Choosing a Contractor
Choosing a building contractor is a big decision. No doubt any number of people you talk to can tell you about a bad experience with a contractor they used. Unfortunately, there are less-than-professional folks out there who can turn your building project into a headache, either with shoddy workmanship, an ever-rising price tag, or even leaving the job unfinished and you holding the bag!
How can you ensure you choose a reliable, professional and affordable building contractor?
Here are a few questions to ask a potential building contractor:
Do you take on projects of this size and type?
If you’ve got a big job, you don’t want to give it to a small fry with little to no experience. And if your renovation is on the small size or in a specialty area (like mobile home repair), not every contractor will have the desire or ability to take it on. Make sure you find the right fit.
How many projects do you have going at once?
Someone who is too busy may take longer than you like to complete your renovation or building project. Also, overextended contractors spend less time on site, leaving the work up to subcontractors with little supervision– a recipe for disappointment.
Can I see a list of references?
If the answer to this question is no, consider it a red flag.
How long have you worked with your subcontractors?
Since much of the work will be done by subcontracting with experts, you’ll want to make sure your licensed building contractor has a solid relationship with his team and has confidence in the quality of their work.
If you like the answers you get, you can invite the contractor out to do an estimate. Be sure to check with the Better Business Bureau and your state consumer agency to make sure the contractor doesn’t have a history of disputes.
If you are comparing multiple bids, you can ask the contractors to break down their estimates by cost of materials, labor, profit margins and other expenses.
Remember, the cheapest solution isn’t always the best— quality and workmanship will mean more to you over time than the $50 you saved on tile installation, for example. Some experts even recommend that you throw out the lowball bid altogether– a contractor who is significantly cheaper than the rest may be cutting corners or desperate for work.
The most important factor of all is your ability to communicate with your building contractor. Bottom line: find someone with experience doing the work you need, is proven professional and reliable, and with whom you feel comfortable working.