You may need to make home improvement repairs for any number of reasons, not the least of which may be to prepare your home for sale. You need to be certain before hiring just any contractor that you know how to find a good contractor for your repairs. Not every contractor in your immediate area is going to be equipped to provide the services you need.
The last thing you want is to hire the wrong contractor only to find they do not have the skills or experience you need. Your budget is not going to be the only thing that suffers from a rash decision to hire a contractor just because he is your brother-in-law. Here are five suggestions to determine what factors are necessary to consider.
Determine the scope
Your first factor is to establish the scope of work needed. If it is a kitchen renovation, for example, you might want to consider the condition of your master bathroom, at least, and add it to the work needed. Kitchens and bathrooms are a linked set in the eyes of most home buyers. They are looking for updated fixtures, appliances and materials.
On the other hand, don’t let the scope grow excessively from the original plan unless you have a liberal budget. What starts as a kitchen and bath proposition can easily extend to other rooms if you allow it.
Establish a budget
The next factor – probably the most difficult to determine – is to establish a budget for the contracted work. This is particularly important for consideration of the scope of the project. Letting the scope get out of control will break the budget with miserable results for you, the contractor and, potentially, your home. Obtain quotes for any and all home improvement repairs. You need to have the scope clearly established with ideas of what materials you want to employ in the renovation. With careful choices, you should realize a nearly full return on your home improvement investment, particularly when it involves kitchen and bathroom appliances, fixtures, floors, walls and cabinets. Plan your budget carefully and prudently. A potential buyer may not appreciate that you purchased unusual, very expensive and stylized features.
Look for experience
Experience is a must for a competent contractor in separate disciplines or a combination of electrical, plumbing, heat and air conditioning, flooring, cabinetry and carpentry, etc. A qualified contractor in these areas will be happy to share experience and references. Use them to determine what work the contractor has previously done. Does it fit your needs? Were clients satisfied with their results? Would they recommend the contractor? Did they stay in budget?
Look for building code competence
Next, you must be certain that the contractor knows the current construction code. Your home improvement repairs will need to pass muster according to subsequent home inspection. Although a contractor should refund expenses for work that is not to code, you should not have the time or patience to re-do work already done just because it did not meet your states code. If you are in the situation of requiring repair of the repair, it would be prudent to find another contractor. Although the one you hired may be anxious to correct his mistake(s), they were likely made because he either did not know the code, or sought to cut corners for profit. Trust is important; second chances should be avoided.
A competent contractor should have certification(s) demonstrating the latest code regulations coursework. You may not be conversant with the code and you should not be expected to know it. Just verify by documentation that your contractor knows it.
Have a written contract
Once you have found the right contractor, before anyone lifts a hammer, get the contract in writing, including the entire scope of the project, a materials list, a schedule for completion, a firm quote for the scope of work and a payment schedule. Having this in writing will neutralize any disagreement later. Be certain that any variations and modifications from the contract are also agreed in writing before those changes begin just to be sure the project is well documented from start to finish.
Most contractors will require a significant percentage – as great as 50 percent – up front before work begins. This is primarily dedicated to materials purchases, so do not begrudge the request. The balance may be portioned out according to a documented set of milestones. However, full payment should not be expected nor paid until the project is complete and passes your inspection, at least, if not that of a building inspector. If code considerations are part of the exercise, the building inspection should be completed before final payment.
These five suggestions will help you find a good contractor for your home improvement repairs.