How to Find the Best Contractor: What to Look for and What to Look Out For

how to find a contractorWhether you’re searching for a building contractor to do a little repair project or you’re looking for a builder to create a custom home for you and your family, hiring the best contractor for the job is crucial to the project’s success. No matter what company or individual you hire for your construction project, it’s up to you to do the research to find the best contractor in your area.

But finding a reputable contractor in your area can be tough when there is nearly an endless list of contractors to choose from. To make matters worse, some contractors only work on specific projects such as kitchen remodeling, custom homes or basic repairs, making finding the right contractor for your project difficult at best.

While the work of finding a good contractor solely rests upon your shoulders, with a little research, some basic background checks and the following tips and techniques, you can be sure you’re going to find the right person for the job. Be sure to ask yourself these important questions before agreeing to any work and you’ll be sure to make the right choice when it comes to choosing the perfect building contractor.

Can they Perform the Services you’ve Requested for Your Project?

Because not all contracting services are the same, you’ll want to make sure that your contractor can do the work required for your particular project. While a general contractor might be able to install your windows, a contractor who specializes in window replacements will have more experience, knowledge and connections required for the job. Knowing if your contractor specializes in your type of project can help you to better mate their capabilities with your home improvement project.

Do they run a Reputable Company?

Getting basic background information on any person is fairly simple these days thanks to the internet. In just a few minutes and for a small amount of cash, you can instantly check the criminal history, work history and filed complaints of any contractor in the business.

Another important step to identifying a reputable construction firm is to make a quick call to your local building department as well as the Better Business Bureau. These city, county and state entities will let you know if any complaints have been made by past customers against the contractor. A building department will also have up to date information on a contractor’s license, bonds and insurance.

What Have Past Customers Said?

Always be sure to ask your potential contractor for at least five contactable references from past customers. It’s also prudent to ask for at least three references from current building material suppliers to make certain your impending contractor has paid their bills on time. With a long list of past satisfied customers and suppliers, you can become more certain that they run a respectable business and treat customers, subcontractors and suppliers with respect.

Who’s Actually Going to do the Work?

Many contractors tend to hire out for specific jobs and it’s rare that a building contractor will do all of the work themselves. That’s why it’s important to find out what subcontractors are going to perform work on your construction project. This will allow you to find out licensing and insurance data, important background information and what qualifications they have to do the work. It’s in your best interests to compile a list of all subcontractors who will be working on your job. It’s also a good idea to verify customer references, licensing and criminal background info before you sign any contracts. In many locations where a permit is required from the building department, subcontractor information is supplied by the contractor and can easily be referenced by the homeowner.

What’s in the Bid?

After you ensure that a contractor is reputable, it’s time for them to make a bid on the job. It’s sensible to have at least three contractors bid on your project to help you get the best deal possible. However, when receiving multiple bids from multiple contractors, it can be difficult to determine who has the best deal simply by looking at the price. While some contractors charge by the hour, others charge by the job, making it hard to compare apples to apples. Ask your bidding contractor to provide you with a cost breakdown list of materials and labor charges. This will help you effectively compare bids by allowing you to see exactly what is going into the project – and what is not.

What’s in the Contract?

After choosing the best bid for your project, you’ll be ready to sign a contract to start the project. Although not everyone is a lawyer when it comes to reading contracts, it is important to have a second party take a look over everything before you sign any contracts to help ensure you didn’t miss anything critical. If your contractor has offered you any specials deals, guarantees or warranties on materials or labor, make certain it’s written into the contract before you sign your name on the dotted line.

With a little bit of time and effort, you’ll be sure to avoid any headaches and troubles with unscrupulous contractors and find the best contractor for your construction project.

Photos by USACE HQ,