Spring and summer is the busy season for remodeling contractors. Homeowners are just getting their tax returns and are looking to invest some of it into their homes. The weather has warmed up and it’s an ideal time to tackle those outdoor home improvement projects as well. Unfortunately, spring and summer are also the months where amateur handymen try to drum up business doing work that they aren’t licensed to do. The difference between a handyman and a licensed professional is night and day when it comes to the quality of the work.
Here are five tips from home remodelers to homeowners who are considering a remodeling project.
Research contractors carefully
Start by compiling a list of local contractors that have a good reputation in the area. You can check with the Better Business Bureau (BBB) to see if a contractor has a history of unresolved complaints with his/her customers. You can scratch off any names on the list that don’t have a license to do the kind of work that they’re doing. A real professional will be licensed and insured and your city will probably have a record of all licensed contractors.
Get written estimates from several contractors
When you’ve narrowed down your list to a handful, maybe three or four, request a written estimate from each of them. If you don’t get more than one estimate, you have nothing to compare it to. If one estimate seems suspiciously high or suspiciously low, don’t pick that contractor. Though cost is an important factor don’t automatically go with the cheapest bid as they may be cutting corners to offer such a good price.
Read over documents carefully before signing
Never agree to work over a handshake and a verbal agreement. You should sign a contract and you should look over that contract carefully before you sign to make sure there are no nasty surprises.
Be wary of large down payments
Sometimes a contractor may ask for a down payment to cover the cost of materials. While this isn’t extremely abnormal, it is a red flag. Most professionals will have the funds to pay for materials without a down payment from you and will accept payment upon completion of the work. If there is a down payment or payment installments, make sure you’re holding back a significant portion until the project is completely finished. Never pay 100% up front and be wary of contractors who insist on cash only.
Get everything in writing
A written contract protects both you and the contractor. Make sure that the contract specifies an estimated start and end date and that it details the materials needed for the work and the labor that is expected and an estimated cost. If it’s in writing, then both of you know what to expect from each other and there’s no conflict during the course of the work.