1. How to Find the Cream of the Crop 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 out. The Department of Consumer Protections also has complaint histories on businesses.
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.
Do the Math
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.
BONUS: If any of the advice from this section was unclear, just send us an email, after you are done reading Choosing a General Contractor.
2. How to Prepare for a Contractors Estimate Appointment?
We learned that only a small portion of the people who call us for an estimate actually prepare themselves properly.
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 contractor 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. 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.
3. How Many Contractors Do I Contact for My Estimate?
The short answer is as many as it takes!
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. We 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.
Final Words of Wisdom
Thank you for reading and good luck with your project! We look forward to being one of your selected Contractors on your project.
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