As you may already know, many people in my home state of Louisiana were affected by devastating flood waters last month. You can read more about that here.
Consequently, those who suffered flood damage have suddenly found themselves thrown into the unexpected and overwhelming situation of having to completely gut and renovate their homes.
With the hundreds of decisions that come with even the most carefully planned home renovation project, one of the first and most important decisions to made is who will be the general contractor on the project.
The general contractor is an integral part of the home renovation process because he or she will be responsible for organizing and managing the entire project from start to finish.
Hiring subcontractors, explaining and defining the scope of work, procuring materials and securing permits–the contractor will drive the project to completion.
So you can see why it’s so important to hire a GOOD, reputable contractor!
Don’t be seduced by the contractor who comes in with the lowest bid. Sometimes (often times!) you get what you pay for!
How can you be sure you are hiring the right contractor for you?
Here are five steps you can follow to help you find the contractor of your dreams!
First and foremost: research, research research!
For your renovation or remodel, you’ll want to have a clear idea of what you want the end result to look like.
Will you be expanding the space by removing walls or reorienting your kitchen which will require new plumbing? Do you need to hire an architect, engineer or interior designer to develop construction documents?
You’ll also need a clearly defined and realistic budget. What are you prepared to spend on this project? What types of materials do you want to use? Do you need custom built-ins or are you looking for prefabricated cabinetry?
As you narrow down your list of potential contractors, focus on established professionals who can show prior experience with your type of project, and be sure to ask if they are both accredited and insured.
Once you’ve identified two or three prospects, set up a time to interview them.
Here are a few questions you might want to ask during that interview:
- Do you take on projects this size?
- What days of the week and what hours will you work?
- Explain how you work.
- How do you keep clients within their budget?
- How will you be paid?
- On what terms will I be billed?
- How many other projects would you be working on simultaneously?
- What role will you play once the home renovation begins?
- Who will be assigned to my project and what is their experience?
- How long have each of your subcontractors been working for you?
- Are you currently involved in any lawsuits?
- Can you provide financial references, from suppliers or banks?
- Can you provide me a list of your previous clients?
- For what reasons can the contract be terminated?
- What holidays are observed?
Pay close attention to answers to these questions, and take lots of notes!
After you’ve asked the interview questions, explain your expectations for how you expect to communicate throughout the duration of your project, what your timeline and budget for the project is and what a successful working relationship will look like.
Finally, as you interview your potential candidates, pay attention to how comfortable you feel with them.
The right person for the job will be easy to talk to, understand your goals and have experience in your type of project!
As you wrap up each interview, share your project documents (floor plans, materials list, etc.) with them, and ask them to submit a quote to you within 72 hours.
Ideally, once you receive the quote, you should set up a time to meet face-to-face with the candidate to discuss the bid in detail.
This step is so important because you want to understand exactly what you are being quoted so that you can make sure you are comparing “apples to apples” as you look at all three quotes!
To compare bids, ask each contractor to break down the cost of:
- Profit margins
- Other expenses
A contractor should be able to answer your questions satisfactorily and in a manner that puts you at ease.
After the interview and bid review, you’ll probably have a pretty good idea of which contractor you want to hire.
But don’t be so quick to make that “You’re Hired!” phone call!
Checking a contractor’s references is an essential step before you award the job.
Review the contractor’s portfolio and contact former customers to ask them about the contractor’s quality of work and reliability.
Here are some other questions you might want to ask:
- What kind of work did the contractor do for you?
- Did you have a clear idea of what the contractor was going to do?
- Did they show up on time?
- Did you check their credentials?
- What was working with the contractor’s crew like?
- Was communication with the contractor adequate?
- Did your job come in according to budget?
- Did you get the results you expected?
- Would you hire this contractor again?
Once you’ve settled on the contractor that you feel is the best fit for your job, make sure you ask them to put the terms of their quote into a legally binding contract.
Insisting on a clear contract isn’t about mistrust. It’s simply a way to ensure that you and the contractor have aligned your expectations and that you have a clear path for successful completion!
Have the contractor write up a contract that details every step of the project:
- Project Scope
- Start date and projected completion date
- Specific materials and products to be used
- Payment schedule
- Plans for contingency
- Options for contract termination (should the situation arise)
You also want to ask for copies of the following:
- Proof of liability insurance and worker’s compensation payments
- Copies of lien waivers (if your state requires them)
Even with lots of due diligence on your part, the best contractors will occasionally run into unforeseen problems. Be flexible in terms of budget and timeframe and have a positive attitude toward the renovation process!
I hope you found these tips helpful!
For your convenience, we’ve developed this helpful Contractor Comparison Chart to assist you in the hiring process. You can download your copy by clicking here (Contractor Comparison Chart).
Now I want to hear from YOU!
What obstacles and issues have you encountered during the contractor hiring process? What have you learned from your experiences with renovation projects?
If you loved this post, check out the other posts in our Design 101 series:
Want some ideas on how to refresh some bargain finds? Check out this video!