How To Find a Great Contractor

When it comes to finding a great contractor, things can quickly become overwhelming. There are a vast number of contractors out there, who all have varied experience and credentials, and different areas of expertise. Not only do you need a great contractor, but you need the right kind of expert for your unique project. How can you really be sure you are hiring not only the best contractor, but the best contractor for your project?

Here is how. Go step by step, taking each of these tips into consideration, and you can be sure you will have hired a true expert with the right kind of experience for your project. These suggestions will help you maintain focus and clarity as you sift through countless companies and contractors, weighing their pros and cons.      

Get Recommendations From The Right Places

While it is important to get recommendations from your friends and family and weight their opinions, it is also important to do your homework. We have all gotten good recommendations from the people closest to us, but also ones that did not quite work out. If these people are not experts in the field, or do not fully understand your contracting needs, it will be crucial that you weigh these recommendations against those you receive from a number of places.

Firstly, check in with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry and see if the contractor you are considering is a member. You may also find it useful to talk with a building inspector. This may seem a little extreme, but building inspectors have important knowledge. They know which contractors regularly meet code requirements and which do not. You can also visit your local lumberyard. These are hot spots for contractors and they know whether or not a contractor uses high quality materials and whether or not they conduct business responsibly and pay their bills in a timely fashion.

Call Prospective Contractors And Ask Key Questions

Once you have taken these steps and have assembled a list of potential contractors, it’s time to start conducting phone interviews. Weed out those who are not right for your project by knowing exactly what you want and making sure the contractor is experienced in that type of work and equipped to deliver.   

Are they experienced in your type and size of project?  

If you have a size of project that they do not take on, or are inexperienced, they may not be the right hire for you and your project. Conversely, if you find a contractor to be compatible with your goals in these ways, you may be on your way to an excellent match.

Can the contractor provide financial references from places like suppliers or banks?

Transparency is important when working with a contractor. You need to know that they conduct themselves professionally and with integrity.

Are they willing to provide a list of previous clients?

These are some of the most important references to get. If a contractor can produce a list of satisfied customers who appreciate the high quality work they have done, then they will almost certainly do the same kind of work for you. Look for high standards and consistency.

How long have they been working with their subcontractors?   

If a contractor runs through subcontractors quickly, this can be a less than positive sign. It can be the result of them being hard to work with or conducting themselves unprofessionally.  Make sure they have good working relationships with subcontractors that share a commitment to high standards and excellent work.  

How many other projects will they be taking on while working on yours?

Regardless of how good a contractor is, if they are stretched incredibly thin between a large number of projects they may not be able to give your project the attention it deserves.

The answers to all of these questions give you important insight into the company’s availability, reliability, experience, and professionalism.    

Once You’ve Narrowed It Down, It’s Time To Meet Face To Face

Based on the answers you received during the phone interviews you conducted, you should have a final list of 3-4 possible contractors. Meet in person with these contractors to discuss specifics, such as project estimates. The ideal contractor should be able to answer all of your questions in a way that leaves you at ease and leaves the lines of communications open. It is crucial that you both communicate well, because this person will be in your home for hours at a time. However, do not be entirely swayed by a charming personality. Take the time to check in with the Maryland consumer protection agency and Better Business Bureau to make certain that they do not have a history of excessive disputes with clients or subcontractors.

Get Into The Specifics

Talk to former clients and see if you can visit a current job site. Make plans for your project and get bids to see who charges the most reasonably and get an idea of what their breakdown of the cost of materials, labor, profit margins, and other expenses looks like. As a rule of thumb, materials account for 40 percent of the total cost of the project and the rest covers overhead and the usual profit margin, which is about 15 to 20 percent. It is important to note that the cheapest contractor is often not the best, and may even be cutting corners. Make sure they follow a reasonable payment schedule which involves a number of payments, and finally, make sure you have an air tight contract you are happy with.

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