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5 Things to Look for When Hiring a Contractor

Spring will be here before you know it.  For many of us spring equals home improvement projects.  Maybe you are looking to spruce up your kitchen or upgrade the bathroom, or perhaps the exterior of your home is your 2013 list of to do’s.  We are not alone with our desire to renovate—homeowners who have put off small projects are now feeling more confident about the economy and beginning to spend more freely.  But before you jump on the renovation bandwagon, there are a few things you will want to consider before choosing your contractor.

Check credentials and disciplinary history

Here’s what you should look for: A contractor who has been in business for a while, someone who is licensed, registered, has insurance (liability; worker’s comp) and has a solid reputation.  Did you know that any project over $600 requires your contractor to be licensed? Make sure that they also have a clean bill of health from the Better Business Bureau and with the State of Michigan licensing department.  The HBA staff can help to track down some of these details, give us a call at (616)281-2021.

Get bids

Once you’ve talked to friends, family, and neighbors (asking them if their contractor showed up—and finished—on time, if there were any unexpected costs etc.) as well as separated the good from the bad, get bids from your top three choices, tossing the lowball offer. While we are all looking for value, be wary if someone comes in several thousand dollars below the others. Yes, it appears to be a great deal, but the contractor is most likely cutting corners somewhere, (perhaps using cheaper materials), or may start the project only to tell you down the line that it’s more complicated than initially assumed, and therefore more expensive.

Think beyond price

You’re going to be spending a lot of time with this contractor, so when you make your decision, think about whether you feel comfortable with their personality, background, methods, and communication skills. Is everyone clear about the project at hand—everyone on the same page? If not, you could end up disappointed, frustrated, and possibly out several thousand dollars beyond what you budgeted for.

Contract, contract, contract

Every project should have a contract, no matter the size of the estimated work. Every detail about the project should be included in this contract — from a work timetable, (start and finish dates), to description of the work, to materials that will be used—right down to the brand or make of the fixtures—to the payment schedule and everything in between, including a time limit for fixing defects. Contracts ensure that if a dispute arises, it can be dealt with in a timely manner.  Be sure to communicate with your contractor all of your expectations.

How you pay a contractor is as important as how much

A common practice is the rule of thirds and follow it.  Pay one third at the start of the project, one third when work is 50 percent completed and one third after completion.