The hardest part about a home renovation is how to find a good contractor you can trust to do the job. We recently completed two bathroom renovations, so we compiled the following list of key takeaways on how to find a good contractor:
How to Find a Good Contractor
- Ask for references – Specifically, ask for the contact information of their prior clients that had similar projects (and if you have their permission to reach out). Questions to ask past clients:
- How was the quality of their work?
- Did the project stick to the original timeline?
- Did the project stick to the original budget?
- Were the contractors professional?
- What did you not like about working with the contractor?
- What did you like about working with the contractor?
- Can you come see the work the contractor did for them or can they share pictures?
- Ask about their experience – Specifically, ask the contractor about their experience doing projects similar in magnitude to yours.
- Licenses – Ask for a copy of the contractor’s licenses related to the relevant field of work. For example, if you’re hiring them to do electrical work, ask for their electrical license, if you’re hiring them to do plumbing, ask for their plumbing license. Look up the license online to ensure it is valid and active.
- Insurance – Ask for a copy of their personal liability insurance, worker’s compensation insurance, and property damage insurance.
- Business Rating – Look up the ratings and reviews on the Better Business Bureau (BBB) or other popular sites like Angi (formerly Angie’s List) to identify potential red flags. For BBB’s site, A+ is the highest rating, F is the lowest rating. The rating is based on many factors, but primarily based on the number of complaints the business has had against them, their type of business, the length of time they’ve been in business, and their licensing.
- Permits – Make sure to ask the contractor if they intend to pull all required permits or at least inform you which permits you need to pull for your project to ensure your project is compliant with your city. It’s best if you also validate required permits with your city, which can usually be found online.
- Detailed bids – Ask the contractor for a detailed bid, including design charges (if applicable), cost of materials, cost of labor, and any mark-ups / profit margin they may add separately. Be sure to know what materials the contractor will provide, and what you are responsible for obtaining. Note, materials will greatly depend on your style and taste.
- Legal Contract – To protect yourself, we recommend ensuring your contractor is willing to sign a contract. At a minimum, key components of the contract should include:
- Detailed scope of the work to be done
- Estimated start date and end date of the work
- Proof of insurance: contractor will obtain and carry adequate business liability and workers compensation insurance that will cover any employees or independent contractors engaged by the contractor during the project
- Proof of active licenses
- Total cost of the project with specific materials and products that will be used. It’s also helpful to include a clause stating that the total cost of the project will not exceed “105%” of the original bid (or whatever % you are comfortable with), without written approval from the owner
- Who payment should be made to (typically, this would be the contractor’s official business name)
- Payment schedule: a schedule usually starts with 10 percent at contract signing, three payments of 25 percent evenly spaced over the duration of the project and a check for the final 15 percent when the project is deemed completed, but this can vary significantly from contractor-to-contractor
- A requirement that the contractor obtain lien releases from all subcontractors. This states that you’ve paid the subcontractor what is owed, they accept the payment in full, and they waive the right to put a lien on your property.
- How you’ll handle changes to the original contract or scope of work. For example, you should create an amendment to the original contract and have both parties sign it
- Warranties that the contractor provides for their work
- Who is responsible for removing material and debris from the project
- What indicates completion of the work to be done.
Contractors vary in reliability, quality and price. By putting in the time to do your due diligence before moving forward with a contractor, your odds of a successful project (at a good value) greatly increase. Check out our blog post on “How to Save Money on Home Renovations” before you start your next project!
We hope these tips help your hire the best contractor for your next project! Have you had a good or bad experience working with a contractor in the past?