Choosing the right contractor can be a difficult task. Here are 5 common mistakes when hiring a contractor you should try to avoid.
Although it might seem like a relatively simple choice, hiring the right contractor to handle a major remodel or construction can be one of the most important choices you ever make. And while that might seem like a bit of hyperbole, it really isn’t.
Sure, it’s not on the same level of something like whether or not to have children or if you should take a job offer far away from your family, but choosing the wrong contractor can have consequences that you will have to deal with for years, maybe even decades to come. In other words, you want to get it right the first time.
And while we at Fleschner Construction would love for you to consider us for any and all work, whether you go with us or not, we want you to be happy with your choice. Bad contractors hurt the reputations of everyone in the industry, and we’d much, much rather see someone happy with another contractor than justifiably angry at the entire industry.
So with that in mind, here are five common mistakes people make when hiring a contractor.
Hire Based Only on Price
This is probably the most common mistake people make when they choose a contractor, and it can also be one of the most disastrous.
It’s obviously tempting to look at two proposals that look similar and just go with the lower of the two. If it really were that simple, things would be much easier, but you have to know why one group is cheaper than another before making your decision.
Without casting aspersions on any other contractors, sometimes a lower cost means that the people doing the work may not be specialists in the fields you would want them to be. Most contractors can complete all of the basics of a remodel themselves, but if you want something special, you may need to use a contractor that specializes – or at least uses a third-party that specializes. There’s a huge difference between someone that can design and build a new kitchen and someone that can just install new cabinets. Contracting is often as much art as labor.
Putting aside the quality of the work, the lower bid may also be lower in part because of the materials being used. For instance, certain types of wood may be cheaper than others, but is that the best material for the job? Do you want something that may fall apart in a few years, or would you rather pay a little more to have something that stands the test of time? Do you want to replace your front door with a flimsy piece of lightweight wood, or do you want something that can withstand the elements?
All of this will be reflected in the bid. Sometimes by paying less, you will end up paying much, much more in the long run.
Fail to Check References
When you are zeroing in on a contractor, before you finalize any deal you should check their references – and not just with former customers, but with the state as well.
To begin with, check to see if they are properly licensed. You can typically do this quickly and easily online, and most states have a website that allows you to simply type in the contractor’s name to check their status. As long as they are active, you should be fine, but you should also check with the local Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any outstanding issues to be aware of.
Once you have verified all of that, ask the contractor for a list of former customers. Contact as many as you are comfortable with and ask as many questions as they have time for. Begin with how happy are they with the work that was completed, then get into details about how long the project took, if there were any delays, and whether or not they would recommend them to friends.
Don’t Get Everything in Writing
When working with a contractor, you should always get everything in writing, from the initial proposal to the contract to begin work – and make sure you read everything. You should also be sure that everything is signed before any work begins.
The contract is meant to protect both you and the contractor, and it is legally binding. It should clearly spell out the estimated costs, determine the scope of work, confirm a payment schedule, and have contingencies in place for any additional charges or delays. Even in the best of cases, having firm policies in place just makes everything smoother and easier.
Most contractors will actually insist on a written contract, so make sure your contractor is one of them.
Don’t Check the Details
While this kind of goes hand-in-hand with the pricing and the contracts, a common mistake many people make is to make assumptions and not check on the details. A contractor may be operating in good faith and, say, use a common material that you actively dislike. It wouldn’t be anyone’s fault, but the only options are to live with something you don’t want or have them redo the work and buy new materials, which will up the costs.
When you have selected a contractor, sit down with them and ask them to go over all of their plans with you. Most will want to do this anyway, so make sure you take the time to understand exactly what they plan to do, and how long it should take. At this point, you can also make sure the contractor knows exactly what you want, and if you aren’t sure yourself they can generally help you make a decision you’ll be happy with.
It might take a little time to understand everything, but putting aside a few hours early on in the process can save a lot of frustration later.
Know the Additional Costs
This may seem obvious, but before you begin work, make sure you fully understand the contractor’s estimate.
Estimates are just that – an estimate of the costs. They are typically based on previous experience, material costs, and the scope of the work. A good contractor will give you an estimate with the best intentions, but each build is unique, and there may be costs that can’t be guessed going in.
Ask for the estimate, and then ask for a high estimate as well. Check to see what additional work may be necessary and how much that could cost. Try to factor in the unexpected, and assume that there will always be something else that comes up, regardless of the contractor. The contractor may discover previous work that needs to be redone, or there could be rot in wood. The foundation may have a crack or water could be leaking into the house – all things that will need to be fixed immediately, but will cost you time and money.
With luck, everything will go perfectly, but always be ready for something to come up, and be sure to speak with your contractor about unforeseen costs.
When it comes to hiring a contractor, ultimately you should work with someone you trust. Tell them your concerns from the start and do your homework. Then pick the group that you are satisfied will be the best fit.
If you are looking for a contractor, please contact Fleschner Construction today and we will be happy to walk you through the steps and answer any and all questions you may have in order to earn your business!