How to Find a Good Contractor & What Are the Right Questions to Ask

Embarking on a home improvement project can be exciting but also a bit daunting, especially when hiring a contractor. Whether a kitchen remodel or a larger project, finding the right contractor is paramount to getting the job done correctly and efficiently.

This guide will provide some comprehensive and clear-cut steps for finding a reliable home contractor and what questions you should be asking.

Start Looking for a Local Contractor and Research

A local contractor is often the best choice for a home improvement project, as they are familiar with local building codes and regulations. But searching for a reliable contractor is like searching for a needle in a haystack if you don’t know where to start.

Here are some tips:

  • Ask friends or real estate investors who have worked on similar projects for recommendations.
  • You may also find local contractors through local hardware stores or online reviews.
  • Check with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry to find certified contractors in your area.
  • The internet is also a great resource for finding contractors, but don’t just go with the first one you find. In addition, be sure to read reviews and testimonials from past clients.

After finding a few contractors, compare at least three contractors for three bids. Then check if they have a good standing with the Better Business Bureau. Reliable home contractors often are members of the local business bureau, showing a commitment to quality work and good business practices.

Qualities of a Quality Contractor

A good contractor should be more than just someone who can swing a hammer. Here are some qualities to look for:

1. Certifications and Training

Professional home contractors should have the appropriate certifications and training. One of the most common certifications is the National Association of Home Builders.

2. Transparent and Detailed

A good contractor frequently communicates about the project’s progress, including any unexpected expenses or changes to the schedule. For instance, they should provide a detailed estimate of the cost and timeline for the project.

3. Organized and Reliable

A quality contractor is organized and reliable, so you don’t have to worry about them forgetting important details or missing deadlines. They understand the importance of finishing projects on time and ensuring the work gets done on schedule.

4. Knowledgeable in Their Trade

Quality contractors are knowledgeable about their trade, so they can answer questions accurately and offer ideas about how to get the most out of your budget and the materials available. For instance, remodeling projects often require creative solutions, and a quality contractor should be able to provide these solutions.

5. Trustworthy

You should feel comfortable working with a quality contractor. After all, you’ll be placing a lot of trust in them to complete your project successfully.

6. Insured

Ensure the contractor has personal liability insurance to cover any potential property damage or injuries on the job site. This is vital to protecting yourself from financial liability in an accident.

7. Flexible

A quality contractor should be willing to adjust their approach when necessary. For instance, if you need to switch materials or make other changes during the project.

8. Friendly and Professional

Quality contractors treat their customers with care and respect, creating a positive environment encouraging collaboration and open communication among all parties involved.

9. Reliable

Check the contractor’s history of finishing jobs on time and within the agreed-upon budget. Sometimes, customer reviews are a great way of doing this.

How Do You Approach a Contractor?

You approach a contractor the same way you would any other business. Explain to them what kind of project you are interested in, your budget, and any timeline constraints you may have.

This will give the contractor a good idea of what type of work they can do for you and ensure they can complete the job within your given parameters. Remember to be open and honest with them about what you want so they can give you an accurate quote for the work. Be sure to ask questions about their experience and the type of work they typically do.

15 Questions to Ask Your Potential Contractor Before Signing a Contract

Once you have a shortlist of potential contractors, it’s time to ask some critical questions:

  • How long have you been in business?

The longer they’ve been working, the more likely they will produce quality work. Ask if they have handled large projects or projects similar to yours in the past. This is important to ensure they have the knowledge and experience needed.

  • What type of insurance do you carry?

Your contractor should be adequately insured, including liability and workers’ compensation. This will protect both parties in case of any accidents or damage during the project.

  • Do you offer a warranty on your work?

A reputable contractor should provide some form of warranty on their work that covers any defects or repair needs that may arise in the future.

  • Are there additional costs associated with my project?

Make sure you know all the costs upfront so there are no surprises down the line. Ask if they use subcontractors and, if so, how much these will add to the final cost. The quality of a home improvement job largely depends on finding the right contractor.

  • Do you have a list of references I can contact?

Good contractors will have no problem providing a list of previous clients. But make sure to check references before hiring anyone, as it can give you an idea of their craftsmanship and customer service.

  • What is the payment schedule?

Most contractors follow a payment schedule that typically includes a down payment, progress payments, and a full payment after completing the job. It’s essential to negotiate ground rules regarding payments.

  • Will you use subcontractors?

Many general contractors hire subcontractors. If this is the case, ask about their experience and credentials too.

  • Can you provide a detailed scope of work and a total cost?

