One of the finer skills you can learn in life is knowing when to call in the big guns. When DIY reaches a breaking point, when there’s water spraying all of your laundry room, when your toilet WILL NOT STOP LEAKING no matter how many times you’ve changed that stupid wax ring– sometimes you have to suck it up and call a professional.
I have worked with a solid amount of professional tradesmen at this point and I’ve learned a lot about choosing them and working with them. Before you hire a contractor, save yourself some time, money and sanity and be sure to consider the lessons I have learned.
This may seem like common sense. But contractor reviews are telling about the person’s quality of work and work ethic. An Angie’s List membership is a good investment when you’re on the hunt for home professionals. If you’re interested in someone and they have no reviews, asks for at least 3-5 references that can attest to their work. One person’s opinion, even if it’s a trusted friend or family member is not enough. If your friend raves about the electrician that did such a great job on installing a light in her kitchen, that does not mean that same person will be competent enough to do your whole-house rewire.
When reading reviews, don’t just look at the total number of stars. Read the content. What kind of work did they do? Does the person’s claims seem to be reasonable?
Call for a quote.
You can learn a lot about someone just by calling. Have a couple of questions prepared ahead of time to ask. If the person treats you like you’re in inconvenience, don’t move forward with them. This is someone you’ll be letting into your home. They’ll be around your belongings, your pets, your kids, it’s a serious matter. If you don’t get a good feeling, or the person treats you less than, tell them you need to think about it and don’t call back. If they’re a jerk on the phone, I’ll be person in person.
Get a quote.
When you find someone you seem to connect with, invite them over to give a quote. Most contractors are extremely busy, so make sure you will be available and can show up on the time chosen.
Tell them exactly what you want.
When a contractor comes to give you a quote, you need to be specific in what you want. Don’t be shy in describing what you’re looking for. One of the BIGGEST SIGNS of a good contractor is someone who has a can-do attitude. Do not let someone talk you out of what you want. You may have to make compromises, but if a contractor discourages you from doing what you want because it’s easier for them, move on to the next person. The fact is, anything can be done. Anything. You may have to pay more for it, but you want someone who is willing to go the extra mile to make you happy.
Start with a honey-do task.
If you’re unsure about someone, ask them to start with a smaller task before remodeling your entire garage or adding on a bedroom. Note their quality of work, quality of communication with you, timeliness, follow through, and accuracy of pricing.
Marrying a businessman has taught me, everything is negotiable. Contractors are there to make money, as well as provide quality work. If the price isn’t where you want to be, ask them what they can do for you price wise. Tell them you really want to hire them, but the price is out of range. Can you do it for $___? Is okay to ask.
20 Questions YOU NEED to ask before hiring ANYONE:
- How many years have you been doing this?
- Have you done this type of project before? For who? Can I call them as a reference?
- Are your prices guaranteed?
- Will you provide a DETAILED quote? (You don’t want just a solid number. You want someone willing to give you a detailed quote for each individual task being performed.)
- What time will you start working during the day?
- What time will you end working during the day?
- Do you smoke? (This can be a HUGE problem for some. MAKE SURE that if the contractor is a smoker or he brings smokers with him, that they know to clean up their butts after smoking outside.)
- Do you clean up each day after working?
- Will you provide me with a written contract for the work to be done? (Also extremely important. If contractors have many projects going at once, they will likely forget the little details. You need it IN WRITING what they’ve committed to and for how much.)
- How long will the project take? If you go over this time frame, what happens?
- How many projects do you take on at once? (It’s a red flag if someone has more than 2-3 projects going on. The more projects they have, the more details will slip through the cracks. If the contractor only has a couple of people that work for him, one project at a time is best.)
- Can I expect to see you everyday? (You don’t want someone that tears apart your kitchen Wednesday, then doesn’t come back until Saturday because they are working on other projects)
- How far out are you booked for work?
- If other people come to my home when I’m gone,will you be here to supervise always?
- Are you licensed and insured? (If you hire someone who isn’t, the risk of their quality of work is completely your responsibility)
- Can you work around dogs and kids? (If this is a concern for you, ask to gage their reaction)
- Do you coordinate other work or will it be my responsibility? (If electric, plumbing or specialty trades are part of your project, you need to know if the contractor will be completing the work himself, hiring someone else to do it, or if you’ll be in charge of finding someone. Note that if they’re in charge of hiring someone, it costs you about 20% more. However, it does save you the headache of working with multiple people, multiple schedules and holding them all accountable)
- If you can’t make it to my home to work, what will you do? (This seems common place. But SO MANY contractors I have worked with just don’t show up and don’t call.)
- What will happen if something goes wrong or is unexpected?
- Is your work guaranteed? When do you get paid? (Never, ever, ever, ever ,ever, EEEEVVVEEEERR pay someone before the work has been completed. Some contractors will ask for half up front. My personal opinion is that you don’t give anyone any money until the job is done. There is simply too much risk on your side of being taken advantage of if that circumstances are otherwise. A good contractor waits until the job is complete and you are happy with the result before expecting payment.
What questions do you wish you would have asked before hiring your contractor?