There are seven steps to hiring the right remodeling contractor for your needs. It is important at every step of the process to make detailed notes, because after talking with four or five contractors it will be hard to remember which contractor said what. Begin by getting organized. Either buy a remodeling project organizer, like The Complete Remodeling Workbook and Organizer, by Dan Fritschen, or set up a system of folders to hold ideas and papers. You will probably be surprised to see just how much you will need to keep track of by the time you finish your project.
The seven steps to hiring the right remodeling contractor are:
1. Find the names of at least ten contractors to interview for your project. Use referral services and directories, ask everyone you know, look for ads, and check with your local Chamber of Commerce or with the National Association for the Remodeling Industry.
2. Interview each contractor who seems to be a reasonably good fit for your project. Do as many interviews as possible. You will learn more about your preferences and about the remodeling process with each interview. You will also improve your interviewing skills. Each contractor you interview will have some ideas to suggest and some improvements to your plan. These will help you refine your project plan. Use a contractor interview checklist to keep your interview focused and to make sure you ask the same things of each contractor. This checklist should also be set up in a way that gives you a place to make notes on the contractor’s answers. These notes will help you later to compare contractors by experience, capability and professionalism. Also use a request for quote form to get an estimated cost for the project for each contractor you interview. This will help you keep the estimates consistent and directly comparable. Finally, ask for references from each contractor you interview. These will be local homeowners for whom the contractor has done similar work in the past year.
3. Interview the contractor references given by each contractor you interview. It is a very good idea to write a script or a checklist of questions you want to ask of each homeowner. The purpose of these interviews is to find out how easy or hard it was to work with the individual and if the quality of work provided was consistent with what was promised. If you can also find people who hired a contractor recently who were not among the contractor’s references, it would probably be worth a phone call to get another point of view.
4. Re-interview the contractor after talking with previous customers. There are always two sides to every story. If someone you interviews was less than enthusiastic, give the contractor a chance to tell you his/her side of the story. If there was a real problem, you can find out how the contractor communicates with you about it and how he/she handled the problem.
5. Compare notes and come up with a short list. Carefully review all of your notes, estimates or quotes, thoughts and reactions to the contractors. There might be some you already know you don’t want to hire. Eliminate them from consideration. For the others, ask if you can communicate with them effectively? Is the pricing acceptable? Are their references strong? Do you have a similar vision of how the project will go? You will probably get your list down to two to five possible contractors you would consider hiring.
6. Check out every contractor on your short list. Conduct a background check on each person. Check on current valid licenses and certifications. Check with the local courts and the Better Business Bureau about any complaints or lawsuits brought against a contractor and how they were resolved. Check for current insurance, both liability and workers’ compensation.
7. Choose your contractor. Review all of your notes and information and compare all quotes again. Be sure you feel comfortable discussing the job with the individual and you feel comfortable having the contractor and the work crew s/he chooses in your home. Look for the best person for your project in terms of four essential factors: (1) quality, (2) price, (3) capability and (4) experience with the kind of project you are planning.
These seven steps will move you through the critical aspects of identifying, evaluating,
and interviewing local contractors. These seven steps to hiring a remodeling
contractor will help you hire the right person for the job.