How to find a competent contractor
Finding the right contractor for a Kitchen or Bath remodel might seem like a daunting task, but it doesn’t have to be. A few simple steps can mean the difference between finding a competent contractor or ending up with a fly by night company that is only after a quick buck. In today’s cyber age most contractors are found and researched on the internet. Narrow down the list of contenders, and set up meetings. Is there a magic number of contractors you should interview?
“Ultimately, the right number could be one,” says Al Pattison, president of NKBA; he recommends talking with no more than three. “With too many quotes, it gets too confusing trying to make a decision.”
BE ALERT AND USE COMMON SENSE
Be alert if the contractor shows up in a car with an out of state license plate or if his phone has an area code that is not from the area.
ASK FOR REFERRALS
Hands down, talking to former clients of the potential candidate is probably a good start to make sure you have someone that knows what he is doing. Ask the referral what made it a positive experience, how the contractor handled problems and whether they would use the same contractor again.
LOOK AT CREDENTIALS
With recommendations in hand, do some preliminary research, check if the remodeler has a website. Check Yelp, Angie’s List or other web rating sites. Most importantly find out whether the contractor holds all the required licenses from the State Contractors Board and a Business License from the local municipalities, as well as Workmen’s Compensation Insurance and Liability Insurance. Ask to see a copy of the Contractor’s License and their Certifications of Insurances.
A list of questions to ask potential contractors:
Is your company Licenses and Bonded? California requires every contractor to be licensed and bonded, ask for a copy of your contractor’s license. Confirm the license number and expiration date with the California Contractors Board
Does your company carry workers compensation and liability insurance? Ask for copies of the insurance certificates to verify coverage.
How long have you been in business? Look for a company with an established business history in your community.
Who will be assigned as project supervisor for the job? Get names and contact phone numbers for the main persons who will be involved in your project.
What is the time frame for starting the project? What is your estimate for completion? How early will your crew normally begin work? When will they normally quit for the day? Will I be contacted about delays or changes in the schedule? By whom?
How do you operate? In other words, how is your firm organized? Do you have employees or do you hire subcontractors? If you do have employees, what are their job descriptions? Do you use a project supervisor to oversee the project? You should know what parts of your project will be handled by staff, and which will be contracted out to independent contractors.
Is your company a full service or specialty firm? If you are planning a small project, say replacing only some of the bathroom or kitchen plumbing fixtures, you may be better off hiring a specialty plumbing firm, however, if your project involves multiple changes, entire rooms or additions, you should consult a full service or design-build firm.
Do you have design services available? If you are considering a large or involved project, you will need design services. If the contractor does not have design-build capabilities, you should consider hiring an architect or designer. Depending on the scope of the project, you may need a structural engineer.
May I have a list of references for projects you have completed which are similar to mine? The contractor should be able to supply you with a minimum of three references, including names, telephone numbers and addresses.
How many projects like mine have you completed in the past 12 months? This will help you determine the contractor’s familiarity with your type of project. You should confirm that a good portion of those completed projects were similar to the type of project you are proposing.
Will we need a permit for this project? Most cities and towns require permits for building projects. Failure to obtain the necessary permits or to arrange obligatory inspections can be illegal. A qualified remodeling contractor will be conscious of the permit process and give you professional advice
Of the many questions you can ask during an interview, the most important question is one you must ask yourself: “Do I feel comfortable with and trust the person and his firm?”
GET IT IN WRITING
After zeroing in on one contractor who seems right for the job, take a look at the documents he or she has prepared for you. Do they look professional? Make sure that they show the contractors or a company name and the California Contractors License Number. The scope of work should be itemized with a price for every item, be skeptical if you get a lump sum proposal. Scrutinize the contract, does it seem fair and balanced? Make sure that the written agreement includes a payment schedule. Sometimes plans of the project are required. Look for a change-order clause, a clause about dispute resolution and a waiver of lien, which would prevent subcontractors and suppliers from putting a lien on a house should their invoices go unpaid by the contractor. If everything checks out, go ahead sign on the dotted line with confidence.