Beginning a home project on your own can seem like a daunting task for many. Whether you find yourself overwhelmed with the scope of your do-it-yourself project or you simply don’t have the correct skills to complete it on your own, you may have to look for a contractor. Seems like an easy task, right? Go on Google, search for contractors in your area, contact one of them, explain your project, receive a quote and get to work, right? Unfortunately, it’s never this easy and these five links below can give you a good idea of how a simple home project can turn into a nightmare very quick.
Scared Straight – Some Horror Stories
Elderly Couple Ripped Off By Contractor – A story of an elderly couple that were ripped off by their contractor. It also mentions how to avoid getting ripped off by a contractor.
Have You Ever Been Ripped Off By A Contractor? – This blog tells the story of Pam’s home Improvement nightmare. The blog also mentions tips to avoid being ripped off by a contractor.
Duped By A Contractor – Read about a woman who was ripped off by the contractor she hired to build her garage.
These individuals had to learn the hard way by experiencing unfortunate situations with contractors that were not trustworthy or reliable. Luckily for you, other people’s mistakes are a great lesson to learn from without undergoing all the headaches. Let’s look at some ways these painful real life lessons could have been avoided by those unsuspecting home renovators and how you can go about selecting the correct contractor for your project.
Do Your Homework!!!
Be Clear with Job Details – It is important when jumping into a home renovation project to know exactly what you need. By doing the research on your project you will be better prepared to speak with contractors and be able to tell them exactly what you need. Along with being able to better understand what they are telling you, some contractors feel that people are ignorant to what’s necessary and will take advantage of this.
Get multiple quotes – Every job has different costs, many times even the same job will vary in cost from contractor to contractor so it is important to get multiple quotes to be able to gauge what the average cost should be. Sometimes just because someone will do the job for less does not mean that it will be better and vice versa with someone who is the most expensive. Multiple quotes will also give you better leverage when contractors will be bidding for your work.
Get separate quotes for materials – By having materials and labor divided you will be able to see exactly what you are paying for. Sometimes you will even realize that buying the materials on your own will save you a lot of money.
Check on their Reputation – Start “Doing your Homework” by doing a quick Google search for any companies you are interested in hiring as a contractor. There are many websites that post customer reviews, which are especially helpful. Customer reviews are the best way to get a truthful testimony about the work the contractor has done as well as their customer service. Sometimes even reviews on the company’s website can be falsified so it is imperative to read customer reviews, amount of work the company has done, and length of time they have been in business. If possible, refer to the opinions of friends or family who have hired contractors in the past. Face to face, word of mouth is always king.
Trusting in professionals can make you feel secure that the job will be done well but never let your guard down. With so many contractors to choose from, there are a few questions you should ask yourself and your contractor before choosing the right one for you.
Essential Questions to Ask your Contractor
1. Have they done this type of work before?
There are many contractors out there that are well skilled in different types of work. When looking for a contractor for any job it is important to know what kind of experience they have with the type of work you are looking for.
Just because one has worked with tiling and flooring before doesn’t mean that they will understand how to work with specific flooring like travertine tiles. It is important to ask your contractor the type of work that they have done and if possible to see their work through pictures or through a website. The more experience the contractor has in working with your specific needs the more confidence you can have that they will know what to do if any issues come up.
2. Are you licensed and insured?
Licensing is essential when choosing a contractor. Some states require a contractor to be licensed before they can do any type of work; in addition some states with more lenient laws do not require any sort of licensing. Having a licensed contractor, with a state-issued builder’s license and a local business license is the easiest way to ensure that they are a legitimate company and have taken all the necessary steps to certify their craft. Having a contractor that isn’t licensed may put you at risk of being responsible for resolving any problems that arise. If any problems arise, having a licensed contractor can get you assistance from your state in the event of a mishap.
Insurance is a must when working with contractors; they should have both general liability insurance as well as workers compensation. These are the ways to protect yourself from any negligence by the contractor were there any damage to occur while on the job. Workers compensation is essential because it protects your from being liable if any of the workers on the job are injured on your property. There are instances where one-man contractors may be exempt from having to carry this type of insurance but either way you should ask to see a copy of both their license and insurance, or exempt from insurance, to be sure you are fully covered.
3. How long have you been in the business and which kinds of professional organizations do you belong to?
With contracting, experience is the name of the game. The more time someone has been in business the more experience they tend to have and the more confident you can be in their skill level. Repetition is the father of learning and the more someone has been doing the type of work you are looking for, the better they will be at their craft. Proven track records as well as a large bank of references all help ensure that you are choosing the right person for the job.
While not mandatory, some contractors go above and beyond and will actually become members of contractors associations because they are serious about their business and are committed to staying up-to-date with all the industry trends. Many of these organizations offer training, networking, and research materials that give the contractor valuable business skills that also show their customers the type of professionalism and commitment they have towards the industry.
4. Who will be in charge of the required building permits?
It is crucial to know what permits are necessary for the type of work you are looking for as well as to make sure that the contractor will be the one in charge of gathering all the necessary permits. Most homeowner insurance policies require that the home pass inspection and all work be completed properly. If your contractor is hesitant towards pulling the necessary permits for the job, you may want to rethink hiring them because it could mean the work is outside their license or the contractor doesn’t have a license to begin with.
Making sure that you know who is in charge of the project will allow you to have a point person if there are any issues that need to be resolved. You should know who would be in charge of the project and make sure that you have their contact information as well as ensuring that they are on site whenever work is being done. This is especially important if they are using sub-contractors. You should feel comfortable with this person especially if you don’t plan on being present while the work is being done.
5. Projected Timeline, Time and Materials contract, and Payment Schedule?
Having a projected timeline will allow you to have an estimate as to when the work will be done to ensure that they are not wasting time on the job. Most contractors should be able to give a specific time frame as well as plan on what will be done and when. This transparency will help you understand exactly what is going on. It also shows the contractor is organized and reliable by making sure everything is going according to plan.
On top of having a time frame for the project, it is important to ask the contractor to sign a “time and materials” contract. This should state the labor rate and material markup of anything that happens unexpectedly and also give incentive for the contractor to finish on time. This will ensure you do not have to pay more for the issues and materials that pop up unexpectedly.
Before the project has even started, it is a good idea to know what kind of payment schedules the contractor has available. Most contractors are different and therefore have different schedules but always make sure to never pay for the project entirely, up front. Some contractors will require a percentage up front and the rest once the project is completed. You want to make sure that the final payment is given once the project is completed, inspected, and you’re happy with it!
Final Points to Consider
- Never pay more than 10% down or $1,000.
- Don’t let your payments get ahead of their work. Keep records of payments.
- Don’t make a final payment until you’re satisfied with the job.
- Don’t pay cash.
- Keep a job file of all papers relating to your project.
- By getting a signed conditional release before making the final payment you can ensure you will be released from all possible lien claimants. You can download a copy of a lien release here.
- Once you have paid the contractor, they should give you an unconditional release, signed by each of the claimants that have been paid for the portion of the work being released. Make sure that the actual claimant signs the unconditional release. Legally you can withhold the next payment until you get the unconditional releases for the previous payment.
Travertine Mart wants to make sure that whether you are installing travertine tiles or doing any sort of contracted home project work, that you know everything necessary before starting. Knowledge is key to choosing the right contractor for the job and being able to understand all the aspects that come into play, it will ensure that you can make the best decision for your project.