A Plan for Hiring Your Contractor

Do your tools seem to call to you sometimes? Mine do. I love to get hands-on and create something myself rather than running to the store or popping online to order something ready-made. It’s just—well—extremely satisfying, isn’t it? Since we’re on the subject of satisfaction, being able to tackle a small home improvement job myself and saving the expense of hiring a contractor is a pretty good feeling as well. However, some things are best left to the professionals. Do you ever hesitate to hire a contractor when the need arises?

In today’s world, it’s always wise to be cautious when reaching out to strangers. That includes contractors. Sure, they may say all the right things, but how do you check to see that what they say is what they provide? In addition, they’re usually bringing a crew of workers onto your property or, even, into your home. Do they do all they can to ensure that their employees are on the up and up?

I’ve got some tips for you to consider and hopefully when it’s time to hire a contractor you’ll feel as comfortable as if you were strapping on your own tool belt.

References, please

The best place for referrals is through people that you trust. Check with family and friends who have used contractors in the past. They’ll be glad to share their experiences—good and bad. You may come up with a list of contractors pretty quickly.

Another great idea is to drop by the local lumberyards and inquire about contractors. You may gain a wealth of information in regard to who buys quality materials and who doesn’t—just saying.

Searching local review boards is another option. However, remember that these sites often draw those who seek to stir up trouble for one reason or another. With that in mind, if a contractor is receiving excellent reviews and suddenly a few scathing remarks are thrown in the mix, it’s wise to take them with a grain of salt.

If the contractor had made the list until seeing a poor remark out of the blue, it’s probably still safe to consider them.

We’ll scrutinize them a bit harder along the way.

Break the ice

When you’ve readied your list of potential contractors, assemble a list of questions to ask and call them to see how they respond.

The essentials

It’s important to share the type of job you have in mind and inquire if it’s something that they are able to complete. If there is a notable hesitation before you receive a response, it may be a red flag. You should make a note of it.

“Major construction projects require precision and expertise. Take replacing your windows, for instance, if proper measurements and installation techniques aren’t paramount, the homeowner is likely to experience problems down the road. Either due to mechanical issues causing the windows to malfunction or leaving room for moisture to gain access to the interior of the home.” says Randy Reece, CEO at Reece Builders / Windows, Inc.

Other questions might include:

  • When was the company established?
  • How many jobs do they have going at one time?
  • How far out are they scheduling jobs?
  • Will they refer you to past customers?

Do you have a business license, insurance, and any accreditations?

A company that doesn’t apply for a business license within the areas that they will be doing work may not be your best choice. If they fly under the radar, it may be because they know their work is not up to par. The same theory applies to those operating without proper insurance coverage.

If you’re working with specific building materials, say a brand of shingles, for instance, you’ll want to inquire if they have worked with the manufacturer regarding proper installation techniques. Often times, manufacturers void the warranty on their product if specific installation instructions aren’t followed.

Do you do background checks and drug testing before hiring employees?

This question falls under the safety-first category.

I mentioned above that you just can’t be too careful these days, especially when having strangers come to your home. Not only do you need to make sure that you’ve hired a reputable contractor, but you want to know their employees can be trusted as well.

David Bell, CEO at USA Mobile Drug Testing, was reported as saying, “Statistics show that 47% of workplace accidents resulting in serious injury involved alcohol or drugs. If an employee is injured on the job due to the negligence of another impaired by drug use and the contractor isn’t carrying proper insurance or isn’t licensed, for instance, the injured employee can file suit against the homeowner.”

All the more reason for ensuring your contractor is properly licensed and insured from the initial conversation!

If you like what you hear…

Make a final list of contractors that you think fit the bill and have them come out for an estimate. Ask the contractors to break out their bids into four categories.

  • Materials
  • Labor
  • Profit margins
  • Other expenses

Compare the bids and throw out the lowest one at the start.

Hammer out the details

Discuss every single aspect of the project with your contractor and that includes your budget. You should also discuss:

  • A payment agreement
  • Project start date
  • Project completion date
  • Type of materials used
  • Lien releases from subcontractors and suppliers

A lien release protects you in the event you’ve misjudged after all and your contractor doesn’t pay his bills. You won’t be held responsible for his unethical business practices.

If things are a go after the conversation, make sure your contract outlines all that you’ve discussed before signing.

Keeping these things in mind the next time you need to “hire out” rather than do-it-yourself will leave little room for fretting. Instead, you’ll be anticipating the day you see the crew rolling up the drive.

Partly because you’re about to get this project started, however, I’m betting there’s at least a little part of you that’s excited about the prospect of learning something new that’s going to come in handy in the future.

Michelle Williams

Michelle believes construction is in her DNA. She spent many happy summers on the job site alongside her dad. As time passed, writing became her first love. She’s a contributing author at Reece Windows and loves the gig! However, she doesn’t hesitate to strap on the tool belt and tackle a project on the side. Her kids love the playhouse! 

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