Even if you are handy, it’s likely you’ll need professional help with one of your home projects, especially for a larger renovation job. Over the several years that we’ve been renovating homes, there have been many lessons learned when looking for and working with a contractor.
So we’ll share some best practices here to help you hire the right contractor for your home improvement project.
By the way, click here or the photo below to get a FREE one-page printable checklist for hiring a contractor!
Why Hire a General Contractor?
We would recommend working with a general contractor if you have several projects and/repairs planned in your renovation. In addition to completing the work, a good general contractor can help manage the entire renovation for you by ensuring that tradesmen (like an electrician) are hired, scheduled and paid at the right phase in the project.
For example, if you need a bathroom remodel, a contractor may replace your tub and hire the plumber to install a new faucet. Best of all, the bill for all services will mostly likely come to you in one invoice from the general contractor.
Step 1: Research Potential Contractors and Get 3 Quotes
Start by making a list of the contractors in the area from a simple search and do a some research on each one. Look for contractors who have experience with the type of projects you want to do. Maybe ask friends, family, neighbors or post in your local neighborhood app/forums for their recommendations too.
Once you have a list of potential contractors, reach out to them and ask for a quote or estimate of how much the job may cost. They may have to come out to your home or the site in order to get a better sense of the project. Getting multiple bids (at least 3 is recommended) will give you an idea of the average cost of your project.
In our experience, the lowest price may not be the best option every time so don’t use that as your only factor in choosing a contractor or narrowing down your choices. Consider their years of experience and look at photos of their work as well.
Step 2: Verify That the Contractor Is Licensed and Insured
Once you have your list, part of your research should include making sure that the contractor is licensed and insured. A contractor’s license simply means they are qualified to perform the work you need and insurance protects you and the contractor in case of an accident. Hiring an uninsured contractor will leave you vulnerable if something happens so don’t skip this step.
Step 3: Check for Any Complaints or Negative Reviews
Check online for any complaints or negative reviews about the contractor(s) you are considering. The Better Business Bureau and online review sites are good places to start. Note that sometimes a negative review can come from a misunderstanding, so also look to see if the contractor replies to reviews with a resolution or explanations as well.
Step 4: Ask for References and Contact Them
We’ve also found it very helpful to hear about the contractor’s work directly, especially for a large project that will require a lot of time and money. So ask the contractor for references and ask the references about their experience with the contractor, the quality of their work, and whether they would hire them again. Another very important factor is if the contractor showed up on time and completed the work within a reasonable timeframe.
Step 5: Review the Contract Thoroughly Before Signing
At this point, you should have an idea of the contractor that you are considering. But before you sign their contract or pay an invoice, take a look and see if it includes all of the details such as the scope of work, timeline, payment schedule, and materials that you agreed on. Make sure that you understand all the terms and conditions before signing and check for any hidden fees.
It would also be helpful to structure in a payment schedule that is tied to project milestones for a larger project. For example, if you have a kitchen and bathroom remodel, you would pay the contractor in two phases, once when the kitchen is completed and next when the bathroom is completed. This will help ensure that the contractor finishes the work as agreed upon and that you only pay for work that has been done.
Step 6: Set Clear Expectations for Communication and Project Updates
Now that you’ve agreed on the terms and conditions of the project, set your expectations for communication and project updates. Make sure you and the contractor agree on how often you will communicate, how updates will be provided, and who will be responsible for providing them.
By following this checklist, you can hire a reputable contractor who can deliver the results you want for your home improvement project.
And if you want to take this checklist with you, download the FREE printable here!
Lastly, this is just one step in a larger planning process for a renovation and we’ve written a complete guide that you don’t want to miss, so be sure to check it out!