a doubt, hiring a contractor is the part of home remodeling that
causes more fear and anxiety than any other phase. How do you
know you've got a good contractor, someone you can trust to do
a good job for a fair price and stand behind his or her work?
Unfortunately, there are no guarantees. But if you do your homework,
you improve the odds of getting a contractor you will be happy
A general contractor is the person you hire to oversee the entire
job, whether it's new construction or a major remodel job. The
contractor is responsible for managing all aspects of the job
including purchasing the materials and hiring the sub-contractors
(subs). Typically, you sign a contract with the contractor and
make payments only to him. The contractor is then responsible
for paying the subs and suppliers. When you have a contractor
on the job, that is the person you go to with all your questions
and comments about the work. The contractor in turn communicates
your concerns to the subs.
common knowledge that you want to get at least three bids on your
job. The question is, whom do you ask to bid on the job? Word-of-mouth
referrals are best. Ask your friends, family, and neighbors for
the names of contractors they've been happy with. The responses
you get back may include large design/build companies you're familiar
with and smaller companies you've never heard of. Don't rule out
this last bunch—there are many good contractors you've never heard
of because they prefer to get all their referrals by word-of-mouth.
you get referrals from people you trust or end up blindly calling
listings from the phone book, it's important to trust your instincts.
Did the contractor return your call promptly and show up on time
for your appointment? During the meeting, did the contractor answer
questions to your satisfaction? Willingly provide references?
Lay out his expectations for the job? Did you feel like you had
good rapport with this person? This is important; communication
is the most important aspect of the client/contractor relationship
and you have to feel that you can speak directly and honestly
with your contractor.
When you ask contractors to bid on your job, be sure and provide
each one with an identical packet of information that includes
plans and a list of materials. It's important that they all bid
the same job, otherwise you will have no basis for comparison.
bids you receive should be in writing and contain an itemized
list of labor and materials charges. You want fixed bids, not
time and materials bids, which have a way of escalating far beyond
what you expected the job to cost. The bids you receive will tell
you a lot about the people bidding. Was the bid ready when the
contractor promised it? It's a bad sign if the contractor breaks
his first commitment to you. Was the bid outrageously high? This
contractor is busy and only wants the job if you're willing to
pay a premium for his time. Was the bid really low? This contractor
either doesn't understand the scope of the job or deliberately
underbid to get the job and will likely discover several unexpected
problems that are not covered in the original contract and will
require additional cash outlay.
you get references from a contractor, make every effort to not
only call the contractor's references, but to go over and see
the work for yourself. You never know, that happy client could
have entirely different quality standards than you do. Before
you sign a contract, you also want to check into how he conducts
business. Check the credit history and bank references, verify
that the contractor carries both worker's compensation and liability
insurance, and make sure there are no complaints against the contractor
filed with the local consumer affairs office, builders' association,
or Better Business Bureau.
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