Steps to Hiring a Good General Contractor

Whether you’re remodeling your bathroom, refinishing the basement or redoing your entire house, getting a good general contractor is imperative. He or she will not only make sure you have the result you want, but also get the right materials and keep you within your budget – and time frame.

Most of us don’t have the experience, skills or expertise required to do the work ourselves, which is why we hire a professional else to do it for us. But without this knowledge, how can we make sure we’re getting the right person – someone with not only the right talents and skills, but who also won’t rip us off?

Here are a few tried-and-tested tips to ensure you’re not only not out of pocket, but also that you are satisfied with the results of your project – and don’t pull out all your hair in the process:

* Prepare in advance as much as possible. You’ll avoid untold misunderstandings if you’re able to carefully explain to a potential contractor exactly what you want. Having vague ideas can mislead the people you want to work for you, and cause myriad potential problems in future. Do your homework and know what you want done, your budget, what type of materials you want used, and an estimated time frame in which you want the job completed.

* Shop around. Interview at least three candidates, either from happy customers, reputable firms like the Better Business Bureau, or online sources. Word-of-mouth is an excellent way to make sure you’re getting the right person. While Bob may sound as experienced as Mort, you may find that he has a reputation for being less than trust-worthy, honest and reliable. Be wary of contractors who seem desperate for work, who go door-to-door looking for jobs, or who offer you materials that are ridiculously cheap.

* Insist on seeing credentials. Not only should you ask to see a potential contractor’s license, you should also make sure they are insured for worker’s compensation, property damage and personal liability. Certain states have certain requirements: in Washington state, for example, general contractors submitting bids or advertising in the state must be registered with the L&I, or Department of Labor and Industries, carry general liability insurance and post a $12,000 bond.

You might also want to make sure that your contractor is up-to-date with what’s going on in the building world. Someone who is continuing their education by participating in seminars and courses to keep up their qualifications may be more on the ball than someone who last sat in a classroom way back in 1933.

* Check references. Try to get them from their suppliers as well as past customers, and learn about their payment history. Ask also how many similar types of jobs they have done in the past, and what potential difficulties they encountered. You may even want to view some of their work to get an idea of their style and how they do things – if they are reluctant to pass on names, you should be equally reluctant to hire them. Also, ask if they have the necessary permits required to do the job.

* Discuss potential problems in advance – and how your potential contractors will deal with them. Think about what will happen if you go over budget or experience clean-up problems, and see how they will act. Also, ask if they will use sub-contractors and what their general style is when they come to managing others. Insist that everything be as transparent as possible to avoid any nasty surprises. You might want to put an agreed-on plan for resolving disputes in your contract.

* Get involved in a bidding war before finally committing. It’s always recommended to have at least three bids for each project. Insist on formal, written bids and not informal, verbal ones, and go over the fine print carefully before agreeing to anything.

* Go with your gut instinct. When all is said and done, there is nothing like going with your gut. If the two of you have wildly different tastes or just plain old don’t like each other’s personalities, stay far, far away. A great guy who just doesn’t shut up or who has an offensive body odor, for example, may not be someone you want in your home every day for the next six months. Even if you think they wouldn’t do a bad job, do you really thin you could stand having them around?

Hiring a good contractor isn’t brain surgery, although at times it may feel as difficult and even more tricky. Find someone whose style you think you like, then look into the details. If your do your homework properly, investigate a myriad of options and have everything down in writing before you begin, you’ll encounter far less problems than if you jump into the proverbial bed with the first contractor you meet.

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