Tips for Dealing with Home Contractors

Apparently, my LinkedIn network is linked in better than I thought. We’ve been dealing with contractors since moving into our new home in December. This question would have been better asked a few months ago, but better late than never: “Any tips for how to select contractors for your home office project(s)?”

Jason Alba:

My tip is to make sure you have a contract in place with as much detail as you can stand. There should be change orders, etc. I had my kitchen redone and the lights were replaced with crap lights… and a number of other issues. These should have been defined in the contract. Good luck!

Courtney Benson:

Very carefully! Be detailed oriented and put your requirements in writing with a sign off from the contractor. Get 4 to 6 bids and don’t be afraid to ask questions on why x costs this or why you need that. Compare notes and check references – ask to see the work that was done for someone else. Don’t tell them how much your willing to spend on the project, let them tell you what a project like yours will cost including all the high-end hardware that your going to want and then start subtracting. My 2 cents!

Gregory MacPherson:

This question suggests a certain type of work, ie office clerical, technology, etc. If I’ve mistaken the question, I apologize.

In general you are talking about hiring someone without paying a referral fee to a broker. Therefore your best avenue IMHO is to seek out recommendations from other local business people. Try doctors and dentists and lawyers and realtors and architects in your area as well, since contrary to popular belief they tend to be frugal regarding administration and IT expenses.

Also consider your local Chamber of Commerce as they likely have several contractors as members and they will provide referrals for their members.

Scott Robarts:

Be very skeptical. Ask for references and then contact them, get everything in writing, talk to the person and trust your gut. Try to find someone who has done work for someone whose opinion you trust, and who did a good job for them.

Joseph Abbate:

Speak to the local building department and ask them who the better local contractors are. Start there, however it requires people skills because they must remain objective. Wink Wink. Bring them donuts if you have to, (a small price to pay for good craftsmanship).

That addresses the inspection process as well. If they trust the builder, they will schedule inspections earlier in the day, because they know it will go fast and keep them on schedule. That will also keep your builder on schedule if they can get work done on an inspection day… Once you have a name or two, check with the builders association, the better business people and the department of consumer affairs to see if any complaints exist.

Your architect is critical in the process. Make sure your plans contain specific information about every aspect of the project. This includes, materials, (Make, Model, Size, Finish), methods of construction, renderings, etc. Keep in mind it is easier and less costly to make changes on paper (or AutoCAD) then when in full blown construction and the materials are ordered. Make your changes before you start!!!!

Send your RFP to 5 contractors. Do not accept a bid from a contractor who cannot provide: Certificate of insurance that covers the value of your entire house (then check with the carrier for claims) 20 references (check them all) and a list of current projects.

Once you have assembled the 5 bids, you want a contract that states start and completion dates, include a clause that addresses delays and make sure your payment schedule is based on inspection schedules. IE, pay for rough work when rough work is inspected and passed. Pay for finish work when finish work inspected and passed. Final payment when mutually agreed punch list items are completed or when hell freezes over. Just kidding.

That is the process, Good luck and may you enjoy your new space.

Sheilah Etheridge:

Ask for a list of prior customers and talk to them all. Hiring a contractor is like hiring a new employee, do your homework. Call the BBB and see if any reports have been file, do reference checks, talk to people you know and see who they recommend. etc