How To Find the Best Contractor – Part 1

If you’ve ever had that worst of experiences (a contractor who takes forever to complete your remodeling project, does shoddy work or doesn’t get around to completing the job!) you’ll find a wealth of ideas and tips in this 3 part series on finding the right contractor for your next home improvement, remodeling or home building project.

Home Improvement Project Planning and Scope

First, you want to plan your home improvement project and consider the scope before looking for contractor(s). If all you’re doing is re-grouting your shower then you don’t need much of a plan.

On the other hand, when doing a major remodeling project such as gutting your bathroom and redoing the entire room then it really pays to spend some time planning the project. Consider whether you will act as your own general contractor and manage the project details yourself or whether the time and skills required are beyond your abilities, in which case a good general contractor can not only save you time and money, but can also ensure you avoid a complete remodeling disaster.

Too many homeowners and do-it-yourselfers start out on a large home renovation project only to find themselves in deep over their heads. Don’t make this mistake or you may pay a hefty price later to have a general contractor come in and bail you out; the absolute wrong time to hire a contractor is when you’ve already invested a bunch of money in materials and gone without a kitchen or bathroom for weeks or months and need the job completed quickly!

Sure he may be cute, but would you trust this little guy to complete your big home remodeling project?

What to Look For in a Contractor

When you have a basic project scope and plan ready, its time to consider what you need in a contractor, as there are always tradeoffs in terms of time, quality and price to consider. Ask yourself what qualities are most important to you in a contractor(s):

Overall Project Scope – while some contractors specialize in remodeling, others focus on building custom homes from start to finish. Knowing whether the project you have in mind is well-suited to the contractor(s) you select is critical to a successful project outcome.

Project Cost and Pricing – if project cost is important then look for contractors who are willing to negotiate pricing in exchange for a longer project timeline so that they might be able to work on your project while things are a bit slower on other projects. It will take longer to complete the project but if you’re willing to wait you can save money in some cases.

Quality of Work – if the most important aspect in your home improvement project is the quality of workmanship and materials then you’ll want to find a contractor(s) who have the highest reputation for quality; this often means not only paying a higher price but oftentimes also being put on a waiting list until the job even gets going. The best contracting companies are usually those who are known for their responsiveness and attention to detail, making them more in demand and able to charge premium prices.

Rapid Project Completion – another trade off to consider is how quickly you want/need your project to be completed. By building incentives into the project plan and contract for reaching milestones on time or ahead of schedule, you’ll most likely pay a premium. But, on the other hand, if the thought of living without a kitchen for months or having your home torn apart and having to either live in the midst of a construction site or moving to a temporary location for the duration of the project doesn’t sound too enticing, then paying a bit more to get the project done quickly may be worthwhile.

Unique Features and Customizations – if your project involves highly unique or custom features you may need to look high and low for the right contractor(s) to achieve your goals. For instance, while a qualified electrician may be able to wire a basic media room, if your project involves installing a high end custom home theater, you’ll be much better off finding a contractor who specializes in home audio and video systems. Specialization is the name of the game these days when it comes to high end home building and remodeling projects.

Once you have prioritized the qualities and trade offs that are most critical to you in hiring a contractor(s) its time to start looking. In part 2 of this series we’ll show you the best means of finding and selecting your contractor(s).

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