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  • Joni Rocco

How to Hire a Contractor from a Contractor’s Perspective: 3 Things Google or HGTV Won’t Tell You

Updated: Oct 8

Imagine living with someone you don’t really like or respect for weeks or even months on end. Whether you’re updating a kitchen, renovating a master bathroom, or getting beautiful hardwood floors installed in your home, renovating can be a complicated and lengthy process, and from a contractor’s perspective, selecting a good fit to help with your home improvement project is a big deal because you may be working with them for months, depending on the size of your renovation. But first, just a bit about referrals.


REFERRALS AND RECOMMENDATIONS: If you’re looking for a specialty trade that will require a skilled laborer (wood floor installation is a good example), find that trade association and search the membership database to determine whether the contractor is a member and if the contractor has earned licensing or certifications through that association. Our trade association is the National Wood Flooring Association (NWFA): the country’s only trade association dedicated to the hardwood flooring industry, and it sets the technical standards for installation and sand/finish work. A wood floor contractor can be a member or a certified professional member. The differences are that NWFA members have access to technical standards but Certified Professionals have met/exceeded the technical requirements to be licensed in states that mandate licensing. Certified Professionals must adhere to the technical requirements set by the trade association. Certified Professionals sign a code of ethics as well. TIP: Collecting recommendations from neighbors, friends, family, and online reviews is very subjective because not everyone has the same standards of professionalism and cleanliness. But trade associations can give you objective insights into the required standards for technical skills and help you determine whether your specialty trades contractor is an appropriate match for you and your home. A Next Door or Angie’s List recommendation pales in comparison to whether a contractor is a member or certified through their trade association.


RECOMMENDATION ONE: FIT SCOPE WITH SKILLSET

Check with your town/county’s building department to get an accurate picture of the scope of work required so you’ll know “who” you need to hire. Find out whether permits, licensing, and HOA approval is necessary, which will help you choose a contractor based on skillset. Is it a minor bit of drywall and paintwork that could be completed by a general handyman, or are you moving plumbing and electrical and framing that would require a knowledgeable general contractor. TIP: Yes, you can be your own GC, but if you can’t say no to people or negotiate pricing and timeframes well, stick to your day job. A good GC is worth every penny of your investment in the remodeling process. If you’re not hiring a GC, be sure you choose tradespeople who act like business owners. They’ll do things like show up on time, maintain their vehicles and machinery, and have appropriate insurance coverage. These things matter and show up in the details.


RECOMMENDATION TWO: ASK QUESTIONS AND GET EVERYTHING IN WRITING!

Before an in-home estimate, was it easy to speak with the salesperson? If you had to leave a message, how quickly was your call returned? (Tip: your inquiry call should be answered within 1 business day—don’t be upset if some contractors don’t make calls or work on weekends. These are labor-intensive jobs and people need time with family and friends, too.) Key questions to ask:

  1. Can a ballpark estimate be given online or over the phone?

  2. Will a list of previous clients be made available?

  3. What types of licensing and insurance is required? (This is also a good question for your homeowner’s insurance agent.)

  4. How long have they worked with their employees and/or subcontractors (if they hire them)?

  5. Can they come to your home and give you a detailed estimate?

  6. What would be the start and completion date and what is the order of the work to take place, and can you live there while the work is completed?

Once your questions have been answered, don’t stop there. Ensure that specifics are covered in the estimate and that you understand the hiring process. Tip: An estimate is not the same as a legally binding contract with the scope of work, payment schedule, and signature page. These are two separate (and hopefully detailed!) documents. Be sure you review both, as well as a terms and conditions sheet or frequently asked questions page on the contractor’s website. Don’t be afraid to speak up in detail about what you are looking for. The most professional contractors don’t over-promise and under-deliver; most professional contractors work to carefully manage your expectations to get the desired result.


RECOMMENDATION THREE: VERIFY WHO WILL DO THE WORK

There are some important logistics to consider if a laborer is working on his/her own. What happens if there’s an injury, illness, or death in the family, particularly in our current world environment? Who would take over, or is your project on hold indefinitely? If a laborer has help, there also are important legal differences between subcontracting out work and hiring employees. TIP: Colorado state law states that subcontractors aren’t required to show up at a certain time and work within certain timeframes. Who is responsible for liability and workers compensation insurance, and can your residence be added as additional insured so you don’t face any lawsuits for potential damages to your home or injuries that take place on the job site.


FINAL WORDS OF WISDOM: Never pick on price alone. Let us repeat that one more time, NEVER pick on price alone. If one estimate comes in significantly lower than the others, it is very possible that the individual knows the value of his/her work, potentially cutting corners and not completing the job correctly. We wish you only the best on your next home improvement project and we are happy to recommend our skilled professional partners, so please don’t hesitate to contact our Certified Professional Sales Advisor (link to contact us) with questions.