Monday, September 6, 2010

10 tips for hiring a home remodeling contractor

YORK, Pa., – Sept. 3, 2010 – An uptick in homeowners are opting to remodel to increase a potential sales price or just upgrade their living space. According to, remodelers should keep the following in mind:
Tip No. 1: Does your contractor have proof of insurance?Ask the contractor to have his insurance company mail or fax a copy of his current contractor insurance card to you. If the contractor can’t do this – stay away. Why? If there is an accident at your home, you are then liable. This also applies to any sub-contractor or employee that the contractor may use – those individuals should have active insurance cards faxed or mailed to you as well.
Tip No. 2: Check references and see photos Ask for at least three references with two for the same type of project you’re planning – and call the references. Additionally, ask the contractor to provide photos of previous work, especially for the same type of project. If he produces lawn and garden photos and you’re planning a bathroom remodel, you may want to check with another contractor.
Tip No. 3: Does your contractor take debit or credit cards?Besides your ability to earn a few points, bonus miles or cash back, credit card acceptance is a good sign that a contractor is financially savvy and has a bank behind his business. Even many small, one-man shops take cards if they have a good relationship with their business bank or credit union.
Tip No. 4: Manners and appearance If the contractor drove his vehicle to your home to give you an estimate, take a look at the way he keeps the equipment and vehicle. Are things clean? Neatly arranged? The way a contractor treats his tools is a direct connection to how he’ll treat your home. During the initial meeting, does the contractor present himself in a professional way? Do you feel comfortable around him or his employees? They will be working in your home.
Tip No. 5: Clean up policy If your improvement is a multi-day project, will the contractor clean up at the end of every day or will he leave the dust, wood chips and other mess lying there for day No. 2?
Tip No. 6: Will the contractor put it in writing? Is your contractor willing to put both his bid and the scope of work in writing? If not – walk away immediately. Many homeowners have been duped by contractors who verbally say what’s included, but, in the middle of the job, require extra money to finish, effectively holding the owner hostage with an uncompleted home project.
Tip No. 7: Availability Can the contractor get the job done in your timeline rather than his timeline? On the flip side, if you can’t find a good contractor that’s willing to commit to your timeline, your expectations may be too high and you may need to adjust your timeline.
Tip No. 8: The use of subcontractors Does your contractor do everything himself or will he subcontract work? For example, if remodeling a bathroom, you may need a plumber, electrician and carpenter. It’s okay if the contractor subcontracts work out to these specific trades – it shows he wants the work done right – and it’s standard practice for the contractor to mark up the services to earn a profit. To save money, owners can subcontract the work themselves, but managing a total project brings its own challenges.
Tip No. 9: Quoting and billing procedure Ask the contractor about his quoting procedure. Will it contain general information, or will it be specific? For example, most contractors will charge a fuel surcharge, material up-charges, waste removal, labor, etc. Some will show you these exact costs in a line item invoice, but others roll it up into one big bill. How much detail do you want? Clarify that with your contractor upfront. Also: What is the payment or billing policy? If money is required upfront, go back to No. 1 and No. 2 above to make sure you have the contractor’s references checked and have a copy of his contractor’s insurance.
Tip No. 10: Did your contractor get the permits? Ask your contractor to take care of the permits. Although permits cost money, the inspection process also protects you from poor workmanship and makes sure everything is being built to code.
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