.

Meet With Potential Home Remodelers
Meet With Potential Home Remodelers

Make appointments to meet with home improvement general contractors to discuss your project and their experience. Even a phone call can tell you a bit about the person you might hire, such as speaking professionally and with respect or cutting you off and dismissing your concerns.

Prepare a list of questions to ask, like:

  •     Who will be doing the work? The contractor’s team or a subcontractor?
  •     When will they start, and how long do they expect the project to take?
  •     How many other clients are they working for currently? 
  •     Will the contractor or a supervisor be onsite?
  •     Where do they get their supplies, and are they a reliable source?
  •     What does a working day and week look like?
  •     Do you clean up at the end of the day and project?
  •     What steps do you take to protect the property, workers, and others?

These questions can help you determine how the home remodelers conduct business. If they have vague answers, you may want to avoid working with them. You should also discuss costs and payments before signing a contract.

Discuss Costs, Payment Methods, and Financing Options
Discuss Costs, Payment Methods, and Financing Options

General home remodeling can be expensive, so you should make sure you and the contractor are on the same financial page. The home improvement contractor should give you an estimate of the project with reasoning for the price. 

For example, a landscaper might estimate nine tree removals for $1,000 after reviewing what you want. Another might detail that each tree is $100, and cleanup is 10 percent more. Should the first landscaper not remove the branches and tree trunks, they may argue it was not part of the agreement. 

You should get quotes from several contractors. Generally, you can rule out the most expensive and the cheapest. Unless the highest estimate is using better quality materials than the others, they might be overcharging. The lowest estimate may result in shoddy work, or it could be a scam.

Some contractors have different prices for different payment methods. For example, cash payments tend to have discounts since the business does not have to pay credit card transaction fees, ranging from one to three percent of the charge. However, never pay upfront for a job with cash. 

The contractor may offer financing directly or through a third party. Financing can cost more since loans often have origination fees, and the company might have to wait for payment. If you need financing, you may be better off going to your bank or a separate lender.

Whatever you agree upon should be in writing. A contract protects both parties should one not uphold their end of the deal.

Get a Contract Before Work Starts
Get a Contract Before Work Starts

A home renovation contract should be as detailed as possible. You will want to ensure everything you discuss is in the paperwork, including:

  •     Project start and end date.
  •     Cost, payment, and financing plan.
  •     A project timeline of when components – like electrical and plumbing – should be complete, which can keep the project on schedule.
  •     Names and contact information of the contractor, suppliers, and any subcontractors.
  •     Itemized list of supplies and their costs or budget.
  •     Provisions about unexpected issues. Very few projects have no problems, so you and your contractor should both know what to expect if a factor alters the time or cost.

Keep an eye on the project to compare to the contract as needed. Are the workers meeting the deadlines? Have suppliers or materials changed halfway through? You should discuss any issues you notice with the contractor as soon as possible.

If the contractor breaks the contract, then you can request help from state and local agencies. Most areas have a consumer protection office or dispute resolution program. You can also air grievances with the local home builder’s association or the Better Business Bureau.