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How To Choose A Home Renovation Contractor

Sep 5, 2008
When you have to choose a contractor for some of the renovation work on your home, how will you tell the difference between a certified professional and a charlatan?

Research and the right questions are what you'll need to make this important decision. Keep reading to learn how to choose the right contractor and save yourself both time and money.

Where to Find Good Contractors

Before you even begin interviewing potential contractors, you need to find them first. Initially, educate yourself on your proposed project so you have an idea of the expertise that's going to be needed for your particular job. For example, if your home improvement project involves a lot of plumbing work, then you know to look for a contractor with plumbing experience. Expertise is not transferable from one specialty to another.

When looking for contractors, try asking your friends for referrals, check online customer review sites, ask at your local home hardware store and take a walk through the yellow pages. Call at least three potential contractors to interview and request quotes.

While you're asking for quotations, give every contractor the same information so your comparison is consistent. And be sure the information your provide is sufficiently complete that they can provide you realistic numbers and time frames.

How to Interview a Contractor

When interviewing a potential contractor, it's important to ask these questions:

1. Are you licensed in this city/state?

If your potential contractor has a license, get the number and call your local building department's licensing office to validate it. Also, contact your Better Business Bureau and state Consumer Protection Agency to find out what's required to obtain a license in your state.

2. Can you provide me with 3 references from jobs done in the last year?

Use references to check your contractor's work history, reliability and ability to stay on budget and schedule. Don't be afraid to quiz the references on the specifics of the work they had done and to what level they were satisfied with the work. If there were problems of significance, that is what you want to unearth.

3. What insurance do you have?

Contractors should come to you insured. They should have general liability, workman's compensation, auto insurance, and property and personal liability. Ask for a copy of your contractor's insurance because the last thing you want is legal and financial responsibility should an accident take place on your property.

4. How experienced are you?

Find out how long your contractor has been in business. Anything over five years is usually a sign of a reliable, stable business. A work history less than this time period does not mean the person is not qualified or sufficiently experienced for the job. It simply means your risk might be a little higher.

5. Do you have a portfolio?

Most contractors will have before and after photographs of their past work. Look through these to get an idea of the type of work your contractor does and his or her abilities.

6. May I have a detailed estimate?

Ideally, you want an estimate or quote that's itemized and includes labor, materials, overhead and a schedule. Ask for it in writing so you can easily compare it to estimates you receive from other contractors.
About the Author
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