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Hiring the Right Contractor for Your Home Improvement Project

By Sadiya Anjum

A Home Improvement project involving structural additions or renovations may require you to hand over the job to a contractor. Many things may go wrong during the process and disagreements with your contractor may lead to a half-done abandoned job adding extra expenditure on your head. To avoid hassles and ensure that your project goes smoothly, find the right contractor.

Before you head out to shop for a contractor, start by detailing out the renovation or job in detail. Having descriptive details along with sketches will help you convey your ideas clearly to your contractor.

When it comes to selecting a contractor, follow these guidelines and you will eliminate the risk of landing up with incompetent or dishonest contractors.

-     Talk to your family, friends, neighbors and colleagues and enquire about any contractors they have hired. Make a list and start calling them.

-     Take no less than three bids for your project and take time off to meet each of the contractors preferably where the job is to take place. Bear in mind that a low bid is no guarantee for a good job. When you do pick out a contractor, get a breakdown of the various costs included.

-     Enquire about the project dates – date of commencement and the date of completion (approximate). Get this in writing.

-     Certain states require contractors to possess a license. Find out the details on this and ask to see your contractor’s license. Also make sure that he has insurance.

-     Enquire about his job experience. He should have done other projects like yours. Ask for references about these projects and follow up on them. Visit those other homes to see how well the job has been performed, especially if it is a large project.

-     If sub-contractors need to be hired, find out exactly which ones and do not let them hand over the job to those who are not insured or do not have the required licensing.

-     Work out the details on materials or fixtures required with your contractor. Do not accept any ‘extra material’ he may have from his previous job. For fixtures, pick them out yourself or detail the make or model number of your choices and present it to the contractor.

-     Get your paperwork in order. No/ ignored paperwork may be disastrous. Get a contractor’s agreement in as much detail as possible. If you are obtaining a loan for your project, a form in your agreement needs to be filled out by the contractor. Make sure he fills it out correctly and honestly.

-     A word of caution – make payments with checks not cash and the upfront fees should not be more than 15% of the project’s cost.

Following the above will ensure that you pick out a decent contractor for your job. If he poses any problems before you have made payments or signed an agreement, then drop him. It is not worth taking a chance; after all it is a job on your home.

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