Feeling at Home With Your Home Improvement Contractor

You wouldn’t pick the low bidder to do plastic surgery on you, so why pick a fly-by-night operator to give your home a facelift?

Picking a home improvement contractor is a lot like picking a roommate, you’re going to have to live with them for a while, so you had better pick someone you can get along with and trust. Here’s a few pointers:

Know what you want going in: If you already know exactly what you want and can communicate that to them, that allows the contractor to tell you how he or she will complete your project.

If they sound knowledgeable about your specific requirements – knows how to install hardwood floors, is familiar with the type of window frames you want, etc. – it’s a good bet that he or she is a reliable professional. Conversely, if they give you the deer in headlights look when you discuss the advantages of a floating floor, you might want consider going with someone else.

Do further research: The more you know about the project you want to undertake, the better you’ll be able to direct them. Also, knowing what’s up will also make it harder for your home improvement contractor to pad the bill with unnecessary additions or outrageous labor costs. Not that any of them would do that, of course.

Don’t believe the advertising: Remember, contractors pay for all those flashy ads and television spots. If you want to find out a their real value, ask for references and a portfolio.

Papers please: Most states have laws requiring contractors to be licensed and bonded. Ask to see their credentials and also check your contractor’s certificate of insurance. Contractors in most states are required by law to carry worker’s compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance.

Ask questions: Word of mouth is usually the best reference when it comes to contractors. Talk to friends who have recently had work done and also ask other professionals like your plumber or landscaper who they would recommend. Also check with local building inspectors and other public officials involved in construction.

Get legal: Check with your local district attorney’s office, the Better Business Bureau, or small claims court to see if any of your potential home improvement contractors are facing any pending litigation. In most jurisdictions, court records are available to the public, and you should be able to see if any judgments have been entered against the contractor for incomplete or shoddy workmanship or shady business practices.

Picking the right home improvement contractor is key to the success of your project. Be informed and be aware and you’ll ensure that you get a professional that’ll do your home right.

Hire the Right Home Improvement Contractor the First Time

This isn’t like shopping in a grocery store or purchasing things from your local mall. You usually only have one shot at this and if you’re wrong, it could cost you thousands of dollars. Let me see if I can help you find the right home improvement contractor the first time.

Try to avoid hiring large companies who use unskilled professionals. This is more common than you think in the home improvement and home repair business. These companies usually pay low wages to stay in business, because their overhead and advertising expenses are enormous.

I also don’t recommend using online construction referral companies, because their fees can be outrageous and eventually become financial burdens to contractors who use their services. You might not be charged a fee for using their services, but the contractors are. Don’t forget, nothing is free and when you sign up for their free services, without understanding how that company makes money, you could easily find yourself paying for these expenses, as the contractor passes them on to you.

Feel free to ask your friends for referrals, look through the Yellow Pages, newspapers and other local advertising to find a few home improvement contractors. Now for the hard part, have at least three of these contractors but preferably more, look at your home improvement project.

You’re going to be asking them questions about the project and if you’re not comfortable with their answers, they’re out. Find out how many years of experience the people have that will be working on your project and last but not least, if you’re not comfortable with the contractor don’t hire them.

If you notice, I didn’t say anything about the price of the home improvement project. I’m not talking about how to get the lowest price, I’m trying to show you how to find a good home improvements contractor. Most first rate home improvement contractors are not going to give you the lowest price.

If you’re truly looking for the lowest price, you’re probably not going to find the most qualified contractor. Keep this in mind, when making your decisions about which contractor to use for your project.