Finally, ready to make her dream of having tile floors a reality, Athena hired what she thought to be a reliable contractor. The tile setter she found had over 20 years of experience and promised her he'd complete the job within 7 days.
However, the project ended up taking 3 months, instead of one week, and the tilework put down didn't look a thing like she had envisioned. Yet, after having to suffer through 3 months of sharing her house with subcontractors, Athena wasn’t about to ask for a redo.
Sadly, stories like this happen all the time! Every year Americans spend on average at least $9,000 on home improvement projects. If you don’t want your money to go to waste, you have to know how to hire the right help.
Are you thinking about having work done on your home? Read on to find out how to pick the best contractor for the job.
Finding a Reliable Contractor
Before you start looking for a reliable contractor to complete the job, you’ll need to clearly understand what the job entails. Are you looking to make your home energy efficient, or are you trying to improve things aesthetically?
Home improvement projects, or repairs, may seem simple, yet they often come with complicated details. Here are some of the things you should know before shopping around:
Square footage of project area
Unusual obstacles your house presents
Type of materials you want
Color choices for painting projects
If you’re looking for a contractor to help replace your flooring, the first thing to do is figure out the exact square footage of the project area. Next, you’ll need to make a few big choices about demolition and prep work. For example, if you’re having tile floors put down, but need the current ones ripped up, decide now if that’s something you can handle.
Look for Ways to Save
If you need a contractor for a flooring job, you might be able to save yourself a chunk of change by removing the old floors yourself. Demolition work for floors is often easier than you might think. If you’re able to complete the demolition yourself, chances are you’ll be able to find more affordable contractor options.
The same idea holds for homeowners looking to hire contractors to paint jobs. If you’re able to prep the house yourself, before the contractor arrives, it could help know the price down quite a bit.
Whatever you do, avoid going to contractors for estimates before you have a plan in place. Calling for estimates before your ready means you’ll be receiving unreliable numbers. Contractors need specific details, like the ones listed above, to provide you with accurate prices.
Ask for References
References are one of the best ways to find out about who’s the best contractor for your specific project. Here are some of the people you can ask for references:
Building trade workers
We suggest you start your search for a reliable contractor, by asking family and friends for references. You can even ask acquaintances, like neighbors and co-workers, for the numbers of any contractors they’ve enjoyed working with.
Do you happen to know people that work in the building or construction industry? If so, you’ll want to take advantage of your connections to find reputable contractors.
Interview Multiple Contractors
If a friend or family member recommends someone to you, it’s still a good idea to interview them. In most cases, it’s in your best interest to interview at least 3 contractors, before choosing one. Here are some of the questions you should be asking:
How long will it take to complete the project?
What type of experience does the contractor have?
Who will be completing the work?
What days are they available to work, and what times?
What’s the total bid price?
Will the price include materials?
Be sure to receive a written bid from every contractor you speak with. When you start comparing the bids of each contractor, be careful to check that each one includes the same materials and tasks. For example, if one bid includes demolition services, and another doesn’t, the prices will probably vary greatly.
Take Your Time
It may be tempting to take the first bid you receive from a contractor you like, especially if it’s a good price. However, you should always take your time and continue receiving bids until you have at least 3 or more.
Interviewing contractors will help strengthen your knowledge about the project you’re completing. During each interview, you’ll learn something new, and you might even realize there are aspects to the project you haven’t even thought about. For example, you might not have considered that if you’re having your old tile floors demolished, you’ll need a way to deal with the old tile dust.
When to Negotiate
As you call contractors for bids, don’t be afraid to try negotiating. During the interview process, you can expect to keep the haggling at a minimum.
The majority of the negotiating will take place after you’ve received the bid, but before you sign the contract. This is an area where having multiple bids can work as a bargaining tool.
Being able to show a contractor a written bid for a lower price, could motivate them to drop their price down enough to beat the competition.
Slow Is Better
If you find a contractor who offers you the lowest price and can start work right away, they may be too good to be true. The best contractors are the ones who are busy and offer fair prices. You should expect to have to wait a few weeks, and even months, for a good contractor to begin work on your home.
Protect Your Home’s Future
Once you find a reliable contractor, don’t lose sight of them! Quality contractors are invaluable, and having a few you know, means being able to protect the future of your home.
If a contractor does an amazing job on your home, you should always tip them. Tipping your contractor is a great way to help motivate them to prioritize your property, should you need help again.
Finally, be sure to suggest your contractor’s name to family, friends, and co-workers who are looking to have work done. Referrals are one of the fastest ways to win the favor of a contractor. Certain contractors even offer discounts, just for sending referrals their way.
Need more tips on how to protect your home's future? Check out our Residential Real Estate section today!