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How to Pick a Home Improvement Contractor

Home Improvement ContractorsTime and time again we hear horror stories about home improvement contractors doing shoddy work, not doing the what they were paid to do, or just flat out cheating homeowners out of their money. As a homeowner, what can you look for to help choose a trustworthy home improvement contractor?

There are a few good indicators that you can use to help gauge a contractor before hiring.

Reliability & Communication

Was the contractor on time for your appointment? Did they call when they said they would? You’d think that someone running a business would treat it like one — so if they don’t, they might not treat you like a valuable customer. Of course there are reasons for being late, but not calling back (or not showing up at all) is a very bad sign of things to come. If they can’t be bothered to reschedule or call you back, take your business elsewhere.

You Get What You Pay For (Most of the Time)

Unfortunately for our wallets, many times the more we spend the higher quality we get. The same holds true with your home. A contractor who charges reasonable fees is likely a better choice than one who bids low. The materials cost a certain amount, and if the contractor bids very low and does the job they say they will, their profit will be very low as well. How does that work? It doesn’t — somewhere they are cutting on quality to charge you less, whether it be workmanship or materials, you will be cheated out of something.

Of course, the opposite can be true: if an exorbitant price is quoted, the contractor either has a very good reason or they are trying to make a fast buck off an unsuspecting homeowner. If there’s a good reason, they will be quite able to explain it to you — so ask! If you’re not satisfied with what they tell you, keep shopping.

Get it in Writing

Ask for a written proposal. This should have both the work you’ve asked for (to make sure you and the contractor are on the same page) and a price. The price may change depending on the work, since the unforeseen is always lurking, but if it makes sense the contractor should have a price list for their services and stick to it.

References & Testimonials

Ask your friends who has done good work for them and start there.

Ask the contractor for references and any testimonials they may have. If they are invested in the quality of their work and their relationship with past customers, they should be able to provide at least some evidence of past customers happy enough to provide a recommendation. Some contractors are serious enough about this kind of thing to actually have a page (or more) of past customers in your area with phone numbers so you can call them and ask about the work that was done. This is an extremely good sign that the contractor is serious about doing the right thing for their customers.

If you’re looking for someone to add a sun room, remodel your kitchen, finish or waterproof your basement, check out contractors with national affiliation. Many times these companies have nationally backed warranties (so if the contractor goes out of business, you’re still covered), superior building materials and receive special training on how to do the work better than a general contractor.

Trust Your Gut

This is the hard one, but if you’re uneasy about the contractor in the slightest, you only have two options: take the chance or keep shopping. In the long run, if you keep looking you can always change your mind and go back — but if you take the chance on someone you’re uncomfortable with, you might end up regretting it. It’s worth shopping around until you know which contractor is the right fit for you and your home improvement project.

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