Hiring a contractor is no small decision. Different kinds of jobs require different sets of skills, and in many cases more than one contractor will be required.
For large projects, such as a major remodel or new addition, you might choose to hire a primary contractor, who will have a team of subcontractors or in-house experts to call upon for various jobs within the main project, and who will manage the overall project for you. If you are very organized and have some management experience, you may feel confident in managing a number of contractors on your own.
For smaller projects, hiring one contractor with multi-faceted abilities and who’s willing to do a wide variety of tasks could be the most efficient choice.
Regardless of what your requirements are for contractors, here are the main things I look for in a contractor, and hopefully these tips will be useful for you as well.
- Referrals and References. Word-of-mouth referrals are a great place to start if you can. Services such as CalFinder are at least as good, if not better, because these companies base their success on finding and referring only the most qualified contractors. In addition, they check references for you, laying all the groundwork for your own further checking.
- Does the Contractor Feel Like a Fit? In a nutshell, do I like this contractor? It’s that old chemistry thing – as important in working relationships as in any other relationship. Is there mutual compatibility? Sometimes you can’t really tell until you get into a project, but you can tell a surprising lot in the interview process.
- Timing and Punctuality. Is this contractor schedule open for the time I’ve designated to complete the project? Is he or she punctual about appointments and showing up as agreed to start work?
- Good Communication Skills. Does this contractor respond with clarity and courtesy? Are questions and concerns answered efficiently? Will I get the requisite info that I need? Is he or she comfortable asking you questions or discussing changes, etc? After all, good communication goes both ways.
- Organization and Tidiness/Cleanliness. A contractor’s personal presentation during meetings says a lot about how projects will be run. Of course there’s mess involved in construction, remodeling, and home improvement projects, but these messes can be contained to a large degree.
- Staying Within Budget. Respect for financial guidelines is critical. It’s important to agree on an original estimate for the project, and, depending on the scope and duration of the work, to have regular meetings to make sure things are staying within budget. If there are any surprises or additional costs projected, they need to be discussed and agreed upon as soon as possible.
- Satisfactory Completion. How a contractor handles the final, wrap-up phase of a project, whether large or small, has a huge impact on customer satisfaction. Final clean-up, turning over remaining materials, assurance or guarantees for returning to fix any glitches – these are all critical aspects of the completion phase. Clear, professional billing documentation is also a must.
When you make your decision to hire a contractor, make sure you’re getting off to the best possible start. These guidelines may seem obvious, but don’t hesitate to have this list available when you interview prospective contractors. The responses you receive will tell you a lot about how a contractor works. In addition, these tips are likely to evoke useful comments and additional assurances that will give you confidence and peace of mind.