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Five Smart Steps for Hiring a Home Improvement Professional


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Five Smart Steps for Hiring a Home Improvement Professional

Sandra Diaz

Ready to tackle a summer home improvement project? If you aren’t the do-it-yourself type, a licensed professional should help save you time, money, and hassle if you do your research. Follow these steps to ensure you hire a quality professional who’ll do the job right:

Step 1 – Assess Your Needs
What’s the nature of the job? Is it mostly cosmetic or are you tearing down walls and rerouting plumbing? The answer will help steer you toward one of four main options:

  • General Contractor: For larger jobs and/or those that don’t need professional design services (or because you already have architectural plans and now need someone to manage construction). The general contractor will handle pulling permits, managing subcontractors, and scheduling inspections.
  • Architect: If you’re making any significant structural changes, you’ll likely need an architect to create detailed construction plans in order to obtain the proper permits.
  • Designer: Another avenue for construction drawings and/or someone who typically specializes in targeted projects like bed/bath remodels or interiors.
  • Design/Build Contractor: An all-in-one option.

Step 2 – Determine Your Budget
Before you start getting bids, determine what you’re willing to spend and understand there will be expenses – both seen and unforeseen – beyond what is stated in estimates. Several factors affect overall cost, including the size and scope of your project, the materials you choose, and the age of your home (as it relates to structural impacts). Leave plenty of wiggle room.

Step 3 – Seek Referrals
Reach out to family, friends, co-workers – anyone you trust who has gone through this and can recommend a professional in your area (tip: local contractors are more likely to know the building codes in your city). The National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and Angie’s List are good resources as well. Be sure the contractor is licensed, bonded and/or insured; has no complaints on record; and offers plenty of references.

Step 4 – Get “Apples to Apples” Estimates
Choose three to five contractors to offer bids on your project. Each vendor should provide an estimate on the same scope and quality of work. Keep in mind that every contractor prices jobs a little differently, so make sure you ask questions to help you compare “like for like” as much as possible. Be wary of any bid that comes in much lower than the others – that’s a red flag for unwanted surprises once work begins.

Step 5 – Sign a Contract
Once you’ve chosen your home improvement professional and are ready to move forward, it’s time to put everything in writing. The contract should contain all pertinent details of the project, including the estimated start and completion date, the contractor’s responsibilities, the customer’s responsibilities, how change orders are handled, a detailed list of materials, and the payment schedule. You should never pay in full upfront, or make a final payment before all work has been completed to your satisfaction.

Next Step – Get Started
As the project gets underway, remember to have patience, anticipate some changes, and keep the lines of communication open with your contractor. Doing so will help the process move along smoothly. Whether you plan to enjoy the upgrades for years to come, or just want to add value before you sell, you’ll never regret the time you invested to find a quality home improvement professional.

Information adapted from the following sources: Federal Trade Commission; National Association of the Remodeling Industry.