Home Repair

How to pick a contractor

This topic is available here on The Repair-Place forum
Here are some tips on picking a good contractor. Remember to check local codes, as some of these tips may differ slightly from state to state.

OK, so you need repairs. Now what? The following guidelines should help.

Most of them can be used when hiring any type of contractor, remodeling, or otherwise. The larger the job, the more important these little details become. Some things may not be necessary on small jobs.

If possible, have an independent inspector look at your house first then use your inspection report as a scope of work. A good report that is based on a good inspection will outline the repairs that should be made to your house. The report may not give you a step by step guide for each repair, but it should include the expected results of the fix. Do yourself a favor. Don't hire an inspector who also does repairs. If you do, make sure that they understand that they will not be performing the repairs on this house. Repairs will need to be done by competent and experienced contractors.


Finding a contractor isn't hard... it can be tough unless you follow a few simple guidelines.

1. Start with a goal of finding 3 licensed contractors to make repair bids. 3 bids should be plenty if you follow these steps.

A. Yellow Pages:
The yellow pages are a good place to get basic information on a company. You can retrieve their telephone numbers and call the Better Business Bureau for a history on the company, if they are listed with the BBB.

B. You can also call each company listed and ask questions about the company. Some determining factors should be:
1. Is there someone there to talk to during business hours?
2. Was the receptionist/secretary courteous, helpful to assist?
3. Are they state licensed or certified? NOTE: Most states require a license for all contractors, but there are some special licenses that contractors need such as heating/air, electrical, plumbing, etc., always ask for proof of license.
4. Ask if their estimates can be itemized for possible litigation purposes.
5. Are they insured with Workmans Compensation and General Liability.
!!! This is a very big factor !!!

more to come but I type slow!

Oh drat I was thinking you were going to tell me some dating secrets!

After all this home reno stuff..I'm thinking it may be easier to find a good contractor, preferably one that can cook and take out the garbage too. Rolling Eyes


Hangs head in shame for lame humor Embarassed
C. The internet:
The internet is also a great source for information. A well known web site for contractors is The National Association of Home Builders (www.nahb.com). The NAHB has a registry of contractors.

D. Look at and talk to the contractors. First impressions can be very telling. If they look kind of scary just walking up your sidewalk, do you really want them around your house for days or weeks? Remember, the owner or superintendent is probably the neatest one of the bunch. It has become common practice for contractors to request a fee for some estimates. A professional contractor will credit the estimate fee back to the customer if work is approved and completed per the contract. If you are still comfortable with them after a chat, invite them to bid on the job. Provide each with the same scope of work. That way, everybody's bidding on the exact same job. Sometimes methods will differ, but the end result (especially the warranty) should be the same. Your "bid package" should contain at least the following items, and they should be included in the final contract:
1. Scope of work - This can be obtained from your inspection report, you can use the report itself, or you can make your own list. If you require specific elements such as name brand or type of materials, include these. The more detail the better.
2. Time Frame - A time range for the beginning and ending dates of the job. Remember, though customers sometimes cause unnecessary delays. Don't be surprised if the contractor wants to penalize you if this happens. That's only fair.
3. Payment Schedule - The best schedule for you is no payments until the work is completed. However, most contractors won't agree to this. I know... many sources say that a good contractor should have the financial resources to cover the job. The fact is that on a job of several thousand dollars, most contractors will require payments due at certain increments of completion. Remember, just as it's not wise on your part to pay the whole fee up front, it's also not wise on the contractor's part to trust you to pay the whole fee at the end. This trust and honesty thing works both ways. Let all bidders know that payment schedules should reflect a percentage of retainage at all times. Remember, payments are made at increments of work completed, not calendar dates. Specify that signed "Lien Waivers" will be collected as the sub-contractors finish their work. This ensures that they have been paid and prevents you from having to pay for the work twice. In most states, even if you have paid the general contractor, if he hasn't paid his subs they can come after you for the money. Scary, isn't it!

Still more to come!
Lol. Finding one isn't hard. Getting him to actually show up is the challenge!

ButtersStotch wrote:
Lol. Finding one isn't hard. Getting him to actually show up is the challenge!
Hey!!! I ALWAYS show up, do the work "on time" AND there are never any extra charges!

