Design Tricks of the Trade
5 Tips for Hiring a Contractor
8 years, 3 months ago Posted in: Design Tricks of the Trade, Featured 0
5 Tips for Hiring a Contractor

How do I find a good contractor?

This question has to be one of the top 5 I hear almost weekly. I’ve had my ups and down with the trade and over the years it comes down to 5 key tactics for choosing the best contractor for the job.

1)  Know what you want. Get organized – That’s right. You need to do some work on your end understanding and writing down your goals and priorities.  Designers can help you with this task if it seems daunting or you just need that “sanity check”.  This step can prevent what I call “blind design” – making decisions on whims or vague notions of what you want – a formula for disappointment on many fronts.

2)  Ask around and seek out referrals – Utilize the experience of others. Some of the worst decisions are made in a vacuum. You must know folks that have remodeled a bathroom, built a deck, replaced their carpet with wood floors or painted their house. If their experience with a contractor was a good one they would be proud to share information on the contractor’s strong points and weaknesses.Best Contractors in San Diego

3)  Evaluate Like a Pro

3a. Communicate clearly before you hire – List out your needs specifically so the contractor can provide you an accurate proposal and estimate. No one likes to waste time. The more research and precision you arrange up front, the happier you will be when your project is finished. Ask for advice on certain parts of the project you may be unsure of. (Think about those aspects before you discuss them with the contractor.)

3b. Seek out a second opinion or professional help – Most designers have ample experience coordinating with contractors. Ask a professional to review everything before you commit. One of my clients, Cindy, wrote me a “Thank You” letter and in it was a statement that attests to the benefit of getting professional help.

“I think one of the biggest advantages of hiring a designer is the reassurance of not making a wrong turn that could cost me down the road. For me, this was the only way to feel comfortable taking on a major bath remodel”   

3c. Focus on the skill set you need for YOUR job. If a contractor doesn’t specialize in wood flooring and you need an entire house re-floored, maybe another contractor would be a better fit. Is the contractor certified to perform your project?

3d. Check licenses, insurance and the Better Business Bureau (BBB). A reputable contractor will be able to provide you with copies of his or her Contractor’s Certification, Liability Insurance Certificate and Worker’s Compensation Status. Check the BBB for any complaints. How to Choose a Contractor

4) Get bids from at least three contractors. Ask to receive proposals within a week of your initial meeting with each contractor. The proposal should be an organized written document containing specific items and costs associated with the major tasks of each project and sub-project. Make sure you understand every line item. Ask questions and insist on clarifying the proposal before it’s finalized and converted into a contract.  Never cave in to sleazy tactics where a contractor tells you the “bid is only good today”. If you’ve followed steps 1-3 you shouldn’t find yourself doing business with an underhanded contractor.

4a. Review and finalize the written contract – Before you engage officially with a contractor, sleep on it. Never make a rushed decision about accepting a proposal and moving ahead, whether it’s a small remodel or a whole house renovation. Ensure the major elements of the project are addressed in the contract: Tasks, Supplies, Timeline and Payment Terms/Schedule. Ensure the payment terms are reasonable. It’s acceptable to pay a deposit to start the job and to incur costs upfront to cover supplies and materials. The timeline should be as discussed. Costs for supplies and materials should be estimated accurately and contingencies included for waste. The standard is 10% added to all materials.  

Southland Creative Design on How to Choose a Contractor5. Communicate effectively with the contractor from the very start – Ask smart questions and keep track of what is being accomplished. Is it on time? Your contractor should be communicating with you too. Have regular status meetings or “checkpoints” to ensure that everything is working out as planned. If there are issues or worries, address them promptly and realize that your contractor wants the project to be as much of a success as you do. Treat each other with respect and have fun! 


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