You have asked your friends to recommend top contractors, and you have checked references. Perhaps even done an internet background check to verify their business. This is how you know you’ve chosen a professional for your home improvement project.
Their bottom line is to get you signed up for a contract. And they won’t tell you anything that might hinder that process. So to protect your bottom line, you’ll need to be able to commit before you do.
1. They’re not the only game in town
Do not hire any contractor unless you are sure they are suitable for the job.
Before awarding a project for home improvement, you should get at least three quotes from each contractor. Then, by comparing costs, methods, and materials, you can make an informed hiring decision.
You should: Create a basis for comparison before you solicit bids. You should provide the exact project details to each contractor. You may also need floor plans or materials. It would help if you considered costing a deciding factor, but there are other factors to consider, such as scheduling and communication style.
2. They’re going to Farm Out the Work
General contractors are often not able to do the actual physical work. They may have been plumbers or carpenters in the past, but they now own their businesses and can retire their tools.
Instead, they are responsible for signing clients, managing budgets, and scheduling subcontractors. Contractors are often vague about their involvement and who will run the job.
What to do: Find out who will be managing the job site. Jay Rhind, Stockbridge contractor, suggests that you meet the job foreman at their current job site. “You want them to be comfortable with you.”
TIP: Never underestimate the power and importance of being kind. This can keep your contractor and team on track while improving their work quality.
3. A big deposit is unnecessary and perhaps illegal
You are usually required to pay a deposit when you sign a contract. This isn’t for contractor set-up of initial materials.
Their business should be financially sound, and they are in good standing with suppliers. Therefore, they shouldn’t be required to pay any upfront. Many states restrict a contractor’s advance. For example, California limits contractor deposits to 10% of the job’s cost, or $1,000, depending on less. You can check the laws in your region by contacting your state or local consumer agency.
What to do: A small deposit can be used to launch a project. However, your payment plan should be dependent on the amount of work that is completed. The payments will be delayed if work is not completed on time.
TIP: If possible, charge it. Federal Trade Commission recommends that you use a credit card to pay for home improvement projects. If a project fails, homeowners may be protected by using a credit card. In addition, consumers can withhold payment for any reason, provided they make good faith efforts to resolve problems with contractors. This includes credit that is still outstanding. This consists of any finance and related charges.
4. They are raising the prices for not just labor but materials as well
Contractors will discuss it, but they will mark up everything they pay to make your job happen. This is fair because it is how they pay their overhead costs and salary. Materials and labor costs may be subject to a 50% or more significant markup.
What to do: Ask your contractor if you can purchase items such as flooring, cabinets, countertops, and plumbing fixtures. It’s important to discuss the specific amounts and numbers of what you’ll buy and to ensure that the items are available on-site when needed. This could help you save between 10% and 20% on your overall project costs.
TIP: Salvage material is a way to reduce building costs. Make sure to use upcycled items responsibly so that you don’t damage your home’s market value.
5. They aren’t the design wizards they claim to be
There are certainly contractors with excellent design skills. They’re likely spending more time running their business than improving their design skills.
What to do: You may need multiple skilled pros depending on the complexity of the project. It would help if you didn’t rely on contractors to design your space and add intricate details. Instead, they should have a portfolio that clearly shows their skills.
Ask for references to discuss the contractor’s design skills. You might find it more beneficial to hire an architect for planning the whole project and a bath and kitchen designer for the details.