TheGuru wrote:

ButtersStotch wrote:
Lol. Finding one isn't hard. Getting him to actually show up is the challenge!
Hey!!! I ALWAYS show up, do the work "on time" AND there are never any extra charges!
TheGuru shows (and is up-right most of the time),
Does the work "on time" (as in "on credit"), and
Never charges extra for the job (even though it took 6 weeks longer than the 2 weeks promised)!

Ok, that's an exaggeration. Only 2 weeks longer. Laughing
Here is the last part of picking a contractor. I hope all this info helped. If there are any questions... feel free to ask away!

4. Change order agreements - Make sure that everyone understands the need to have a written agreement for changes made during the course of the job. A change order should describe the change, who requests it, how the changes will affect the schedule, and how it will affect the work budget. Changes shouldn't take place without this form, signed by the contractor and you. By the way, donít request changes from the subcontractors that you didn't hire. Remember, they're working on your project but they don't work for you. The best thing to do is plan the job thoroughly, and keep change orders to a minimum. You don't know how expensive they can be.
5. Miscellaneous requirements - Be sure to include things like proof of general liability insurance (in case they hurt your house) and workman's compensation (in case they hurt themselves). Do not accept a copy of a ďCertificate of Insurance" directly from the contractor. Call their insurance agent and have them fax you one. Also, if you donít want 5 guys working on your house at 7:00 am on Sunday morning, now's the time to say so. Include an acceptable range of work days and hours.

No matter how you find them, now is the time to check their references and view past work. Do not skip this step. It's one of the most important. Ask the contractor for references of work that is similar to yours. Try to check jobs performed over a period of time. Say...one in progress, one a year old, and maybe one that is several years old. Talk to other customers, ask them what they liked and didn't like about the experience (a large job is indeed an experience).

To sum it up:
It is recommended that you need to get 2 - 3 estimates from different contractors. Once the estimates are received, sit down and compare all the estimates. Make sure all items are covered, if one estimate covers something that another estimate doesn't. Make a note to call the contractor(s) and ask why they are estimating or why they are not estimating something. Before making such a large decision, you need to be able to compare apples to apples not apples to oranges. NOTE: Do not accept a lump sum estimate for several different tasks, because it could be an expensive lesson, it would also work against you if you were going to negotiate the scope or a dollar amount with your contractor. It also leaves you open for unjust additional cost that can be added but should have been bid. Here again, don't get caught in that low bid... got the job...but it ended up being higher than the high bid.

FIRST have their insurance carrier send proof of insurance to you!! Do not accept a copy from the contractor.
SECOND make sure you have a contract. Read it carefully, it should have provisions for an estimated starting date, estimated completion date, total dollar amount (advancement if required), a payment schedule, a clause for any additional work has to be submitted to you for written approval prior to the work being done, and finally a warranty for their workmanship for at least one year and by all means make the contractor get a permit.
If your job is substantial enough in size, make sure your contractor agrees to allow you to have third party inspections of his work while in progress and make the payments schedule to the third party approvals. All this does, is give you another layer of protection and any good contractor will be happy to allow it.
You're all set. Remember, QUALITY OF THE JOB, THE ACCOUNTABILITY OF SERVICES RENDERED AND THE RESPONSIBILITY FOR YOUR HOME is what's most important. Rest assured that although the job may not run perfectly, you've done all you can do. Expect problems to arise on large jobs. Many times the difference between a good contractor and a great one is not the fact that problems come up, but how they are resolved. Believe me, there are contractors out there that do care.

LAST, and most importantly... Try and have some fun with the project.
Much of what the guru has said is true. My comment on the bidding process is this. You generally will get what you pay for. That being said it is not wise to go with the lowest bidder. He has probably forgotten something or is operating in a manner that is not always kosher. Especially is that so if the bid is substantialy lower ( more than 15-20% less than next bid). Find out why. Living in an era when people are trying to squeeze every penny from their service providers it is not good to use the dollar amount as the determining factor. YOu may pay much more in the end. This is a service business and not a commodity market. Contractors are not all the same.


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