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Healthy Women's World

How to Choose a Contractor for your Next Home Improvement Project

  • By: Heidi Chartier

  • The plan is ready. All the details are in set, so far, so good. You have decided you cannot do all, or even any, of the project. You need to hire a contractor. How, then do you pick the right one for the job? If this is not your first project, you know the drill. Merely repeat it or rehire the contractor you had previously employed on other jobs. If they are available or did a good job.

    If you are new or need a refresher course on the dos and don'ts consider the following as a brief guide into hiring the right contractor for the job.

    The Plan

    It is always necessary to know first what you want done. Create the plan before you even attempt hiring. Write it all down so it can be easily circulated and understood. This is not the final draft but will be a work in progress.

    The Search

    You could look in your local phone book under contractors but there are other ways to go. Word-of-mouth is the most common means of referral. Ask any of your friends, acquaintances or colleagues about any work they have done. Find out how they liked the quality and overall execution of the work.

    Check with building material suppliers, building inspectors, insurance agencies, banks, local builders' associations, brokers, real estate agents, architects and the Better business Bureau. This should supply you with names, numbers and varying degrees of references from glowing to non-committal to condemnation.

    You now have enough information to make the initial contact.

    First Contact

    The first contact with a contractor should be over the phone. Explain the basics about your project. Without going into excessive detail explain what it is you want done, the size of the project, the location, a possible time-frame and any essential deadlines as well as a cost range. Find out the contractor's availability and notice any expressed enthusiasm or disparaging remarks. Find out, as well, the certification or licenses possessed and, maybe, obtain a free estimate.

    Conducting Interviews

    An interview is restricted by a number of factors, including whether any of those contacted want to attend. It is, however, an essential part of finding the right contractor for your project.

    The interview should focus on such aspects as availability, the kind of work crew hired, the structure of a contract, the relationship to the all-powerful permit granters ( a bad one can hold up work), and former projects. Check out the contractor's portfolio. Are jobs similar to yours listed? If so, how long ago were they completed? This information will paint you a picture of that particular side of the contractor as well as providing information on references to be contacted later.

    The plan should be trotted out. A good contractor will really listen, making astute comments, indicating positive aspects but noting where improvements or changes could or should be made.

    If possible find a little about the personal life of the contractor. Emotional turmoil or serious drama on the home-front could complicate or interfere with your project, extending dates and resulting in chaos where there should be order.

    Whittling Down the List

    After all the interviews are completed, contact the supplied references, see what they have to say. Whenever possible, go to the contractor's past and current work sites to see how it is operated.

    Check on their stated qualification to obtain verification and compile a list of pros and cons. From it select the final candidates. Hopefully there will be two or three. From them obtain bids or, at least firm estimates.

    Factor this into the total equation of compatibility, competence and price. Only after all this leg work is done should you decide who is the best candidate for your next project.

    Staying organized is always a challenge after a big home improvement project. For help, visit Get Organized and find home organization products and closet organizers