Home owners typically need to hire contractors for fireproofing, remodeling, reconstructing, or rebuilding their house. The work is normally undertaken by a contractor and it’s a herculean task to find a contractor who does great work within budget and the required time frame.
This article will give you some handy tips to hire a contractor who is perfect for your needs.
Check Contractor License
The business history of the contractor and the kind of work he has undertaken so far will help you get an idea of what you are really getting into.
Scrutinize aspects like the contractor’s state licenses, the amount of time the contractor has these licenses, his professional associations, financial stability or legal issues, if any; also check if his employees are paid regularly, his revenue model and the company’s physical location.
It is also advisable to get third party confirmations from existing clients to get a better idea of the work done by a contractor and the satisfaction levels of these clients. This helps you make an informed decision about hiring a particular contractor.
Sub-contractors or his own team
The contract work can be carried out by the contractor through his own staff or he could hire sub-contractors. It is important to know these details so as to be aware of the payment and remuneration terms set by the contractor, matters concerning licensing, payroll, liability insurance and worker’s compensation.
Some states have a law that if the contractor does not pay the sub-contractors, a mechanic’s lien can be placed on the house for which the contract work was undertaken and the homeowner can be sued in a court of law for compensation.
Also, information like the contractor’s current projects (projects he is working on simultaneously), time set aside for your project, his role (actually performing day to day tasks or supervisory role), person assigned to oversee tasks in the contractor’s absence, will give you a clear idea about the trustworthiness and reliability of the contractor.
Before you start the project, get clarity on as many aspects as possible including the start date of the project, expected finish date and any lead time required. These aspects must be properly documented to avoid any misunderstandings in the future. A timeline of events should be maintained and a timetable with required materials for the project should be furnished well in advance so as to prevent delays due to want of resources.
Also, predefine the modes of communication because you’ll need to constantly interact with the contractor. Communication and documentation are 2 very important factors required to turn the project into a success.
Read, re-read the contract
Just like the payment lien laws of the states, there has to be clarity on a lot of matters between the contractor and the contracted. If everything is well-documented and covered in a contract, it will leave no room for misunderstandings. It will be a good thing to thoroughly understand the terms and conditions of the contract; read it and clarify things which are ambiguous or not clear and can be interpreted in different ways. Make sure that the contract specifies keeping record of invoices and payments; this proves useful in settling any possible disputes.
The contract should clearly specify who is responsible for the costs associated with approvals or licenses and who will complete the formalities or paperwork and take care of all the regulatory approvals sought for the contract work.
The contractor might skip certain details to save time and money and it can cost you heavily later in terms of legal costs associated with any lapses. The guarantees a contractor can give you regarding his work are a very important feature to include in the contract. Once these terms and conditions are agreed upon, it’s time to discuss the price.
Make sure that all estimated costs should be provided in detail and must include the possibility of changes known as tolerance limits (absolute upper and lower limits expected in the event of favorable and unfavorable circumstances).
After you receive the cost estimates, examine them carefully; particularly, pay attention to any amount which either seems too high or too low. Any suspicious figure should be questioned and thoroughly understood before you agree to the costing.
Once the costs seem appropriate, the payment schedule should be negotiated to include the possibility of surprise orders or potential inflation related changes and the manner in which they will be dealt with. Ideally, you must save as much money as you can and make sure the last check is not signed until you are 100% sure of the work and are completely satisfied with it.
Since the contractor will spend a lot of time in your home and it’s a workplace for him, it’s always good idea to know a little bit more about this person. Familiarity with a person can make it easier for both the people involved to adjust to each other naturally. Having an understanding of the contractor’s routine will help you plan your schedule around it or alter it, if needed. Also, there could be some changes made in their schedule based on your existing priorities.
You must ask questions like what time do they start working? Will they only focus on your project or will work on multiple projects simultaneously? What will they do with the waste or extra left over material? You don’t want to collect it all and pile it up in your garage.
The answers to these questions will tell you whether you will be comfortable with their way of working and their pace or not.
The initial payments can be a bit tricky and a big decision to make. Contractors would normally expect some cash to start the work and homeowners are expected to pay a particular amount to get the work started; both you and the contractor must figure out a mutually agreeable amount as a down payment. Some US state laws have a cap on the down payment contractors can ask for.
Frankly, it all really boils down the construction company and its cash flow.
For e.g. a stable construction company in Anchorage, Alaska that is a well-entrenched name in business won’t need a lot of cash to start work as it will have a healthy cash flow; down payments can differ based on a lot of factors. It is generally a prudent practice to not pay in advance for work which has not been completed.
Who Do I actually pay?
Although it’s really obvious that you are paying the contractor for his work, it is important to know whether you are paying in the name of the individual or his company. Paying an individual has ‘tax avoidance’ written all over it and as such is not a sign of an honest individual, especially if the contractor holds a business license. Also paying with cash is not safe as it’s untraceable. Checks, credit cards, or other payment methods can be considered much safer options. Also, paying a business provides an assurance that this payment is on record somewhere.
These are not the only factors you must keep in mind for hiring the right contractor for your needs; but keeping them in mind will point you towards a contractor who is the best fit for your needs and requirements.
If you think there are some other important aspects that need to be kept in mind, please share them in the comments section.