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How to Find a Good Home Improvement Contractor: 5 Helpful Tips

Somewhere down the line, you are likely to renovate your home for a variety of reasons. Some homeowners may simply want to make visual additions while others may want to improve the safety of their homes by fixing some structural issues.  

Whatever your reason may be for wanting to renovate your home, you will need a home improvement contractor to help make your plans a reality. But scouring the internet to look for home improvement contractors may be enough to scare you from hiring one. All those horror stories of contractors running off with the money or doing a poor job are all too common. 

Fortunately, there are still many honest and professional home improvement contractors out there. So if you are planning to give your home a new look, you need to exert a little bit of effort and do your due diligence to find the right home improvement contractor. 

Here are 5 things you need to do when vetting home improvement contractors for a hassle-free home renovation project.

1. Verify the contractors’ license validity.

After making a list of potential contractors, the first thing you need to do is call them and ask for their license numbers. Most states require a contractor to have a license to be able to practice the profession within the state in which they operate. All major home remodeling work needs to be done by a licensed contractor. 

That said, there is no way to stop an unlicensed contractor from doing some home renovation projects. And if you decide to work with one, you will be responsible for defective work and will be held liable should any injuries or property damage occur during the job. For these reasons, always verify if the contractors are licensed.

Most states have their own website where you can input a contractor’s license number and check its validity. Review aggregator site Angie’s List has a License Check tool where you can find the relevant regulatory agency’s website in your state to check the license.

2. Check if the contractors have insurance. 

Most home improvement projects will involve climbing, digging, and heavy lifting. All of these have a risk of injuring you, the contractor, or a third party, as well as damaging another property. Because of this, it is important that the contractor you choose has the relevant insurance to protect all parties involved. 

According to the Federal Trade Commission, contractors should carry three types of insurance:

  • Workers’ Compensation – This covers the medical and rehabilitation costs as well as lost wages of workers injured during the job. By agreeing to receive workers’ compensation, employees also agree to give up their right to sue their employer for negligence.
  • General Liability Insurance – This covers the contractor for liability claims such as injuries to third parties during the course of the job.
  • Property Damage Coverage – As part of the general liability insurance, property damage coverage protects the contractor from liabilities arising from damages to a third party’s property.

3. Review the contractor’s past experience and reputation.

Some of the ways you can check contractors’ experience and reputation are the following:

  • Checking their portfolio – This allows you to see if they have already made a similar project to yours. 
  • Asking friends, neighbors, and co-workers – If they referred the contractor, discuss their experience and ask if their projects were finished on time and within budget.
  • Calling or visiting the homes of past clients – Talk to potential contractors and ask for the names of customers whose home improvement projects were similar to yours. You may then check the finished works personally and ask the clients if they are satisfied overall. 
  • Reading online reviews – Review aggregator sites are useful resources to check contractors’ reputation. Read the reviews carefully and check if there is a discernible pattern of bad work that may raise red flags
  • Checking with your state’s consumer protection office and the Better Business Bureau – If there are multiple complaints filed against a contractor, it could be a sign of possible difficulties working with them in the future. 

4. Inquire if they will hire subcontractors. 

Depending on the scope of your home improvement project, a contractor may need to hire a subcontractor to do part of the job. It is always good to know who will be showing up at your doorstep when the project starts so you are prepared. 

Home improvement contractors hire subcontractors to do specialty jobs like roofing and plumbing. If your chosen contractor will hire a subcontractor to do part of the job, make sure that they also have the necessary license and insurance coverage. 

Knowing if the contractor will hire a subcontractor is also important in case a payment issue between them arises. If the contractor fails to pay the subcontractor, they will have the right to file a mechanics lien and put up a claim against your property. 

5. Ask for an itemized quote.

Before hiring a contractor, ask for an itemized quote that lists some of the specifics of the project that you will be paying for. This should include:

  • Labor costs – This is the cost of the service provided by the contractor as well as subcontractor costs if any.
  • Material costs – This is the cost of supplies and construction materials needed for the job.
  • Permit fees – The type of permit and corresponding permit fees depend on the type of home improvement project.
  • Miscellaneous costs – This covers incidentals such as travel expenses if the contractor plans to bill you for them.

Getting an itemized quote will give you a good idea of how much the project will cost in total and help you make necessary changes to your budget. A good home improvement contractor will be able to provide a close estimate of the actual prices. Make sure to keep the final quote as a reference to protect you from hidden charges and additional fees. Finally, if a contractor refuses to give an itemized bid, don’t hire them. 

Investing a huge amount of cash in home improvement can be quite scary, especially for a first-timer. It can be even scarier to rely on a complete stranger to do the work for you. But as long as you exert effort in researching and planning, you will be able to find a great contractor who will help you build your dream home. 

 

 

About the Author:

Chris Woodard is the Co-Founder of Handle.com, where they build software that helps contractors, subcontractors, and material suppliers with late payments. Handle.com also provides funding for construction businesses in the form of invoice factoring, material supply trade credit, and mechanics lien purchasing.

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