How to choose the right home improvement contractor

Once you have found a small group of contractors that you are interested in doing business with, the next step is to determine which contractor will get the job. If you make the wrong choice, you could be looking at going over budget, exceeding your timetable for the completion of the project, and possibly being left with a project that is incomplete. There are several steps a homeowner can use to determine which contractor is the right one for their project.

Warning Signs

There are some warning signs to look for in contractors that can help you to eliminate the undesirable contractors right away. A reputable contractor is not going to ask you to pay for the entire job prior to work being started. The right contractor will sign an agreement with you and then ask for payment when the project is completed, and you have signed off on the final results.

A reputable contractor will be more than happy to present a copy of their contractor's license and insurance documents for your consideration. You will also find that reputable contractors will insist that you have several quotes to consider before you make your final decision. If you have a contractor that is unwilling to present basic job information or is pressuring you to take their quote, then it is time to move on from that contractor.

A clear channel of communication between the contractor and the homeowner is essential for the successful completion of any project. If you find that certain contractors do not always return calls or show up for meetings at your home at the agreed upon time, then that is a sign of bad communication skills. Always do business with the contractor that responds to your calls and takes your project as seriously as you do.

Proximity is also important. If the contract is based in Los Angeles, they may not be willing to give a project in Long Beach the priority they would give to a more local job. So look for a contractor that is based in your area.

Job Scope

When it comes to discussing the scope of the project, it should be based on what you want done and not what the contractor thinks should be done.

The one exception to this is when your contractors points out that there is a particular task that needs to be done to get the project up to local building codes, or to make your home safe when the project is completed. If something like this exists, it will be pointed out by more than one contractor and you have to make it part of your project scope.

The right contractor for your project is the one that wants to understand the scale of your project as you present it and alters their work method to fit your project needs. You choose the materials, colors, and designs used, and the contractor's job is to install that material based on your guidelines. If you have a contractor that is more interested in getting results they want than in getting your results, then that is not the contractor for your project.

Project Options

If you find yourself trying to decide between a few contractors that you consider to be fully qualified for the job, then make your decision based on the options each contractor offers. If you need project financing and one of the contractors you are talking to offers financing at competitive rates, then that could be the aspect that helps you to decide on which contractor to work with.

Other project options to consider include getting a price break for work done during the contractor's off-season, discounts for allowing the contractor to utilize used materials, and any discounts the contractor may offer in exchange for an extended schedule. Some contractors will offer price breaks to clients who allow the project to run longer so that the contractor can have an easier time attending to their other projects and keeping their crews working.

It is one thing to develop a focused list of contractors that you can use for getting quotes, but actually choosing the contractor for the job is a different story. Homeowners need to develop a reliable process they can use to take their short list of contractor contenders and make their final decision. The right decision will mean that the project gets done on time, on budget, and within the scope of the work specifications.