7 Tips for Choosing a Top-Notch Contractor
With the overload of choices that exist today, many people wonder how to choose a good contractor. We’ve all heard of the contractor that didn’t ever get back with an estimate, started a job but then stopped showing up (often after he has already been paid!), or provided disappointing workmanship. Sometimes extensive damage, theft, or worker injury can happen on a job with no recourse by the contractor. How can an average homeowner avoid getting caught in this trap?
By doing a little research first, pitfalls such as these can be avoided. The following are 7 guidelines that will help you navigate through the process of choosing a quality contracting company:
1. First, check to see if the contractor has a website. There should be reviews from customers, pictures of past work, and a statement as to how they do business. Read those reviews to find out what past customers are saying. If the contractor in question doesn’t have a website or provide online reviews, it is probably best to move on.
2. Check to see if the contractor is listed on sites such as Home Advisor, Google +, Yelp, etc. Read reviews there to find out what quality of work they do. Again, if there are no online reviews, the company is an unknown entity without a proven track record which could result in a mixed outcome.
3. If the contractor checks out online, give him a call for an estimate. During the estimate ask about their warranty. Any reputable contracting company offers a warranty that should last at least 1 year.
4. Ask for a copy of their insurance, known as a COI. Their insurance coverage should include liability and worker’s compensation. This is important to know because it protects your property in the event of damage or theft (liability) and injury (worker’s comp). Most people are not aware that if a contractor doesn’t carry insurance and a worker gets injured on your property, you and your homeowner’s insurance company could be liable for hospital bills. So make sure you not only ask if they carry it, but get a copy of it for your records.
5. When you receive the estimate, it should be detailed out with the scope of work to be done and materials to be used. The cost of labor and materials should be two separate line items. Often fly-by-night contractors come to look at a job and write a price down on their business card or a piece of paper. This is a contractor to avoid. In the end there will be confusion as to what is included and what is not, and you could likely end up paying more money than originally quoted just to get the job done.
6. Good contractor’s offer a variety of payment options. Ask about what types of payment they accept and when payment is due. Most contractor’s get a percentage of the job up front and then collect progress payments during the job, if it is large job, with a final payment due after the job is complete. For smaller jobs, a percentage up front followed by the balance due after completion is standard. Additionally, any contractor that accepts only cash is a red flag to be careful of.
7. Finally, a good contractor will let you know the time frame for job completion. Sometimes unforeseen issues arise and that can push out the completion date, in which case you should be notified. Otherwise, they should stick to their schedule. Work should begin on time each day and continue everyday unless you are notified that there is a reason they will not be there. Low-quality contractor’s show up late, leave early, or don’t show up at all while the homeowner is left wondering what is going on. Check with your estimator during your meeting how they handle timing, delays, and the completion process.
Ben Franklin said, “The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten.” In other words, you get what you pay for. With a little bit of time spent doing your homework, it will save you money and avoid agonizing headaches. If done right, you can rest easy that you are choosing the right contracting company resulting in a beautiful, high-quality job that will last for years to come.