Choosing the right general contractor can make all the difference between a successful home remodel and a very stressful experience. Take your time and meet with several contractors at your home to discuss the project’s scope of work. Ask lots of questions and see how each of them respond. Here are ten tips to help you find the right contractor who will get the job done without too much headache, keeping your budget—and your sanity—under control.
Trustworthy. The contractor will spend a lot of time in your home, and you will not always be there. He will be working where you live, so you need to be able to trust that he does his work with integrity, especially when it comes to any foundation work, framing, electrical, or plumbing. Too many contractors don’t care enough or don’t have sufficient knowledge to do the job right. Ask around for recommendations from your friends and neighbors and find out what they liked best about working with their contractors and if there’s anything they didn’t like.
Make sure your contractor is flexible. As you go along in your remodeling process, there are always things that will come up. You might want to add some work—for example, extra lighting or additional outlets—and you might need to change something because the material you planned to use isn’t available or what you’ve planned initially on paper doesn’t work for you once you’ve seen it built. It’s crucial that your contractor is flexible in his work and with you and can adapt to changes quickly. While interviewing possible contractors for your home remodel, address this topic and ask how they would handle certain situations.
Realistic regarding project length and budget. There are contractors out there who will give you a low-ball quote just to get the job. They might also tell you the project will take four weeks, when in reality it will take four months. You need to make sure you hire a contractor that sets realistic expectations regarding the timeline and budget for your project. Don’t go for the cheapest one. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, and you’ll pay for it later when all the change orders roll in or when you need to pay extra for items you assumed were included in the contractor’s price. Before signing the contract, request an estimated timeline as well as a product and material list so you can review allowances carefully. Ask questions regarding the timeline, products, and materials used for your project and to clarify any concerns or avoid misunderstandings.
Attention to detail. When it comes to finishing touches, make sure your selected contractor shows attention to detail and cares about you and your project. There is nothing more annoying than coming home to a bad paint job, backsplash tiles that are not lining up, or flooring that is installed wrong. It happens, and we’re all human, but you need to make sure your general contractor keeps a close eye on his team and any sub-contractors in order to get the job done right the first time.
Experience. Your contractor should have at least a few years of experience in the field. Ask how long he’s been doing this line of work and how many projects he’s completed. Verify his experience by looking at his website, checking references, and reading online reviews. Asking for recommendations via a neighborhood online portal is also a good idea. Neighbors can tell you how experienced their contractor was, and you might even have the chance to go and see their work.
Check References. Be sure to check at least three references provided by the contractor. Ask about the homeowners’ experiences during the remodel. What did they like about working with their contractor? Is there anything they wish would have been handled differently? Why? Was the contractor on time? Did he stay within budget? Was he easy to communicate and work with? These are all critical questions to ask.
Read online reviews. A good starting point is to check online reviews at design portals or service companies that provide referrals to contractors for your project. You want to read the reviews carefully to ensure the contractor is the right person for your job and will work well with you. Keep in mind that reading reviews is not a substitute for calling references or for going with your gut feeling.
Verify insurance coverage. Make sure the contractor you have chosen is bonded, licensed, and sufficiently insured for your project. Know what is covered by your homeowner’s insurance and what is covered by your contractor’s business insurance. Ask for a copy of the company’s general liability insurance and check if the insured amount is sufficient for your project. If the contractor has employees, he also needs a worker’s comp insurance. To see if the contractor’s license is valid or if there are any complaints, contact the contractor licensing board in your area.
Visit a jobsite. This is a great way to see how the contractor works on an ongoing project, and if he is as professional as he sounds. Ask questions while you are there to see how he handles himself. It’s also an excellent opportunity to talk to the homeowner or subcontractors to check references and get feedback about the general contractor.
Feel comfortable. I’ve worked with many different contractors and not every contractor works well with each homeowner. It has to be a good fit in order to have a good experience. After all, the contractor will spend a lot of time with you in your home. You need to make sure you get along well; otherwise, it can end in a disaster. Remodeling usually adds some stress to your life, but having the wrong contactor can become a nightmare.
If you need help finding the right contractor for your remodel, reviewing proposals, or creating a scope of work for your project, schedule a discovery call with Petra to see how she can help you with!