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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.


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 reputable contractors.


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.