How to Choose the Right Home Remodeling Contractor

Posted by Paige Thomas ~ August 12, 2008

I recently came across this quote in the New York Times Home & Garden section from a veteran contractor:

"A contractor is like a cold: you're not going to get rid of it."

That is sage advice from someone who has spent their entire career in the remodeling industry. You don't want to get stuck with a contractor you're not happy with for the length of a major remodeling project.

Almost everyone has heard stories about contractors who did less than satisfactory jobs, left giant messes, or were generally frustrating to work with.

At worst, you may have heard of homeowners who were conned into giving large sums of money to a contractor only to have them disappear, or of contractors who started on a project, made a mess ripping things apart, but then never showed up to the job site again.

While these stories may scare you, instead of fearing the contractor hiring process, just make sure you know what you need to do to end up with a contractor you'll love.

Essential parts of the contractor hiring process are:

1. Receive Multiple Estimates: Getting at least three estimates will enable you to compare prices from different contractors. Take the time to talk with each contractor and get a feel for which one you will be most comfortable working with and having in your home. A sign of a good contractor is one who is on time, communicates effectively with you, and presents himself professionally.

2. Get a Contract: Don't do anything with a contractor unless you have it in writing. Any professional contractor will create a contract for both parties to agree to before starting work. This protects both homeowners, and the contractor, and ensures that the project is done to your exact specifications.

3. Check References: You should check the professional references of any contractor you are thinking of hiring. You can ask to see past work, as well as ask for prior client contact information. When talking to former clients, have a list of questions to ask them, such as "How close to the project timeline was your project completed?" and "Did the contractor clean up the job site after completion?" Former clients can give great insight into a contractor's work.

4. Check License and Insurance Information: Make sure to check the that the remodeling contractor you choose is licensed, bonded, and insured. Proper licensing and insurance doesn't guarantee a job will be completed to your satisfaction, but it does give you leverage with your local consumer affairs department who can investigate any problems on your behalf. To obtain a license, a remodeling contractor must undergo a background check, pass a written test and pay for the license. They should be able to provide copies of their licenses, and you can verify these licenses with the proper state agencies.

Taking the time to go through each of these steps, and simply using your instinct and common sense, will ensure that you get a contractor who does the job right.

Here are some helpful links to help you hire the right contractor:

License and Background Checks

Contractor State License Board

Articles on Working with Contractors

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