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Three Steps to Finding the Best Contractor for Your Renovation

construction worker

Choosing to renovate your home is a big decision. It will be both an expensive and time-consuming process. Depending on the size of the renovation, you and your family may have to move out or deal with loud noises, strangers working in your home and messes everywhere. Not to mention, you are putting the fate of your kitchen, bathroom or even your entire home in the hands of someone else.

Because of this, it is important to carefully choose the right person to get the job done. Hiring a contractor can be a lengthy, painstaking process. On the other hand, if you don't take the time to research and find the best contractor that you can trust, you could be left with a bill substantially higher than your quote, poor craftsmanship or a renovation that doesn't resemble what you had in mind.

Angie Hicks, creator of Angie's List, told U.S. & World News Report, she created her company specifically because of the problems she had heard about contractors who left a home poorly completed or a family angry or disappointed.

"It can be difficult to hire contractors and know what you're getting," Hicks explained. "You're spending a lot of money, and you're dealing with your home. If they do it wrong, there can be a whole lot of heartache."

Ask Around

To avoid this heartache, homeowners need to know the best way to hire a contractor. It's not as easy as choosing from a list of ads in the yellow pages. In fact, Consumer Reports advised not to use ads at all. Truly good contractors don't need advertising because their clients will be willing to tell others about their experience with them. Ask friends, family, coworkers or anyone you know who has had a renovation completed about who they hired. If anyone should know how good a contractor's work is, it's the person who currently lives in the final product.

It's important to note that different people will react differently in stressful situations, such as a home renovation. If you hear about a contractor from several people or see many reviews online, but one or two have negative comments, investigate to find out what the issue was. Maybe the homeowner's personality wasn't compatible with the contractors, or maybe there was unforeseen work that needed to be done, adding to the cost of the renovation. Arthur Sadura, a contractor in New York City, told that these issues can cause a lot of tension in the contractor-client relationship.

Phone In

Once you have a list of contractors recommended by people you know or from trusted websites, such as the National Association of Home Builders, it's time to start narrowing down your list. This should be done through both phone and in-person interviews, This Old House explained. Hicks advised people to interview at least three contractors.

The phone interview and in-person interview will serve different purposes. The phone conversation will be primarily for gathering information. According to HouseLogic, homeowners should ask potential contractors many detailed questions and seek specific answers. Some questions include:

  1. How long have you been working in this town?
  2. Who are your suppliers and how long have you been working with them?
  3. How much will a renovation of this size and type cost?
  4. Can I see an itemized budget estimate?
  5. How long has the foreman been working with you?
  6. May I visit a project he is currently working on?

Each of these has a purpose. Learning about the history of the contractor will show you how well he has done locally. Someone who has been in business for several decades, for example, may have more experience than one who has only been working for a few years.

Finding out what suppliers the contractor uses will allow you to do your own research on the materials that will be used to complete your renovation.

The estimated price of the renovation is an essential piece of information homeowners need to know before signing contracts. Getting an itemized list of prices will tell you which part of the project is causing the price to go up. This will give you a better idea of how you can reduce the price, or how much more it will be to upgrade a feature.

Finally, asking to see the foreman at work leads to the in-person interview, where you will be able to see what a typical workplace looks like for them.

See Their Work

Visiting the contractor and foreman in person will give you a good idea of how compatible you are, and what working with them will be like. If you have clashing personalities at the beginning, that aspect could make things more stressful once the work begins.

If you visit a worksite that is unorganized and unprofessional, you can expect the same type of thing for your own home. The same goes for poor craftsmanship and cheap materials.

Plus, HouseLogic explained that visiting the foreman and his crew will encourage the contractor to assign the best workers to your project. When you ask to see an on-going project in person, the contractor will likely take you to the crew or project that looks the best. If seeing the crew is what convinced you to hire this contractor, you will likely be assigned workers who perform on par with the ones you saw.

How low will your payment be?