Whether you are embarking on a remodeling project or planning new home construction, picking reputable contractors is critical. You must take into consideration the contractors reputation, bonding, workmans comp insurance, and liability insurance.
There are many methods to find the best contractor or handyman for your job, depending upon the scope of the work to be performed. But beware of a low bid or a handyman that wants all the money up front. Many handymen will ask for funds for the materials up front, which is fine if they come well-recommended.
Just be sure he is bonded and insured and you go to the home improvement store with him and cut your check right there. Do not hand over any cash standing in the doorway of your home, unless of course you already have a business relationship and trust has been instilled.
The First Step is Setting Your Remodeling Budget
Too often homeowners either start contractor shopping before they set a budget thinking that the bid will steer them to make a decision. Or, they just dont realize how much a home upgrade can cost depending on the scope of the work and/or the quality of the materials.
This is a huge mistake. Setting a budget should be the first step in the process. Also, allow for cost overruns. New construction can be straightforward but remodels are a different animal altogether. Even the most honest contractor cant tell you what he will find when he opens up walls.
Chances are that something or other, generally electrical or plumbing, will be affected by newer building codes.
Looking for Builders in the Phone Book?
Probably the most disastrous plan in your array of selection options, I like to refer to it as Yellow Pages roulette. Baaad idea. Certainly all the good ones will be listed, but so are all the scam artists.
If for some reason you must choose this method, focus like a laser beam on the businesses who bought full or half-page advertisements and be sure the little BBB seal of approval is present.
Basing Your Bid Search on Referrals
This is a better way to get started. Usually, you can rely on the level of satisfaction of your neighbors, friends, relatives, and coworkers. I always recommend a service like Angies List. that relies on consumer satisfaction reports in your area.
Whats the upshot? You get unbiased ratings of your neighbors. You will pay a small price for the service, but its nothing compared to the money down the tube and discomfort you will experience for poor craftsmanship, not meeting deadlines, etc.
Also, there are many sites today that hook you up with free bids online. One of the reputable ones that I know about is called Networx. This is how it works companies register with the service, are evaluated and accepted or rejected. Those accepted and get into the database either pay a yearly fee or pay a commission on bids that they win.
Either way, you as the homeowner do not pay for the service. You might have noticed that car dealerships have adopted the same game plan. A few years ago I was shopping for a Toyota. I just entered my specifications and within minutes I had several price proposals.
How to Evaluate Contractor-Submitted Bids
A good rule of thumb is getting a minimum of three bids for any task. In another article I hash out the process of how to pick a roofing contractor. No matter what job you are farming out, the process is the same. I also have an article of contracts to protect you. Both links are below this article.
Generally speaking, beware of both ends of the spectrum the lowest and the highest bid. The low one will be poor quality and the high one is just taking you to the cleaners. In addition, note how the contractor evaluates your project.
I once secured an exterior home painting contract simply because I took my time measuring the size of the project and asking more detailed questions than the previous contractor.
I was just making sure I didnt miss anything but the homeowner told me it inspired confidence in my professionalism and attention to detail.
Before you pick a contractor, ensure that you completely understand the concepts of general contractors and mechanics liens (which can really get you in financial trouble). The larger the scope of your project is, the more critical all these concepts become. You must protect yourself financially.