Choosing A Contractor
Thinking of updating your kitchen?
Re-doing your bath? Adding on to your home? Most likely, you'll need to hire a home improvement contractor.
You can start your search for a contractor by talking to friends, family members or neighbors who have used a contractor recently. Ask if they would recommend the person or firm they used. To verify each contractor's reputation, ask these questions:
Did the contractor begin and end on time?
Did the contractor try to minimize disruption of your family? How?
How do you score the contractor on both technical expertise and finished appearance of the project?
Did the contractor work neatly and clean up at the end of each workday?
Once you have a list of prospective contractors, do some research on your project by reading do-it-yourself magazines and manuals. You don't need to know how to do the job yourself, you just need an idea of the work involved.
Now it's time to ask at least three contractors to bid on your project. As you talk through the proposed improvement, ask what special or unexpected problems could arise and ask how the contractor would resolve them. If a contractor is vague or dismisses your question, scratch him off your list.
When adding rooms, rearranging the kitchen, moving walls or performing other major improvements, spend the extra money for a design professional. Be sure anyone who works on your house is licensed and insured.
Once you receive the bids, review them carefully. Don't automatically go with the lowest bidder. You may get a better job or the contractor may use better materials when you pay a little more.
Write the contract to include exactly what the project will entail, how much it will cost, and at what points payments will be made; how changes in plans will be handled; the quality of materials to be used; the beginning and ending dates and sanctions for tardiness.
Keep on top of the project, checking progress and the quality of workmanship. If you are unhappy with something, talk to the contractor immediately. Make sure all changes from the original contract are made in writing and keep in mind that changes may affect the schedule and delay completion.
If possible, have your chosen contractor do a small job first,
so you can learn first-hand the quality of work and what it's like to have that person temporarily take over a part of your home.