Tips for Finding the Best Contractor

Whether you’re working with your insurance company in the wake of house damage, or just wanting some upgrades, finding a good contractor is an important part in ensuring that the project is done well. We’re not just talking about repairs or upgrades, but a long-term investment in a home you may be occupying for years to come. Luckily, the folks at This Old Househave a few recommendations:

Start Local

“Start with your friends and family and then check in with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry for a list of members in your area. You can also talk with a building inspector, who’ll know which contractors routinely meet code requirements, says This Old House general contractor Tom Silva, or pay a visit to your local lumberyard, which sees contractors regularly and knows which ones buy quality materials and pay their bills on time.”

Interview Candidates

“Once you’ve assembled a list, Tom recommends that you make a quick call to each of your prospects and ask them the following questions:

  • Do they take on projects of your size?
  • Are they willing to provide financial references, from suppliers or banks?
  • Can they give you a list of previous clients?
  • How many other projects would they have going at the same time?
  • How long have they worked with their subcontractors?

The answers to these questions will reveal the company’s availability, reliability, how much attention they’ll be able to give your project and how smoothly the work will go.

Based on the phone interviews, pick three or four contractors to meet for estimates and further discussion. A contractor should be able to answer your questions satisfactorily and in a manner that puts you at ease. Tom says that it’s crucial that you two communicate well because this person will be in your home for hours at a time. On the other hand, don’t let personality fool you. Check in with your state’s consumer protection agency and your local Better Business Bureau to make sure contractors don’t have a history of disputes with clients or subcontractors.”

Get Bids

“You have your short list of contractors whose track records seem clean and whose work ethic looks responsible. Now it’s time to stop looking back at past work and start looking forward to your project. A conscientious contractor will want not only a complete set of blueprints but also a sense of what homeowners want out of a project and what they plan to spend. To compare bids, ask everyone to break down the cost of materials, labor, profit margins and other expenses. Generally materials account for 40 percent of the total cost; the rest covers overhead and the typical profit margin, which is 15 to 20 percent.”

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