What are the five most important elements to consider when hiring a contractor to work on your home?
License and Insurance
The first and most important element is to check the status of the Contractor’s License and make sure they are current with their Worker’s Compensation Insurance, or have on file that they are sole proprietors and do not require Worker’s Compensation. You can check status on the California State License Board’s website www.cslb.ca.gov. Another important factor to consider is liability insurance. Many contractors do not maintain a liability insurance policy. This type of insurance covers the contractor and your home should a flood, fire, or damage to the project occur during the course of construction project.
References of past and current projects
This one is simple. Get in touch with the contractor’s current and former customers. (Take pause if the contractor does not have current customers; good contractors typically keep themselves busy). Ask the contractor’s references the hard questions: Was the project finished within the expected timeframe? Was the project finished without additional costs or added work to the scope? Was the job site maintained and kept clean and orderly? Would you hire the contractor again for a similar project?
Choosing a contractor that has been in business for several years typically means that the company is knowledgeable and hires seasoned and skilled carpenters and trade partners. However, I commonly step into situations with a prospective customer and get to see the quality of work from previous projects with other contractors. Sometimes the lack of quality can be hidden behind walls and come back to haunt the customer later. Other times, it is in plain sight and the finish is substandard. Being clear about the quality of work you expect is very important before the project begins.
One of the most common issues that customer’s complain about is that the project surpassed the agreed upon price when the contract was signed. One of the main reasons this happens is because the scope of work was not spelled out in detail and there was neither a clear expectation from the customer or the contractor. Being thorough with estimating takes a great deal of time and energy, however, it is mandatory for a successful project. Design/Build firms specialize in the planning, design, and estimating phase of the project and use their building knowledge to successfully predetermine all costs prior to the commencement of the project.
Is the contractor setting up expectations during the planning of the project? Is the contractor responding to your phone calls and following through on items that were discussed prior to entering into the contract? Remodeling and construction projects are complex and require a great deal of communication. If the communication is poor at the estimating phase of your project, then imagine how it will be during the course of construction. Good communication is paramount to the success of a renovation project.
I hope you find these elements useful as you plan your next home improvement project. If you have any questions with regard to remodeling, please feel free to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.