This will help you stay on the same page and avoid any surprise costs. Make sure all the details are outlined in the contract, including any extra costs that may pop up and a timeline for completion.

  • How do you handle disputes?

Knowing how any potential disputes will be handled if they arise is important. Ask your contractor what steps they take to resolve disagreements or misunderstandings between both parties.

  • Do you have any written policies?

Your contractor should provide you with their written policy documents concerning safety, insurance, payment terms, change orders, etc. This way, you can review them carefully and make sure everything is in order before signing the contract.

  • Is there a penalty for delays? If so, what causes for delay are covered?

Knowing the details will help you plan accordingly and avoid any penalties. For instance, if the contractor is responsible for a delay, ensure you understand what compensation will be provided.

  • Will a project manager always be on site as our point of contact throughout construction?

A good contractor will assign a project manager who will be your point of contact throughout the process. This person should have the authority to make decisions and handle any issues that may arise during construction.

  • What permits will be required for this project? 

Make sure you understand what permits or inspections may be required for your project. Your contractor should be able to provide the necessary paperwork and ensure all local regulations are followed accordingly. Otherwise, your project could be delayed or stopped.

  • Who pays for cost overruns in labor and materials? 

Knowing who is responsible for any cost overruns is vital before signing a contract. If your contractor covers any unexpected expenses, ensure the details are also outlined in the agreement.

  • Do we need to leave the house temporarily? 

Depending on the scope of work, you may need to leave your home while construction takes place temporarily. Ask if they offer accommodations or alternative living arrangements if you have to move out during the renovation period.

Questions to Ask Contractor References

The questions to ask contractor references include the following:

  • How satisfied were you with the overall job?
  • Was the contractor professional and easy to work with?
  • Did they meet deadlines and stay within budget?
  • Were there any surprises that came up during the project? Did they clean up after themselves at the end of each day?
  • Were there any unexpected costs or changes to the estimated cost?
  • Would you hire them again for a similar project in the future?

These questions can help you gain insight into a contractor’s previous experience, how organized and communicative they are, what kind of quality their work is, and whether or not they’re worth hiring. Take note of any red flags that may come up as you ask these questions, and be sure to consider them when making your decision.

For example, if a contractor has a history of making changes to the project that weren’t previously discussed or agreed upon, this could be a sign that they aren’t trustworthy. Or, if the references mention that they had to follow up with the contractor about progress constantly or took a long time to complete the project, this could indicate poor quality of work.

The Importance of the Contract

Before work begins, ensure you have a detailed contract from your general contractor. The contract should cover a project cost, payment schedules, the scope of work, and other details such as a termination clause. It’s essential to read this document carefully and ensure you’re comfortable with its terms before signing.

Don’t Just Take The Lowest Bid

It can be tempting to go with the contractor who gives you the lowest bid, but this could lead to problems down the line. Sometimes a significantly lower bid can indicate a lack of experience or a propensity to cut corners. While you want to stay within budget, balancing cost with quality is important.

Finalize Details and Get to Work

Once you’ve chosen your contractor, get all the project details in writing. This includes a payment schedule with a down payment, progress payments, and the final payment contingent upon your satisfaction with the finished product.

Agreeing to a set of ground rules for the job site will also be helpful. This could include working hours, clean-up expectations, and whether the contractor can use your bathroom or you’d prefer a rental toilet on-site.

Always remember to keep a paper trail. Save copies of receipts and contracts, and keep a log of phone calls, meetings, and any decisions made.

Keep an Eye on the Work

Even after hiring a contractor, it’s crucial to stay involved. Regularly visit the job site and check the quality of the completed work. Also, ensure lien releases are provided for each progress payment, protecting you if the general contractor fails to pay subcontractors or suppliers.

What if Things Go Wrong?

Sometimes, despite our best efforts, things may go wrong. Consult your contract if you’re unhappy with the work or the project is significantly delayed. It should include a termination clause that outlines conditions under which you can end the contract.

Conclusion

Finding the right contractor for your home renovation or remodeling project may be time-consuming and stressful. However, it’s undoubtedly achievable with due diligence, careful planning, and open communication. Use these best tips to find a good contractor who will be a good friend to your project, leaving you with a high-quality finished product you can enjoy for years.

Remember, your home is a significant investment. Ensuring you hire reliable contractors can save you from potential heartache, giving you peace of mind throughout the project.

Contact us today if you need the best contractor for your project. Our team of seasoned professionals can provide you with the necessary advice and guidance to ensure your project is completed on time, within budget, and up to code.

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