Plan Ahead For That Home Improvement Project

So the spring fever bug has bitten you and you’re going to tackle that big home improvement project. But do you know how to pick the right contractor to handle the job?

No doubt there are a lot of things to consider when lining up prospects. But before you even begin your search, you should come up with a plan for what you want done. The more specific that plan is, the better. A detailed outline of your project needs will provide for a more accurate estimates from contractors.

Once you have that plan in hand, you can begin your search for prospects. Here are some ideas to get you headed in the right direction:

Check with family, friends and neighbors for prospects, since customer referrals are a great way to determine who has the best track record. Another good resource is the National Association of Home Builders ( The association has directories for building professionals, remodelers, service providers and more. Local building inspectors also may be willing to help you out, since they come in contact with a lot of contractors. The same goes for local home improvement stores and lumberyards.

Track down previous customers to see how contractors performed. Ask them questions such as were they satisfied with the quality of the work; was the contractor easy to communicate with; was the job completed on time and at the price quoted and, if not, why not; and would you hire the same contractor again.

Check licenses, complaints, and online reviews. Reputable contractors usually are licensed, which typically means they must pass a test to measure competency. Note that licensing varies by state and municipality, and that in lieu of licensing, governing bodies may only require contractors to be registered by paying a fee. You can get a handle on complaints by checking with the Better Business Bureau. And online reviews can provide more insight on what kind of reputation contractors have in the community.

Get at least three estimates or bids. Industry experts recommend that you get written estimates or bids from a minimum of three contractors. An estimate is just that – an approximation of the cost. A bid, on the other hand, is a fixed price. An estimate should include the scope of work to be done, the labor and materials that are required, and the amount of time it will take to complete the job. Bids should provide a more detailed breakdown of what the contractor is going to do and provide.

Be aware that the lowest estimate or bid may not always be the best. Price differences may be the result of the quality of materials that are to be used. Ultimately it comes down to “you get what you pay for.”

Get background information on each of the contractors you seek bids or estimates from. For instance, ask how long they’ve been in business and for references (including financial references) and contact information for previous customers. And see if they are willing to show you examples of their past work.

With some planning and preparation, you can get that home improvement project off on the right foot. Good luck!

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