How To Find the Best Contractor – Part 2

In the part 1 of this series, we discussed project planning and prioritizing what you need in a contractor before actually getting started looking. Once you have prioritized the qualities and trade offs that are most critical to you in hiring a contractor its time to start looking. In part 2 of this series we discuss how to go about finding and selecting your contractor.

Where to start? That’s often the hardest question people stumble on when considering how to find the right contractor for a home improvement, remodeling or custom home building project.

Personal Referrals the Best Resource for Locating a Contractor

The obvious answer is to first think of projects neighbors, friends and family in your area have completed recently. If anybody you know has completed a home improvement project that was similar to the one you have in mind or knows somebody who has within the last year, start by inquiring about how happy they were with their contractor.

As with most services, word of mouth is one of the most important sources of new clients for home builders and contractors. Those who build a loyal clientele over the years seldom want for more work and almost never need to advertise. So, if you want to find the best contractor for your upcoming home improvement or remodeling project, your best bet is to find the one everyone likes to use in your area for a given specialty.

Check Online Contractor Ratings

Online contractor rating services are probably your next best bet. Services such as and are like virtual versions of the age old word of mouth means of finding the right local contractor, offering consumers reviews of thousands of local contractors by others who have contracted them.

If fact, even if you get a great referral from a friend or neighbor, you might want to check contractors out online to see how other people’s experiences compare. Finding a contractor with a high number of positive online reviews helps you see how consistent the quality of workmanship and service are for any given company.

You can contribute to helping others find the best contractor too by providing your feedback online so that other can benefit from your own experience with the contractor you choose.

Of course, you could also let your fingers do the walking and use the good old Yellow Pages, but it will be far easier and potentially more accurate to just type in “Plumbers, Canton, OH” or “Cabinetmakers, Atlanta” into a search engine; Google, Yahoo and MSN all “localize” results these days, allowing you to quickly find contractors in your local area and see if you can find reviews, a web site, etc. with more information about a contractor who specialize in the trade you need.

Initial Phone Call to Potential Contractors

Once you have a list of between 3 and 5 contractors to call, prepare a list of questions to ask each one when you talk to them. Your list may include items such as:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • How many employees do you have?
  • Do you do and/or supervise all the work and if not who is responsible for the quality of the work to be performed?
  • How do you handle change orders?
  • How do you guarantee your work?

Calling Contractor References

Before you invest time in having contractors visit you to look at your home and being to prepare a quote, you should next call several references for each contractor you are considering. Be sure to specify you wish to speak with past clients who had projects similar to yours and at least one whose project was completed over a year ago, so that you can see how well the contractor’s work has held up over time.

As with the contractor phone interview, be sure to prepare a list of questions in advance including things such as:

  • How did you find the overall quality and timeliness of the contractor’s work?
  • How well has the work held up? Are you still satisfied with the materials and installation?
  • How easy was it for you to reach the contractor?
  • Did the contractor complete the work on schedule and on budget as promised?
  • If not, how were any misunderstandings resolved and were you satisfied with the resolutions? Note that in any complex home improvement or remodeling projects problems are bound to arise; the key to anticipating your satisfaction lies in how well a contractor handles such issues, including scheduling delays, cost overruns for unanticipated difficulties, etc.

Getting Multiple Quotes

If you don’t find a contractor you feel comfortable with after an initial phone call and follow up conversations with references, then go back to searching for other candidates. In order to negotiate the best price and get ideas and feedback on your project you want to obtain quotes from multiple contractors until you have at least 2 or 3 candidates you believe are good candidates before making your final selection.

Most people will not follow this tip and are bound to overpay and/or miss out on the opportunity to save money and, more importantly, find the best contractor for their project!

Observe each contractor candidate carefully when they come to visit you and see your home to prepare an initial quote:

Are they listening to you and seem to be knowledgeable and trustworthy? Remember that trust is one of the most important aspects to a contractor-client relationship, so use your instincts when it comes to determining whether a contractor will be a good fit for you or not!

In the third and final installment of our three-part series, we’ll discuss how to negotiate with your contractor(s) and how to manage them throughout the project so that you will be satisfied with the final outcome.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *