Sunday, March 25, 2012

How to hire a Contractor “101”

This article is for you, the consumer.  The goal is to help you become more educated on the remodeling process without having to go through the pitfalls yourself. 

I would imagine that you are ready or are thinking about remodeling.  It is a scary thought to pay the dreaded “contractor” to remodel your home.  There are lots of stigmas about contractors and the industry.  I am sure that lots of the horror stories are true.  But there are several ways to safeguard yourself from these problems.

Every state has a licensing board for general contractors and sub contractors (plumber, electricians, countertops, Mechanical).  You are giving your fate a run for its money if you use somebody that is not licensed in your state.  There are repercussions for these unlicensed contractors if they do work for you.  Regardless of whether they do a good job or not, if they are turned in for doing unlicensed work they can be severally fined by the board and possibly restricted from practicing their trade with a license.  I would never recommend using an unlicensed contractor, even if they are family…. Actually, especially if they are family.  Google your state for its licensing board, you will be able to find out everything that has gone on with your contractor.  They will have lists of past transgressions, fines, formal complaints and insurances/bonds.    

picking a contractor
Never hire an unlicensed contractor - especially family friends 
With all the licensing info out of the way, you should always check to see if your contractor is licensed in your state.  Another states license only works in that state.  Do remember that if your contractor is licensed he has rights as well as you.  The contractor can legally go after you for not paying or not completing the project with them per their contract. 

Before you even start the process of picking a contractor you should have your own book or “efile” of images of designs you love.  Don’t worry about the layout of your space….every space is different and your contractor/designer/architect will work with you to achieve the most out of your space.  This book will help any contractor or designer you are talking with to determine your individual style and the finishes you are considering.  Deciding whether your contractor fits your style should be an easy one.  They should have a website or if they are older and more of a “loan wolf” they should have book with pictures.  Make sure they are capable doing projects like yours and the results are to your satisfaction aesthetics wise.  Pay attention to the smallest details, details are the most important part.   
picking a contractor
Style & Design fit are essential in picking a contractor

Picking a contractor is hard.   It is not only about getting the best price for the project.  You have to like and respect your contractor. Your contractor needs to fit your style of doing business and dealing with the world.  If you pick the contractor with the best price but not the best fit personally you are going to be in for a bumpy ride, I PROMISE. The remodeling or building process is a collaboration between you and your contractor.  It should not be a one way street where your contractor dictates what will be done.  This project is for YOU and not your contractor.    It should be a fun process.

References are your biggest asset to obtain knowledge of the contractor’s work ethic and trustworthiness.  Not only can will you find out about their ability to finish a project, but whether his style of doing business remained steady throughout the project.   Do take into account that these people are hand selected by the contractor.  Typically these references do give an honest opinion of the contractor as they have loved or hated the work that has been done for them.   I would not take much value to the online community for reviews.  If the contractor has a slew of negative responses and not many positive that is something different.  Keep in mind that people are more likely to write negative reviews because they are upset rather then write positive reviews when they are satisfied customers.  It is the way of the web. Take it with a grain of salt.   Personal references from your friends and family are the best way to acquire a contractor because you can typically trust their opinion over a random reference or internet review. 
hiring a licensed contractor
Always hire a licensed contractor 
Every contractor should have you sign their personal contract and a contract provided by your states licensing board.  It is important that you sign both.  You should give their contract a thorough look through and make sure you understand each individual section.  Contracts can be overwhelming, but the contractor’s contract should not be so complex that you can’t understand it.  If it is you should take heed and not sign anything upon first review.  The state licensing board contract should be right from their website, and you can double check that.  The contract should include a start and ideally an expected end date.  It is typical for a contractors contract to have verbiage waving the right to go to court and that all matters will be handled by arbitration.  The arbitration can be through the court or through the state licensing board.  This prevents things being hung up in court for both you and the contractor. 

We will post parts 102,103, & 104 that encompass helpful info for the entire remodeling project.  Part 102 will be about the design process and picking materials. 

Happy contractor hunting. 


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