How to Hire a Professional Contractor
Often times, a simple job can be handled by most "do-it-yourselfers".
However, there are other times when a project may require
a skilled professional to get the job done right. One of our
favorite sayings is "you get what you pay for" -
which is why we buy top quality tools and materials to do
our work. You should not consider price alone before making
your decision as to whom you hire. There will always be someone
out there who can do the job for less, but think about it.
Just because a contractor quotes an appealingly low price
does not guarantee you will get the best quality, service,
or any customer-satisfaction guarantees. And the job could
become far more costly than you ever imagined.
Home repair and redecorating can be disruptive enough. When
choosing a contractor, why add unnecessary hassle, the added
responsibility for someone else's potential mistakes, or get
less than you'd hoped for? If you are looking for a "cheap"
job, hire your neighbor kid. On the other hand, if you want
a smooth experience and a professional finish, with as few
risks, inconveniences, and surprises as possible, here are
some issues to consider before making your hiring decision.
Insurance is one of the most important items when hiring
a contractor and should be one of the first things you ask
about. We cannot stress this enough. Ask for a certificate
or proof of insurance before hiring anyone. The contractor
should have Worker's Compensation (protects you in case a
worker is injured on your property, if they don't have insurance
then you are liable for the injury), Liability (protects you
in case a contractor damages your property), and Auto Insurance
(protects you in case a contractor's vehicle does any damage
to your property or vehicles). If the contractor gives you
any flak about showing proof of insurance call someone else,
period! If you hire someone without insurance, you could literally
be putting your entire net worth at risk.
EXPERIENCE / QUALIFICATION
Before making your decision, you need to "qualify"
the contractor. Did the contractor return your initial call
promptly? Did they show up on time to take a look at the work?
These two important elements tell you a lot. If they were
not prompt, it may give you an idea of what to expect when
it comes to starting, and finishing your project.
Once the contractor passes this initial test, explain your
wants and needs for the project, they should have the answers
to your questions and provide you with helpful ideas to enhance
the project. Expert advice should be part of the package.
It is very important that you feel comfortable with your contractor.
You can usually get a feel for what they will be like to work
with in your first meeting with them.
We also recommend you hire a contractor with five or more
years experience. These contractors are proven to have a solid
business history, and chances are they will be more reliable
and stand behind their work. Finally, we recommend you hire
a contractor that belongs to some sort of professional trade
association - which typically will only accept proven and
BIDDING / SCOPE OF WORK
It is usually a good idea to get estimates from at least
three contractors. Make sure that all contractors are pricing
the exact same scope of work. The scope of work should detail
such things as how the prep work will be done, and the number
of coats to be applied. You may want to give this information
to each contractor in writing or in the form of plans / specifications.
This will ensure that you are comparing "apples to apples"
when it comes to each contractor pricing your job. If this
is not done, you may end up with one contractor coming in
with a much lower price, but asking for more money after the
job has started.
Once you have made your decision, the next step is to secure
a contract. The contract protects both you and the contractor.
It is a legally binding commitment that should at the very
minimum include the following: an exact description of all
the work to be performed (also known as the "scope of
work"), the total cost of the project, payment terms,
who is responsible for the necessary permits, exclusions,
and any promises made by the salesperson / contractor.
Unfortunately, some contractors are not reputable and give
the rest of us reputable contractors a bad image. Following
are things you should be wary of in your search for a contractor
to work with: a high pressure sales pitch (they will usually
try to get you to give them the work before you get prices
from others); refusal to give you a written estimate; a charge
for the estimate (this should be free), gives you an extremely
low price (this usually means they will try to charge you
more after the job has started), contractors who are from
out of town "chasing storms" (who will you call
back if there is a problem with their work 6 months down the
road - chances are they will not stand behind their work),
and most importantly watch out for contractors that ask for
money up front (this usually means they are having cash flow
problems). Reputable contractors should be able to wait until
the project is complete and you are satisfied before asking
to get paid. The only exception to this is on a long-term
project, where the contractor may ask to get paid a monthly
"draw" for work that has already been performed.
We highly recommend you do not pay for work that has not been
completed or to your satisfaction.