Friday, May 10, 2013

Helpful Hints for Hiring a Contractor

Chances are you’ve heard at least one horror story about a new construction or remodeling project, because horror stories in this arena are common. In fact, the Council of Better Business Bureaus reports complaints about general contractors are the third most common, right after auto repair shops and used car dealerships. Some common grievances include contractors using subpar materials, producing shoddy workmanship, not finishing projects on time and/or not finishing projects at all.
It’s no wonder homeowners and businesses cringe when faced with the task of hiring a construction company. Fortunately, doing a little up-front research can minimize the risk of choosing a disreputable one.  

When it comes to disappointing contractor services, word spreads quickly. Begin your search for a builder by talking to the people who know.     
  •         Ask friends, family and neighbors if they have used contractors in the area, and if they would recommend them.
  •          Contact your local building inspector. They will know which contractors consistently meet code requirements.
  •          Check with the local lumberyard. They know which contractors buy quality materials and pay their bills on time. 

Once you have a solid list of prospects, check the Better Business Bureau and the Consumer Protection Agency for the state where the work will be performed. Though the absence of complaints does not guarantee the reputation of a contractor, the existence of multiple complaints will send up red flags.    

Each state has its own set of rules for residential and commercial construction. To ensure contractors are aware of the regional regulations, verify the contractor is licensed and registered in your state.   
Additionally, contractors are required to carry liability and worker’s compensation insurance. Reputable companies will be happy to produce a certificate of insurance.  

Choosing a contractor that has been around for a while and has a solid reputation will ensure he or she has a broad range of knowledge in the building and construction industry, but here are some questions to consider when determining if a specific contractor is right for your project.  
  • Does the contractor have working knowledge of the types and ages of homes in your neighborhood?
  • Does the contractor offer an array of options and have knowledge of a variety of products, materials and techniques?
  • Does the contractor specialize in projects similar to yours?

Fine Print
Once your research is complete, choose three contractors and request bids from each.
Disregard any bids that come in several thousands of dollars lower than the others.  In these cases, contractors are likely cutting corners somewhere, or they may add costs further into the project.
When the contractor is chosen, be sure every detail about the project is included in a written contract.
The contract should specify:
·         A work timetable that details when the project will start and when it will be completed.
·         A description of the work that will be done and specific details about the brand and make of materials that will be used.
·         A reasonable payment schedule based on project milestones.
·         Warranty information including a timeframe for fixing defects.

Sources: U.S. News: Money “5 Things to Look for When Hiring a Contractor”, Contractor License Reference Site, HGTV “What to Look for When Hiring a Contractor,” This Old House “Top 8 Pro Tips on How to Hire a Contractor,” HouseLift “Setting Up a Contractor Payment Schedule” by Dex Knows Home Improvement.

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