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Tips for selecting a contractor

Updated: Jan 30, 2020

So you’ve decided you want to take on a home project - congratulations! Improving the look and feel of your home is a big undertaking but also a great investment.

So now what?

It’s time to decide on who’s going to do the work. In some cases, it might be you. Or someone in your family. But more than likely, you’ll be hiring a contractor to do the work for you. And for any sized project, it can be a tough decision.

When selecting a contractor, there are lots of things to factor in. We’ll walk you through some of the big things you need to think about when hiring someone to do the work.

Know what you’re looking for. It helps immensely to have a plan on what improvements you want to make BEFORE talking to a contractor. Not only will it help the person doing the work, but it will help you get a more accurate estimate on what the project and labor will cost. Also keep in mind that your project could cost 10-15% more than what you’re planning on. So keep that in mind when budgeting.

Ask people you know for references. People in your neighborhood or friends who have done similar projects will be the best people to talk to about a building project. Or come talk to us at Nelson-Young as we work with many great builders and contractors.

Get a quote from multiple contractors. Once you have a few contractors in mind, offer your project up for bid to see what each contractor is going to cost and what their timeline is. And don’t be afraid to negotiate.

Don’t expect the work to start right away. Contractors are always busy, especially the good ones. Plan on a bit of a wait before your project gets started.

Make sure the right contractor is doing the right project. Sure Bob did a great job tiling your bathroom. But don’t expect him to be a whiz at electrical work.

Make sure your contractor is licensed to do the work. Ask the contractor for a copy of his license and copies of the licenses of the major subcontractors who will work on the job. Also make sure they’re properly insured.

Read online reviews. Nowadays, the internet can be a great place to go to see how contractors are doing in their work. But keep in mind, word of mouth references are still going to be your best bet.

Sign a contract. You’ve selected a contractor, now it’s time to sign on the dotted line. Make sure your contract spells out exactly what will be done, including deadlines, progress payments, the exact materials that will be used down to the model number and who will provide which materials.

Get all the proper permits. Most home renovation projects require a permit. In some cases, contractors will take care of getting the permits. But in any case, just make sure you have them when the contractor is ready to start the project.

Make sure your contractor is insured. Know what is covered by your homeowners insurance and what is covered by your contractor’s business insurance. Get a copy of the company’s insurance policy. You need to make sure you're not liable if something happens when the work is going on.

Come up with a plan for work days. As we said before, contractors are busy. Make sure there’s a plan in place for them to be able to get into your house when they’re ready to start the work. Either make sure you’re home when they’re working or give them access to your house, only if you trust them.

Make final payment. Don’t pay all of the money up front. Most contractors will require a percentage of the project up front and the rest at the end. Once your project is 100% complete, make sure your contractor is paid in full. In addition, make sure that sub-contractors are paid as well upon completion.

Home improvement projects are a big investment, so it’s important to select the right people for the job. As we mentioned before, our staff at Nelson-Young has worked with contractors on thousands of projects of all different shapes and sizes. And we would be more than happy to help you select the right person to improve your home.


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