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How to Hire a Contractor for Your Home Remodel

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No matter how large or small the job, hiring help for home renovations requires diligent research, preparation, and thought. Your home is your most important and expensive possession, so you will want to take all of the necessary steps and ask every pertinent question before choosing someone to handle its remodel. This guide will offer you some tips and suggestions for hiring a reliable contractor to handle your home renovation project.

Hire a professional.

When hiring labor to handle something as important as remodeling your home, you want to ensure that they are reputable and reliable. This means not grabbing someone off of an ad on Craigslist--they may charge you less, but if they botch up the job and you are forced to hire help regardless, you will only be out more money. A good way to find a dependable contractor, plumber, or electrician is always word of mouth, but other sources include Angie's List or Consumers' Checkbook where you can view ratings supplied by customers.

Do a background check.

Once you find a contractor to handle your remodel, you will want to verify his credentials. Most states require contractors, plumbers, electricians and the like to be licensed. Check contractors-license.org to view licensing regulations in your state as well as to confirm if your potential hire is qualified. You can also check with your state licensing board or the Better Business Bureau.

Get an accurate estimate.

Make sure you receive an in-house estimate of the work you wish to have done to ensure that it is as accurate as possible. Before you make the decision to hire, ask for a detailed run-down of the costs associated with job--labor, materials, costs of appliances, etc. The bid should be placed in writing, along with the warranty information. Be wary of any contractor that refuses to provide a written estimate--they can suddenly claim mid-job that they require more money to complete the remodel, and you will be left stuck with a half-finished project if you decline. You should also ask about the billing procedure--will all items be listed individually on the invoice or will you receive just one lump total? Depending on how much detail you would like to see on your bill, this is an important question to ask.

Appearances matter.

When the contractor arrives at your home to give you the estimate, it is important to pay attention to details. Does he take good care of his tools and truck? Does he behave in a professional manner? Do you feel comfortable speaking with him and his workers? If his truck looks filthy and his tools are tossed about haphazardly, this could be a direct reflection of the way he will treat your home. If anything about the contractor or his crew makes you uneasy, you may want to reconsider hiring them--they will be spending a great deal of time around you and in your home.

Ask questions.

There are many details about the job that you will want to clarify before choosing a contractor for hire. What is their clean-up policy? The workers will be making a huge mess in your home--will they be cleaning up after themselves or does that responsibility fall on you? What is their availability like and what is the expected timeline for completion of the project? Will the contractor be handling the entire job himself or will he use "subs"--subcontracted trade workers such as plumbers and electricians to complete associated tasks during your remodel? It's safe to say that the contractor is going to mark-up costs for these workers to make a profit-- if this is not okay with you, you might opt to hire these workers on your own. Just remember that this might limit the amount of contractors willing to take your job.

Make sure they have insurance.

It is imperative to verify that the workers are covered by insurance (workman's comp and liability) so that you are not held responsible for any accident occurring on the job. Have proof of their insurance faxed to you, as well as any sub-contractor, employee or laborer that will be doing work inside your home. You may also request lien-waivers that declare that you are not responsible for any supply or labor payments your contractor fails to make.

Never pay in full before the job is done.

While you will be expected to provide a down-payment for the project before work begins (usually ten percent of the total cost), never agree to pay the entire amount before your remodel is completed. Contractors typically request about one-third of the payment after work begins, two-thirds halfway through, and the remaining third once the project is finished. However, you may have to pay for necessary supplies as the work progresses--always request receipts.

Be patient and be prepared for variances.

Even if you have a written estimate, cost over-runs are common. Unexpected obstacles such as faulty wiring or rotted lumber can raise your final bill. Additionally, if you change your mind about your design plan mid-way, you are almost guaranteed to incur extra costs. You should also be mindful that remodeling projects can easily become delayed--if the faucet you chose was backordered, the entire job can be set back a week. Having back-up options for instances like these will facilitate progress and keep you on your scheduled timeline.

Nicole La Capria  Posted by Nicole La Capria on May 30, 2013

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