How to Choose a Contractor

Eight key points that will help you select the right contractor for you and your remodeling project.

  1. Professional Standing: A good place to start when considering a contractor is their professional standing.  Find out what professional organizations they belong to. You can also check their standing with the Better Business Bureau.  This simple first step is a great way to narrow down your choices, helping you to distinguish between contractors you might want to use and those you do not want to use.
  2. Reputation: What do past clients say about the contractor?  Are they frequently recommended? Are they invested in the community in a way that demands integrity?
  3. Organized Clean-up: The number one complaint about remodelers is mess.  Ask your potential contractor how they deal with dust when they are installing drywall in a home or how they deal with construction debris.  A quality contractor will have created well trained routines for these basic issues of remodeling and, without hesitation, will be able to provide detailed and reassuring answers.
  4. Insurance: It is essential that any contractor you hire maintain necessary insurance to protect your home investment.  This includes general liability and workers liability insurance.
  5. Longevity: How long has the contractor been in business? Unfortunately, a great deal of necessary learning comes from trial and error -- You do not want your home to be the class room for a young or inexperienced contractor.
  6. Comfort:  It is important that you feel comfortable communicating with your contractor.  Will you be comfortable telling this person what you are not happy with?  Do you have confidence that they will listen to you and act on what they hear? The idea of comfort may be difficult to quantify but it is crucial for a good client-contractor relationship.
  7. Knowledge Base:  The average home has over two thousand different parts. Most of these parts have hundreds, if not thousands of different options. These options continue to expand and improve as our understanding of issues such as energy loss, insulation, and air tightness increase.  Despite this explosion of new information, many in the construction industry are slow to accept change.  It is important to hire a company that has a culture of intelligence and fosters a learning environment, to ensure you’ll have a contractor with a firm and every growing knowledge base.
  8. Control:  All construction projects involve a lot of variables, which, if not handled properly, can create a bit of chaos. Strong routines, attention to detail, and discipline are characteristics you should seek in a contractor to prevent confusion during your project. To get a sense of the control and orderliness your potential contractor has, ask how they arrive at a price.  While they may not go into the details of markup and margins, they should be able to outline how they arrive at a price for a job.  Be aware that some contractors intentionally come up with an initial low price, which is later inflated with change orders.  Change orders are an inevitable part of any construction project, especially remodeling, but they should not arise because a contractor forgot to include something when bidding. Make sure that your contractor has a methodical and disciplined approach to this crucial part of the job. Usually, such a contractor will return a higher bid and get the job done for less.