Contractors are the key to successful home improvement projects, whether you are renovating an old space or revitalizing a new home. The trick to finding the best person to hire is knowing what to look for in an ideal general contractor.
From the very first communication to investigating their reputation, you will need to do some research and interviews before entering into a contract with a contractor. This decision process can be just as overwhelming as buying your first home, so we want to help clear up some of those initial questions about the contractor search.
Here’s the ultimate guide to finding the best contractor for your project.
Licensure in Your State
The licensing process is a state-mandated process with strict qualifications and testing in place. Working with a licensed contractor ensures you are working with an expert who has passed the licensing exam and is legally permitted to work in the state.
Every contractor you work with should be legally licensed, and their license will only be acceptable in the state where they earned the license. That’s because every state has unique requirements for its contractors.
For example, if a contractor wants to take the general contractor license Florida, Maryland, New York, and California all have different licensure requirements. You’ll need to ensure the contractor can legally practice in your state.
If you are looking for specific contracting, like electrician work, see if the contractor has a specialty license for those types of projects in your state as well.
General Liability and Workers Comp Insurance
Letting someone into your home to perform construction work can be nerve-wracking. Burst pipes, shoddy work, and on-site injuries can be a homeowner’s worst nightmare.
This is why you will want to first verify your contractor has general liability and workers comp insurance. Any injuries sustained during the injury will be covered on this policy and protect you.
Years of Experience
Of course, licensing only shows the contractor has the minimum qualifications to be recognized in the state. Experience also goes a long way in ensuring you are receiving high-quality workmanship and results.
Ask your contractor these important questions to determine if they have the experience to match your needs:
- How long have they been in business?
- How many projects do they do in a month?
- What types of projects have they worked on?
- Do they have examples of completed projects?
- Do they have any references to share?
References and Reputation
On top of the references directly provided by the contractor, be sure to check out an online reputation and references. A positive online presence is a good indicator of quality work.
Honest reviews from past customers can give you a look into previous work relationships and results. Beware of a perfect 100% satisfaction rating, though. This could be a red flag that reviews are not all from actual customers or filtered to only show positive input.
Staff Training and Longevity
Often you may talk to a higher-up in the contracting business when planning the project, but the on-site staff is a combination of overseers and staff. Knowing how long staff has been in service to a company will indicate of the type of business they run.
Longevity of staff is a sign of a happy, productive structure. You should also ask about straining to ensure staff are just as well-informed and prepared to complete a quality project. You should inquire about any special training or licenses the company or individual staff have.
Knowing the reputation and past results of a company can give you an idea of their ability to form and stick to a timeline. Nothing is more frustrating than a contractor process that goes well past the purported deadline.
The promised turnaround is also indicative of quality. If the turnaround seems misleadingly short, it may suggest the company will choose to sacrifice quality for speed. If it is too lengthy compared to other quotes you receive, it could be a sign of other issues.
Timelines can also be lengthened in severe weather seasons. However, your contractor should be upfront about any potential delays.
While pricing is one of the most important factors for people, it should not be the deciding factor. A contractor may under-quote to get your business but not give the quality results you need. You never want to choose the lowest price or the highest price.
Rather, you need competitive pricing that promises fair and equitable results. Contractors may offer different prices based on their chosen materials, so consider asking for different material types.
On that note, one way to check on the contractor is to investigate material suppliers. A contractor with a good reputation among their suppliers is a great sign. If the contractor works with suppliers regularly, that is a sign they will be good to work with because others trust them.
Keep a wary eye on communication with the contractor from the outset. A good contractor should provide detailed communication quickly.
Some early communication questions to ask include:
- Did they return your message or call promptly?
- Were all of your questions answered?
- Did they confirm your appointment?
- Was their tone friendly and conversational?
These early questions can be a sign if you can expect open communication as the process continues.
The contract is often drafted by the company, which means the contractor will inevitably write it to favor them. How they write it and what they include will give a good indication of their priorities.
A detailed contract will include the following:
- License number
- Building material details
It can also include who is responsible for costs associated with certain issues, like a severe weather delay or burst pipe. Another essential contract term will surround the warranty.
If the contract is hard to understand or has vague terms, it can suggest hidden procedures or fees that you do well to avoid.
At the end of your contractor search process, you should know that no two people or projects are the same. Trust will be the foundation behind this process, and it can almost feel like dating. You want someone you are comfortable with and willing to communicate with regularly – not to mention someone you will feel comfortable in your home.
A good contractor is one who thinks you can never ask too many questions and is always willing to answer them! So, choose the person that gives you a good feeling and is open to questions.