Things to Know When Hiring a Contractor

Finding a good general contractor can be intimidating. There are a lot of horror stories out there, and you don’t want to be one of them. Understanding the points below will greatly improve your chances of finding the right person to work on your house.

The Initial Call

As a homeowner, you can hire tradespeople directly, saving the markup that a contractor charges for his services. But, if you’re planning an extensive project, such as building or remodeling a house, you’ll probably want a general contractor. Call several and pre-qualify them on the phone by asking the following questions:

  • Can they candle your home and time frame?
  • Do they possess the proper licenses (a driver’s license does not count) to conduct your project?
  • Do they have plenty of experience with jobs like yours?

If they answer “yes” to all of the above, request a meeting and ask them to bring along names and phone numbers of satisfied customers and, if possible, photographs of successful work.

Interviewing General Contractors

When each general contractor arrives, look for clues to his or her professionalism. Are they wearing a uniform or dressed appropriately for their trade? Is their truck well maintained?

During the meeting:

  • Discuss all of the work you intend to have done.
  • Review any plans or drawings you have.
  • Ask for suggestions about changes that might save you money.
  • Ask the contractor how many jobs he or she may have ongoing at a given time, in order to get an idea of how much direct supervision your job will receive.

Making the Final Selection

Don’t jump on the lowest bid. If one bid is substantially lower than the others, the candidate may be inexperienced or intends to cut corners. Probe to find out why that bid is low (a common cause is vague specifications).

Beyond the bids, there are still several important considerations that can make or break your project.

  •  Be sure the contractor you choose is insured for worker’s compensation, property damage and public liability.

Should You Buy the Materials?

Generally, it’s not a good strategy to supply ordinary building materials for a home repair or improvement project. Few professionals, if any, will guarantee the performance of materials they didn’t obtain themselves. Most tradespeople and contractors can buy building materials at a discount and may pass some of their savings along to you, but you should expect a reasonable markup for their expenses.