By choosing a good home improvement contractor to begin with, you can avoid all kinds of later disputes and dissatisfaction: for example, ensure the work is done well and to your specifications, avoid payment disagreements, reduce problems during the job itself, and weed out scammers. Here's how to do that.
Start your search for a home contractor by getting recommendations from friends, family, and coworkers. If your social networks include local friends and contacts, check with them as well, and on websites that provide customer ratings and reviews, such as Yelp or Google.
You can also check with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) for members near you. Or ask a building inspector for the names of local contractors who regularly meet state and local code requirements.
It's best to avoid contractors who haven't been established in your community for some time or who:
These are all red flags indicating that the contractor's business is rocky, perhaps after having been fired from previous jobs.
Once you have a list of prospective home contractors, conduct telephone or in-person interviews to determine whether they're available, can handle the type and size of your project, and can provide you with references from recent customers.
It's wise to meet with your top three choices of contractors in your home. This is your chance to test whether they show up on time and see how well you can communicate (an important factor since you'll be dealing with the contractor on a daily basis) and to ask detailed questions about the contractor's business, experience, and your project. Then again, realize that the first person you meet with might be mostly delegated to lining up new customers; be sure to ask who you'll actually be dealing with when the job begins.
Get written bids from at least three contractors. These should include a breakdown (dollar by dollar) of what work will be done and what materials will be used.
Discuss variations in price with each contractor. A bid might be higher than the others because the contractor is using better materials or paying a specialist to perform certain repairs, such as plumbing.
As a general rule, throw out any bids that are significantly lower than the others. An extremely low bid could be a sign that the contractor uses low-quality materials, cuts corners, or is desperate for work.
Your next task is to conduct an independent investigation into the contractors and their businesses. Do the following:
By taking these steps, you'll help ensure that the contractor you hire is reputable and right for the job.