Owning & Renting Property

How to Find a Contractor (Because not Everything’s DIY)

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That’s it — you need to find a contractor. You may have watched a few too many DIY-type home improvement shows and decided to tackle the kitchen remodel all by yourself. Now it’s time to call in the professionals, so you need a good contractors list (and a vacation).

Maybe friends and family have already passed along some reputable names — if so, you’ve got a great start. One thing to be sure of: When considering a contractor referral, it’s critical you find the right person to do the job.

Together, you'll need to trust and understand each other, communicate well and go with the flow. If it sounds like dating, it is — with one exception. This person will be taking your hard-earned money and creating home renovations that you'll (hopefully) love for years to come. Here are four steps to take when looking for the general contractor of your dreams.

1. Do research about your project specifics.

Before you even start looking for a qualified contractor, carefully consider your project. Learn about the type of work you want done, the process, the best materials to use and the typical costs. Educating yourself about the project and thinking everything through means you’ll most likely:

  • Receive more accurate bids that can be compared easily.
  • Hire the contractor with the most applicable skills for your project.
  • Save time and money.

2. Ask around for recommendations.

To find a competent and dependable contractor, start by asking friends and family for recommendations. Learn from their experience and tips. You can also review detailed consumer ratings and online reviews on sites like Angie's List.

3. Ask potential contractors about their experience.

Once you have a list of contractors, contact each one with specifics about your project. Ask to meet and discuss the project. This way, the contractor can give you a more accurate written estimate, and you can feel out how the two of you might work together.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions, such as:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • What type of work do you usually do?
  • Are you available to take on this project?
  • What concerns do you have about being able to complete the work?
  • Can you provide a list of previous clients as references?
  • Do you have a website with examples of projects you’ve done?
  • How many other projects will you be doing while working on mine?
  • Do you hire subcontractors to do any of the work?
  • How long have you worked with your subcontractors?
  • Are you licensed to work in my location?
  • Will you provide a copy of your license?
  • Do you have liability and worker’s compensation insurance?
  • Will you provide proof of coverage?
  • Do you offer a guarantee on your work?
  • Will you obtain all necessary permits?

If initial bids between contractors are significantly different, ask why. Contractors may have a different understanding of the job or may be using different types of materials.

4. Check references.

After you've talked to contractors and/or home improvement companies and compared estimates, narrow your consideration down to one or two contractors. Then conduct reference checks with current and past customers to verify the contractor's ability to complete the job and the quality of their work. Ultimately, it will come down to who you feel most comfortable with.

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