Finding the right contractor for you

By Joanne Loos Posted in: ImproveThe Fix is In

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People often ask me for contractor recommendations. I don’t often give them. I truly believe that when you are hiring a contractor, your personality and project specifics should be taken into account.

Although it is a daunting task, there are ways to go about choosing a good contractor or remodeler for yourself. Start by asking around, and don’t wait until you need one. Talk to family members and friends who have gone through a remodel or who have hired a contractor.

Ask to see the work. If your friends and family do not live nearby, ask them what they liked and did not like anyway. Write down their responses. If you do not know anyone who has used a contractor, ask local building inspectors for their recommendations.

Conduct interviews . Don’t feel as though you have to go with the first person you call. Contractors and remodelers expect this as part of the process. Start with phone interviews first, and ask the right questions.

Make a list of questions before making your phone calls. Ask about these things at a minimum: licenses, professional associations (such as the National Kitchen and Bath Association or the Building Industry Association), certifications and insurance. Look at their websites and consider online reviews. Keep in mind, however, that online reviews will not tell you the complete story. Some contractors spend a great amount of effort on their online presence, while others do not. This should not be your sole source for making a decision.

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After you have conducted phone interviews, narrow down your pool to three candidates, and set up in-person meetings. When you meet, you will get a better sense of the contractor’s personality and how you will get along.

You may be spending a significant amount of time with this person, so it is important that you trust him or her and that you are comfortable expressing your opinions and concerns. At the same time, the contractor should ask you questions as well.

Bring along details of the project you have in mind. Get opinions on cost, timeline and expectations. If this is a large project in your own home, such as a kitchen remodel, you may want to ask about accommodations for temporary kitchens as well as the contractor’s typical handling of cleanup on the jobsite.

Get everything in writing, and ask for references, ideally previous customers. Call the references and ask them about what they would do differently, how the contractor stuck to the budget, and what they liked best.

Have a question or comment for Joanne? Email thefixisinhawaii@gmail.com.