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.