Having been in the remodeling and renovation business for a number of years now, we have been asked, on more than one occasion, to step in and finish a job that was left undone by a previous contractor. This scenario obviously adds additional stress and expense to your remodeling project. Here are a few thoughts on finding and evaluating contractors to make sure this does not happen to you.
First and foremost, use your social network of friends, neighbors and colleagues to find out who they used and if they were pleased with the results. A happy customer is a contractor’s greatest asset!
Is the contractor licensed by the state and the local municipality where the work is to be done?
Most problems with contractors can be avoided simply by checking out the contractor’s credentials to make sure that you’re hiring a reputable and professional contractor. Check with your local building and zoning department to find out their licensing requirements for your area.
Most municipalities require their contractors to be licensed in order to take out permits on building and remodeling projects. If the contractor is not licensed, then it is a pretty safe bet that they are probably not going to permit the project, meaning they will probably cut corners by not adhering to local building codes. Building codes are there for your protection. This should be a major red flag.
How long has the contractor been in business and can references be provided upon request?
Check with the Better Business Bureau or licensing agency to see if any complaints have been filed against the contractor and secure the contact information on at least three references of past clients whose projects were similar in scale to yours. A few questions to ask might be: Were you satisfied with the remodeling project? Was it completed on time? Would you use this contractor again?
Is the contractor providing drawings, specifications and engineering all in a fixed price contract?
Most contractors prefer to use the “Cost-Plus” method of bidding a job…either “cost + a percentage” or “cost + a management fee”. Why? Two reasons:
1) They have not bothered to ask enough questions to completely understand what the client is wanting to accomplish in order to offer cost-effective solutions, and/or
2) They do not have a good handle on their costs, which means you get to pay for their inefficiencies. They get paid whether the job comes in on budget or not. What incentive do they have to keep costs in line?
From the consumer’s perspective, the fixed-price contract, complete with time-lines, drawings and specifications, is the only way to go. The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) has recently posted some helpful video tutorials on selecting the right contractor. A link to these tutorials has been added here for your convenience. NARI TUTORIALS