If there is only one thing that you will read about hiring contractors, make this page that thing!
In this article I will give you all the insider tips that seasoned general contractors use to hire subcontractors for their projects.
Some of these tips you may already know, but I'm sure many of them will be of great use to you, especially if you like to save thousands of dollars and protect yourself from being scammed by a contractor. Is that you?
I was a general contractor for seven years before the economy crashed and my $100,000 + home additions just stopped selling.In those seven amazing years my business went from a $50,000 a year business my first year to a million dollar in revenue business four years later. Along the way I also won 5 Better Business Bureau Awards for Excellence in Business Consumer Education which is basically recognition for the time spent in creating the best consumer helping articles for the remodeling industry. Remembers I'm competing with multi-million dollar conglomerates like Angie's List and she's just a lawyer. So how is she going to advise you on how to hire a contractor? Angie's List and the other big companies simply hire freelance writers who know as much about the remolding industry as I do about building a rocket to mars = nothing.
I've hired and fired a large amount of subcontractors for various home remodeling projects. I have learned many important lessons along the way that put me into credit card debit in the 5 digit range. That's why I want you to pay attention and really read this article. It's very easy to make a $20,000 mistake in the remodeling world, so if your planning a big project, you owe yourself the hindsight to learn from my mistakes.
1. How to Find the Best Remodeling Contractor?
There's plenty of contractors for you to call, no matter what type of project you are considering. I like to use contractors who have good clean honest working history. What does that mean? I check on them with the Better Business Bureau and Department of Consumer Protections. The BBB has a website where you can type in a company name and get information about how many customer complaints are filed, how many complaints have been resolved, and how many have not been resolved. The Department of Consumer Protections also has complaint histories on businesses, but in Connecticut you have to call them.
Generally speaking, you are looking for a contractor who has a pristine history. But sometimes that seems more of a fairytale then reality. Why? Well it's because there are those customers who are beyond reason, and since we don't live in a perfect world, there are great contractors who receive a few black marks from people who might be better at advocating their case to the BBB or DCP. By the way, we never had a single complaint while we were in the general construction business, building large home additions in Connecticut.
Learn How to Interview and Hire a Contractor the Right Way by learning How a General Contractor Hires Another Contractor.
How to Tell If Your Contractor Is Lying or Legit?
If a contractor was in business for 20 years, but on his record there exists 2 complaints, then you should know that the guy or gal is most likely legitimate. Because in that 20 year span, the contractor could have had thousands of customers! On the other hand, if the contractor was in business for only 5 years and already acquired 20 complaints, then you should obviously stay away from them. The only exception to this rule would be, if the contractor or company completed thousands of jobs during that five year period. Example: 5,000 jobs divided by 20 complaints, equals .004 %. You can get this information by calling the contractor directly and asking them about how many jobs they complete in one years time on average.
2. What to Ask a Remodeling Contractor During Estimate Appointment?
In the seven years that I was an actual general contractor, I learned that only a small portion of the people who called us for an estimate actually prepared themselves properly to get a proper home addition estimate. This inspired me to send preparation guides to them a week prior to our appointment. I actually sell this guide today for people looking to build home additions. It's only $7.77 but honestly I should charge a lot more for it. it's worth the money, especially if you plan on spending thousands on remodeling or building. This guide that you are reading right now is worth alot more, but I'm chosing to give this information to the public freely as a public service. (It's a shameless plug because I know how much it would help.)
So what are you building or remodeling? Do you have any ideas or sketches already, and if not, then why not? If you expect only the contractor to use his or her imagination, then you are already on the wrong side of planning a successful project! You don't need a degree in engineering to draw a few boxes on a piece of paper with room dimensions, that you can acquire yourself by laying out some measuring tape across your floor. Some contractors are really good at helping people visualize and plan their projects like home additions, others are... well let's just say, lacking in creativity.
Bottom line: If you are remodeling a bathroom, go to a tile store, pick out your tile, get a price on the tile based on the size of the room etc.. Pick paint colors, go to a plumbing supply store and pick out your faucets, toilet, and shower fixtures. Don't let the contractor give you a limited list of things to choose from, because they will! If you are ready to spend money on construction, then go out there and personalize this project before your estimate appointment. Why leave all the design and details to someone who has no idea of what you really like or don't like? It's okay to have your contractor pick the things you really don't care about, but if you want specific things, just go out there and get him or her the model numbers.
The more prepared you are for your estimate appointment, the better for you in the long run, trust me. You will know exactly what you are getting, and you can have the contractor base the estimate off the actual products you chose! This means a real accurate estimate and a quick turnaround time. Complex estimates usually for large projects can take a long time, if the contactor is doing all the guess work.
Lastly you should make it known to your contractor that you want everything to be done in writing or else you are not hiring them. We did this for our customers as a free service and because it was a Win/Win for the both of us. If we said we are giving you a Moen showerhead Model # ZXY123, then that is exactly what you are going to get. The more detail your building contract contains, the more protection and assurance you have that your project will be completed the way you want it to be. And remember that those details work in your favor, if for any reason your contractor didn't perform the job properly, on-time, or on budget, because you take them to court.
2. How Many Contractors Do I Contact for My Estimate?
The short answer is as many as it takes to get apples to apples estimates and to get comfortable with one of them!
Great! You found several contractors who have decent working history according to the records you verified with the Better Business Bureau, Department of Consumer Protections, and any other authority local to you that keeps complaint histories on businesses.
Now, how many contractors do you interview for the job? The rule of thumb is three contractors, but this does not always work, because some of the people who come out to your house to conduct the estimate, might not have the best personality, energy, mojo, or whatever you call it. Basically there are contractors who might be great at what they do, but they scare the heck out of you or just give you the heebee jeebees.
I recommend interviewing three contractors that you would feel safe with, if you had to leave your kids alone in the house with them for a half hour, while you make a bread and milk run. Don't have kids, okay then, how about picking someone who you would not expect to be going through your valuables, while you are at work.
The bottom line here is that you want to interview three experienced and respected contractors, who not only provide you with a honest project estimate, but also give you a good feeling about them as well. Don't forget that we provide a no obligation Prescreened Contractor Locating Service, to help you find good candidates to interview.
Final Words of Wisdom
I wrote this guide because I get tons of phone calls from people asking me for advice about their project. I'm guessing they researched the history of this website and they wanted to know how to do things properly. I cannot blame them because when I'm spending the big bucks, I like to do my research as well.
This guide will help you, most likely save you money, and probably prevent a few headaches. I know this because it took me years to figure out how to do this the right way in a commercial atmosphere. And before I learned this information, I made lots of mistakes that cost me time, money, and terrible headaches.