While an increasing number of folks are taking hammer in hand to tackle home-improvement projects without hiring a contractor, there still are times when only a pro will do. Recognizing that you need help with a major project is only the beginning. Selecting and hiring qualified contractors – from architects to carpenters and from plumbers to electricians – is essential for satisfactory results.
Start by seeking recommendations. Solicit the names of contractors from friends, neighbors, co-workers. While there are no guarantees of quality work, risks are reduced if the contractor has all required state licenses, is bonded and is covered by insurance. Make sure insurance coverage includes worker’s compensation, property and personal liability.
Check with the Better Business Bureau to make sure there is not a history of dissatisfied customers. Before hiring, ask the contractor for current references. Be sure to call them and to drive by and inspect the contractor’s work.
Get written estimates from at least three people, making sure the figures are based on the same materials and workmanship. For comparison, get brand names of products to be used and details of preparation and construction methods.
Finally, make sure the estimate specifies separate charges for labor and materials, so you can consider doing some projects yourself if you desire.
Once you’ve decided which contractor to hire, insist on a written contract that specifies key items such as a detailed description of work to be done, timetables for completion, payment terms and schedules, warranty and any other special terms to which you agree – such as the value of trade-in appliances or bonuses for early completion.