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10 Tips to Consider Before Hiring a Remodeling or Home Contractor.

If there's one list on our site that we hope everybody's this one.  Completing home improvements can be one of the most satisfying projects in your life; however, they can be equally stressful. 

If you're planning to hire a contractor to do the work on your home for you, then take some of the stress out of the picture early and use this checklist to make sure you're hiring the right person or company for your home improvement or remodel need.  Good luck!


Does Your Contractor Have Proof of InsuranceTip #1:  Does Your Contractor Have Proof of Insurance?

Ask the contractor to have his insurance company mail or fax a copy of his current contractor insurance card to you.  If the contractor can't do this - stay away.   Why?  If there is an accident at your home, you are then liable.   This also applies to any sub-contractor or employee that the contractor may use - those individuals should have active insurance cards faxed or mailed to you as well.

Does Your Contractor Have References?

Tip #2:  Did You Check References and See Photos?

Ask for at least three references - with two of them being for the same type of project you are planning - and then call the references.  Additionally, ask the contractor to provide photos of previous work, especially for the same type of project.  If he produces lawn and garden photos and you're planning a bathroom remodel, you may want to check out another contractor.

Does Your Contractor Take Credit or Debit Cards as Payment?

To Do #3:  Does Your Contractor Take Debit or Credit Cards?

Besides your ability to earn a few points, bonus miles, or cash back on your project, a good sign that a contractor is financially savvy and has a bank behind his business is his ability to take debit and credit cards.  This doesn't just apply to big contracting companies.  Many small, one-man shops will take cards if they have a good relationship with their business bank or credit union.

Is Your Contractor Neat in Appearance?

Tip #4:  Manners and Appearance?

This is probably a no-brainer but does the contractor present himself in a professional way?  Do you feel comfortable around him or his employees?  They will be working in your home after all.


Does Your Contractor Clean Up Each Night?

Tip #5:  Cleaning Policy?

If the contractor drove his vehicle to your home to give you an estimate, take a look at the way he keeps the equipment and vehicle.  Are things clean?  Neatly arranged?  If not - that's a big warning.  The way a contractor treats his tools is a direct connection to how he'll treat your home.  On this note, and just as important, ask about the clean-up policy. 

For example, if your home remodel is a multi-day project, will the contractor be cleaning up at the end of every day or will he leave the dust, wood chips, and other mess laying there for day #2.  The more mess in your home - the more it gets tracked around.  This is a personal preference for you but many homeowners find themselves with mouths gapping wide open after the contractor has left for the day and their floors and home are dirty and messy around the project area.

Will Your Contractor Put the Project Scope in Writing?

Tip #6:  Contractor Contract?

Is your contractor willing to put both his bid and the scope of work in writing?  If not - walk away immediately.  You'll be surprised how many contractors will verbally tell you that a certain piece of the remodeling project is included but will then, in the middle of everything, tell you it will cost you extra money, thus holding you hostage with an uncompleted project.

Is Your Contractor Available?

Tip #7:  Availablity?

Can the contractor get the job done in your timeline, rather than his timeline?  There's nothing more frustrating than if a contractor tells you that a job will be done by a certain date and then it isn't .  On the flip side, if you can't find a good contractor that's willing to commit to your timeline, your expectations may be too high and you may need to adjust your timeline.

Does Your Contractor Use Subs?

Tip #8:  Does Your Contractor Use "Subs?"

Does your contractor plan on doing everything himself?  Or will he “sub out” work to the “trades?”  For example, if you are remodeling a bathroom, you may need a plumber, electrician, and carpenter.  It’s okay if the contractor subs work out to these specific trades - it shows he wants the work done right. 

Also, it's fair to say that you can expect your contractor to make money off the trades, or other sub-contractors, by marking up their quotes for the project.  That’s a standard practice because there is a lot of time spent on scheduling.

Now, if you don't want to spend the extra money on your contractor marking up the trade quotes, then you should prepare to project manage the remodel yourself.  Please know this may limit your options on contractors willing to work with you.

What Is Your Contractor's Billing Policy?

Tip #9:  Quoting & Billing Procedure?

Ask the contractor about his quoting procedure.  Will it contain general information, or will it be specific?  For example – most contractors will charge you for a fuel surcharge, material up-charges, waste removal, labor, etc.  Some will show you these exact costs in a line item invoice, but others roll it up into one big bill.  How much detail do you want?  You should clarify that with your contract upfront. 

Also - what is the payment or billing policy?  Is money is required upfront?  If so, go back to #1 and #2 above to make sure you have the contractor's references checked and have a copy of his contractor's insurance.

Will Your Contractor Get the Building Permits?

To Do #10:  Did Your Contractor Get the Permits?

Ask your contractor to take care of the permits.  Although permits cost you money, the inspection process is meant to protect you from poor workmanship and to make sure that everything is being built to code.


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