Let’s face it, not all projects are do-it-yourself. Even the seemingly easy ones can turn into a disaster with one small mistake. So finding a quality contractor to complete the work is almost always your best bet. But with so many companies and so many resources out there, how do you find the right one for you? Doing your research and finding a reputable contractor is essential to getting any work you need done in a cost-effective and timely manner. It’s rare to find a good company through a simple newspaper advertisement or by flipping through the phone book anymore. Follow these steps to find a reliable and competent company.
Ask for recommendations. Most people find the best companies through referrals, and most companies rely on satisfied returning customers. Asking friends, family, neighbors, and co-workers if they know a contractor is one of the easiest and most reliable ways to find a qualified company. Even employees at local hardware stores may have reliable contacts for you.
Contact local directories. Search through your local chamber of commerce, the Better Business Bureau, or a consumer-affairs agency. They’re likely to have listings by specialty and can give you some insight into their customer history.
Search online. The internet is endless. It’s so much easier to find what you’re looking for than it ever has been. Searching the web for a contractor that performs the work you want can be done in a matter of minutes, even seconds. Companies know that having a presence online is important, so homeowners can easily find a hefty amount of information about a contractor even before reaching out. Some websites also offer reviews and ratings from previous customers. Just be aware that everyone’s experience with a company is different and those ratings are likely to fluctuate.
“Interview” contractors. This isn’t a formal interview, sitting down one-on-one and cross-examining a company. But if you’ve found a few companies you’re interested in, call or e-mail them and ask some basic questions like the ones listed below. If they’re a reputable company, they can easily and happily answer these questions and more.
- Have you done this type of work before?
- When can you start?
- How long will it take to complete the project?
- Can you provide references?
- What is your financial history like?
- Are you licensed?
Evaluate multiple estimates. Don’t settle with one company and one price. Shop around. It’s safe to get a written estimate from three contractors. All estimates should include the exact same scope of work, materials needed, labor hours, etc. That way you’re comparing each company equally. Make it clear what you’re looking for and what you picture as the overall outcome. Vague instructions can lead to confusion and varying estimates.
Don’t rely on low bids. Just because the price is low, doesn’t mean you’re going to get quality work. In fact, you may end up having to pay more in the end if mistakes are made or schedules aren’t met. You should take other factors into consideration: previous work, licensing, referrals, trustworthiness, comfort level. Trust your gut. If a company seems phony or insincere, they probably are.
Still not sure what company to choose? Keep an eye out for some of these warning signs to recognize a bad contractor:
- Door-to-door salespeople or a company that makes unsolicited calls
- A company that doesn’t have a verifiable phone number or address
- If licensing and insurance information about the company is hard to find, or they are unwilling to provide it
- Companies that claim they have leftover materials from a job they completed recently in your area
- An over-assertive or pushy contractor that threatens to raise the price if you don’t give them a “yes” or “no” answer right away