Choosing a Contractor

Most of the problems that arise from home improvement projects can be avoided. Here are some simple tips to consider:

First and foremost, it’s important to gather information and become educated about your project prior to selecting and dealing with tradesmen.

If you decide to allow a designer to not only draft your project, but also estimate the cost, you’re making a mistake.

Designers, engineers, and architects are experts in their related fields; however, they do not generally estimate accurately.

A contractor who has been in business for several years, orders materials on a regular basis, and has extensive experience in your type of project is the best candidate for an accurate assessment of costs. The key is to choose among those professionals who are clearly qualified to do your project and to be sure you obtain estimates from at least two comparably experienced companies.

Secondly, although most consumers want to stretch their dollar as far as possible, choosing the lowest bidder is usually not a wise move. It is important to realize that you get what you pay for and having champagne tastes on a beer budget is not practical. Getting educated about your project will help you to be realistic.


Putting these ideas into practice will not only benefit you now, but will also benefit you with any future projects.


Contractors who are behind on bills may spend your deposit on debts unrelated to your project. Try to hire someone who is currently working, yet is not too busy to take on your project. A deposit should be justifiable. If the project is commencing the day of deposit, it is more likely the money is going where it should. On small jobs a 50/50 payment plan is generally requested; however, if your project is extensive, a 10-20% deposit is the norm. Some projects don’t require a deposit at all; for instance, if you are getting a replacement fixture or appliance and the job takes just one day, just pay 100% when the job is done.

Most licensed contractors are competent and hard workers; however, many will bid a project with the intention of landing the contract by bidding low based on info provided by the owner or designer.

Specifications are the key to getting comparable bids on your project. If you are not specific, you will get a wide range of prices.

A contractor who needs work to stay afloat may look for loopholes in your information and use it to his or her advantage by providing a low bid.

Hiring a contractor who provides the most complete specs and explains the contract in detail is likely the best bet.

Steve Gonzalez is a nationally known Consumer Advocate, Master Builder and Author of “Before You Hire A Contractor: A Construction Guidebook for Consumers.”

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