Choosing the Right Contractor

A contractor is a professional who can make your dream home come to life while ensuring the structural integrity of the house. When choosing a contractor, these things should be considered – time frame, planning details, realistic expectations, and a written agreement.
Choosing the Right Contractor

So you’ve decided your home needs a makeover, and you’re planning a major remodel. Before you get busy with buying furniture and choosing color schemes, there’s one task you need to get done: choosing a contractor. You can do without an interior designer, but without a contractor, your plans will never see the light of day.

Your contractor should be able to carry out your design while ensuring the structural integrity of your home. This requires close cooperation on your part, so it’s important that you get along and feel free to share your ideas. Contractors aren’t hard to find—finding a good one is what makes it a challenge. Here are some things to keep in mind when hiring a contractor for your home project.

Don’t expect answers. Not on your first phone call, at least. When you call a company, it’s not usually the contractors themselves you’ll be talking to. They’ll want to know the basics about your project, such as home size, location, and the extent of work needed. Don’t get discouraged if they don’t seem to know much about the business; wait until you get an appointment and talk to the actual person who will be doing the work.

Be firm and detailed about your ideas. Describe your whole project in detail to your contractor, and be prepared to ask and answer questions. From the start, make it clear what parts of the project you are willing to compromise and which are not. Think of which ideas you absolutely cannot give up, and which ones you’ll allow your contractor to move around.

Have realistic expectations. Before you start interviewing your prospects, do a cursory canvass of local companies just to see what the average rates are. Set your expectations according to the market rates. A prospect can charge higher or lower than the average, but they shouldn’t deviate too far. Be wary of contractors who bid suspiciously low—it might be a scheme to get you into a vague contract that lets them cut corners and charge unfair fees.

Insist on a time frame. When comparing bids, the time frame for completion should be as important as the price. Don’t accept vague answers such as “a week or two.” A contractor with enough experience should be able to estimate the time frame at a glance. Don’t hesitate to pay a few extra dollars for a shorter time frame. Remodeling puts everyone in the family at an inconvenience, so the sooner you get it over with, the better.

Write it all down. Make sure everything you’ve agreed on is written on paper. Otherwise, your contractor can break that part of the deal and legally claim not to have made the agreement. Keep a record of all your correspondence so you’ll have something to fall back on in case they back out. It also lets you contest anything they do out of contract. Let them know you’re keeping track of everything, so they don’t try anything in the first place.