Step 1 – Compile A List
The first step to hiring a home improvement professional is coming up with a list of potentially suitable contractors to consider for your project. You or someone you know may work in a related industry, such as an appraiser, inspector, or Realtor. They often have a list of reputable home improvement professionals they have come to know and trust. You may have a neighbor, friend, or relative who had good luck with a particular contractor for their own projects. You can also rely on Contractor Hotline to connect you with contractors who meet the requirements for your type of project. This approach moves you through the process more quickly than starting from scratch. Whatever method you use, there remains much to consider when narrowing down your choices and making a final decision.
Step 2 – Be Prepared
There is a lot to think about when planning a home improvement project. Prior to meeting with contractors, be as prepared as possible. Design, material selection, making sure proper permits are obtained, to ultimately completing your project on budget requires careful planning. The better prepared you are from the start the more smoothly the project will go. Unless you are experienced in this field, you will most likely rely on outside sources to guide you through the process.
The contractors must have a good understanding of your needs, wishes, and limitations to provide a comprehensive bid and scope of work. Larger projects will require plans prepared by an architectural designer. Having a solid idea of design, material choices, and budget are critical to ensure you collect comparable, apples to apples proposals.
Step 3 – Interview Contractors
You could be working closely with a contractor in your home for several months. Selecting a professional that is well-suited for your particular type of project, has a solid reputation, and who possesses an agreeable personality are all important considerations. Take a few minutes initially on the phone with each prospective contractor to help determine who you want to consider for your project. Have they worked on similar projects as yours? Can they provide references for those projects? Will they provide financial references from suppliers? What is their availability for your project? Narrow it down to three or four contractors who satisfied your initial questions and schedule an appointment to meet in person. In the meantime, check with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries and Better Business Bureau for any disputes with clients or subcontractors.
Step 4 – Review Proposals
A comprehensive proposal should include a scope of work, materials needed/agreed upon, subcontractors to be used, estimated time to complete the project, price, permit fees, payment terms, warranties, and procedures for change orders. For large projects, a payment schedule usually starts with 10-20 percent at contract signing, three payments of 25 percent evenly spaced over the duration of the project, and a check for the final 5-15 percent when you feel every item on the punch list has been completed.
You get what you pay for is especially true when hiring a contractor. Beware of the lowball bid. The contractor may be cutting corners or desperate for work, both cause for concern. Hiring a contractor that is not licensed, bonded, and insured places the consumer at significant risk and can cost thousands more in the long run. Most importantly, you want to select someone who is reputable, competent, and communicates well. Ultimately, it is best to spend a bit more on a contractor who provides quality work and who you are comfortable having in your home.
Step 5 – Check References
Before making your decision final, check with some references of former clients, preferably who had projects similar to yours. Ask if you can see the finished product. Visit a current job site. Does it appear safe? Are subcontractors and employees professional and courteous? Are proper measures being taken to protect the homeowner’s property?
Step 6 – Finalize A Contract
Once you decide on a contractor, have a final contract drawn up that details the original scope of work and proposal including materials, subcontractors, price, permit fees, payment terms, warranties, and change order procedures; proof of liability insurance, worker’s compensation payments
, and a security or performance bond
; start date and projected completion date; and a requirement that the contractor obtain lien releases from all subcontractors and suppliers. For residential jobs over $1000, the contractor must provide the property owner a Disclosure Statement
outlining the customer’s rights and responsibilities and information regarding liens.
Step 7 – Meet Regularly
Once work begins meet with the contractor regularly. Make sure work is progressing according to the contract and schedule. Check that the proper permits have been obtained and required inspections are conducted.
Step 8 – Final Walk-Through
Once the project is completed, do a final walk-through with the contractor. Make sure any items on the punch list are completed before making final payment. If you request lien release documents, avoid making final payment for work performed until you have received the lien release.
Our expertise is matching customers with the most appropriate contractor for their project. We do the initial work to ensure they are professional and dependable. Each contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured, successfully passed a thorough screening process including reference checks and regular credential audits, and continue to meet high standards of workmanship. We are committed to helping our customers achieve their home improvement dreams and goals, safely and efficiently. Please let us know how we can help with your next project.