Smart Ways to Choose a Home Improvement Contractor

As anyone who has any experience working with contractors will tell you, finding the RIGHT contractor for your project entails much more than just finding the lowest price. Less tangible items like your ability to communicate and feel comfortable working with your contractor will inevitably prove to be much more important in determining your eventual satisfaction with the job – particularly if it’s a large project.

Here are several tips on finding the right contractor for your home improvement project:

1) Ask for references and accreditation

  • Talk to homeowners this contractor has done work for in the past. Were they satisfied with the work? Was the work finished? Did the contractor keep to the agreed-upon schedule? Did the contractor return phone calls? Check to see what rating they have on BBB (Better Business Bureau), Home Advisor and Angie’s List. Quality contractors are part of these sites and have good ratings.

2) Get two or three specific written bids

  • Different contractors can vary widely on pricing and level of detail even when bidding for the same job. Make sure and get several estimates on your project, especially if it’s a large project. As much as possible, make sure that you explain the job fully to each of the contractors to ensure each one bids on the same exact job so that you can compare the estimates ‘apple-to-apple’.

3) Don’t automatically accept the lowest bid

  • The old saying “you get what you pay for” applies here. A higher bid may be worth the price in better materials, workmanship and reliability. A large number of complaints filed against contractors are the result of homeowner taking the lowest bid and then being unhappy with the low quality of work. Even when the contractor promises to do the same job, be careful – often contractors will bid a job extremely aggressively in order to get it. When the work takes longer than originally planned, the contractor can feel ‘squeezed’ by the budget and try and cut corners.

4) Make sure your contractor is properly licensed

  • A license is not an endorsement of the quality of work, but provides some financial protection for you, the customer. In Massachusetts and many other states, it is a requirement for a contractor to have an HIC License (Home Improvement Contractor). If you have lead paint, your contractor must be certified by the EPA. Ask to see a contractor’s licenses before hiring them.

5) Make sure your contractor is properly insured

  • Ask your contractor for a copy of his proof of Liability Insurance and Workers’ Compensation, or the name and number of his insurance agent to call and verify proof of coverage. Coverage varies widely; many contractors don’t have enough coverage to protect your property or their own employees.

6) Most importantly…Do you trust this person to work on your home?

  • When it comes down to it, the most important thing to check is your own gut feeling. How do you feel about this contractor working on what is probably your single largest investment – your home? Do you trust this person inside your home? Around your children? Can you communicate well with this person about the project? Are they ‘in tune’ with your needs?