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  • Type of contractor
    • Home building You will probably need a full time general contractor to build a house, as they will have the appropriate contacts and relationships with subcontractors – electricians, plumbers, etc.
    • Renovations A small time contractor who will pitch in himself is a good choice – smaller jobs can be more cost effective if the foreman is also working.
    • Landscaping A contractor who specializes in landscaping is your best bet as they will have the right contacts – nurseries, greenhouses, etc.
    • Light remodeling Look for a specialist in the area you are remodeling – some contractors specialize in kitchens and baths, for example.
  • References
    • Recommendations Ask for the names and numbers of past clients you can check with who will vouch for quality of work done, budget adherence, and professionalism.
    • Personal references Ask for names and numbers of people who will vouch for personal integrity.
    • Legal Check to see if the contractor has any lawsuits pending.
    • Online Google the contractor in search of any information – good or bad.
    • BBB Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if any complaints have been filed.
  • Interviewing
    • Company history How long has the contractor been in business? It’s best to select a contractor who has been in business at least 5 years.
    • Goals Ask the contractor to explain clearly the solution he suggests to reach your goals.
    • Quality standards Ask what guidelines the contractor uses to determine his quality standards.
    • Professional designation Ask if the contractor has a specialty designation in any category of home improvement/remodeling.
    • Trade membership A contractor who is the member of a trade association is more likely to be up to date on current materials, codes and methods.
    • Price Ask the contractor for a final bid in writing that includes a detailed account of how budgeted funds will be allocated.
  • Requirements
    • Insurance Your contractor should carry workman’s compensation for anyone injured on your property. They should also carry general liability insurance in case they damage your property.
    • Licensing If you live in a region where licensing is required, make sure your contractor is properly certified and up to date.
    • Permits The contractor should demonstrate capability to acquire all the required permits as applicable by local law.
  • Contract
    • Start/end dates There should be a clear timeline for job completion.
    • Payment You can expect to pay a deposit upfront and to supply payments at milestones, but the final payment should not be released until the job is completed to your satisfaction.
    • Warranty This should be spelled out in the contract with all parties under obligation clearly identified.
    • Dispute resolution Especially if the job is large, a mediation process should be agreed upon in case of conflict.
    • Clean up Unless you want to be left with a mess, make clean-up by the contractor one of the stipulations for release of final payment.
    • Penalties Write a per day penalty into the contract that will deduct from the price of the job if the contractor does not finish in the time frame agreed upon.
    • Bonus Likewise, a bonus can be offered for completion of the job earlier than planned – but make sure your contractor doesn’t cut corners to finish early.

Hiring the right contractor is one of the most important decisions you can make, whether your projects is small, such as a room addition, or large such as a whole house build. Contractors don’t just do home construction; they may be employed to take care of projects such as landscaping, various levels of renovation, garage or barn building or fencing. The following checklist may help you select a contractor who will stay the course.  

Tips

Prior to hiring a contractor, it is common to have a designer or consultant look over plans prepared by a professional architect and explain what needs to be done. This information can prove useful when interviewing contractors for the job.

Have a full set of plans and a comprehensive materials list already in hand before sitting down to interview a contractor – this will show that you are aware of what needs to be done and what it will take to do it and can prevent you from being taken advantage of.

Hiring the cheapest contractor can lead to serious problems down the line. A bid significantly lower than all the others can mean shoddy workmanship or sub-standard materials – or both. A breakdown of the cost of both labor and materials should be asked for and gone over carefully to ensure that the job goes smoothly and doesn’t fall apart two weeks after completion.

Using local contractors when possible will save time and money. So will using materials from a local source. Paying local markup for material may beat paying freight costs to have materials shipped in, so shop around and get the best deal you can. Once you feel you have both the best material and the best contractor available, you can give the green light for the project to begin, but you should still be as hands on as possible throughout the process.

Contractor Checklist
  Nicole Nichols-West


on December 29, 2011

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