Whether you are wanting a small room painted or an entire addition put on your home, choosing the right contractor can make a huge difference; financially and emotionally.
Most of us have seen Holmes on Homes, where contractor Mike Holmes rescues homeowners from the nightmares caused by the shoddy work of unscrupulous contractors. There are many shows like this and we have all heard stories of naive homeowners who have fallen victim to shady contractors, yet scores of people continue to make the mistake of hiring bad builders.
Unfortunately, many homeowners know very little about the construction process and find themselves at the mercy of the contractor and their supposed expertise. How can you know if your roof needs repair if you do not own a ladder and would be afraid to climb it even if you did. It is necessary to have complete trust in the person/company that you hire and that trust cannot be achieved through one meeting or a phone call. It is up to the homeowner to carry out their due diligence and protect themselves from potential disasters. A little bit of homework can go a long way in making the experience of renovating a positive one.
Before embarking on your search for a contractor, be sure you know exactly what it is you want done. If all you want is a new set of steps built off the deck, don't let the builder convince you that a whole new deck is needed. Once you have determined what is to be done you can start the interview process. It is best to get quotes from at least 3 different companies (you will be surprised at how much they can vary), and remember; the lowest price isn't always the best deal. Larger, more reputable companies will often charge a premium for their services, but it is well worth it in the end.
When interviewing candidates there are some key issues to keep in mind:
Are they licensed to do the work you are requesting? Ask to see the paperwork.
Check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints lodged against them.
Are they bonded and insured? Again, ask for the paperwork.
Always get a list of references and contact them. Do not trust written testimonials from past clients, talk to them in person and, if possible, look at the work they had done.
When getting quotes make sure it is detailed and organized. Do not accept a quote that is just figured out off the top of their head.
Establish a time frame for each component of the project and the consequences of time overages.
Determine how change orders will be handled.
What is their warranty and procedure for call-backs? Get it in writing!
Get everything in writing. Do not rely on verbal agreements in regards to project scope or costs. A written record will be your only recourse if things go bad.
Size them up. How do they present themselves? Were they on time for the appointment? Were they prepared/organized? Trust your instincts to determine if they are reliable and trust worthy. How might they act if challenged on some aspect of their work?
You also need to have clarity in regards to final costs and payment schedules. A reputable contractor will not ask for payment up front. A common practice is to pay half when the materials are delivered, 40% when the work is finished, and the final 10% once an inspector has signed off the project.
Home improvements can be an exciting and rewarding process; however, if the wrong contractor is chosen the experience can quickly turn sour and cause more grief than ever imagined. By taking some simple precautions you can ensure the work is carried out by professionals who will stand by their work. So do your homework, get everything in writing, and enjoy your home improvement project.
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