How to Pick The Right Contractor

Choosing to renovate your home—from painting the walls, to tiling a back-splash, to putting in new cabinets—is a big commitment and a big investment. If you don’t pick the right contractor for the job, it can mean the difference between a space you’re proud to show off or time and money down the drain.

So, what things should you take into account when you’re searching for the right contractor?

1. Do Your Research
From checking reviews to actually interviewing candidates, researching your contractor is crucial. Take a look at previous customers’ reviews: are they mostly positive, negative, or mixed, and what were the primary complaints against them, if any?

Look at that contractor’s portfolio of work: how well versed are they in your kind of project, and do their portfolio pieces speak to quality?

Finally, actually talk with the contractors you are considering for your project. Are they friendly and helpful in answering your questions, or do they get impatient or forceful when discussing options?

Go with your gut—you’ll be working with this person in close proximity for a long time, so you want to enjoy working with them, not dread it.

2. Get a Rundown on Their Process
Learn what system the contractor has in place for their work, specifically on your kind of project. Learn who your point of contact will be—if there’s no one specific, communication problems can arise later and cause problems.

Agree on exactly what hours of the day and week the contractor and their workers will be at the site working, so you’re not surprised when they’re around or wondering where they are.

Figure out how much input they want from you going forward, and how much you are expected to contribute (or not contribute) and at which stages they’ll want your feedback.

Know which steps they’ll take and when they’ll take them so neither of you are confronted with any surprises down the line.

3. Check Their Licenses
Building codes, insurance and liability—these things can be confusing for you, but a good contractor has everything up to date and under control. If the contractor is properly licensed, you can be assured that they’ve gone through the correct steps and processes to do their work, and that they’re up to date on any relevant building codes your project will need to adhere to.

Make sure they’ve got the proper insurance in place so if a worker gets injured on the job, or your neighbor’s property accidentally gets damaged, you’re not liable to pay for it.

Getting their license numbers and confirming their insurance policies helps ensure that you’re not getting ripped off by a shady contractor.

4. Have a Detailed Contract in Place
Before any work gets underway, get a proper written contract. This should include projected costs, start and finish dates, and complete specifications of every part of the job.

Of course unforeseen expenses and problems may arise over the course of your project, but having a good contract written up beforehand minimizes surprising expenses down the line.

If you’re unsure the specific cost of something, you can include allowances instead to keep to your budget (for example, “up to $500 for the front door” or similar).

5. Look Locally
Supporting local businesses is always a good move, but can also be a practical one when it comes to contractors. A local contractor is better positioned to quickly handle any problems that may arise on your site, and they’ll be better versed in the kinds of problems unique to your region.

Plus, they’re usually much more community-oriented—doing right by their community ensures they’ll be in business a long time.

Working with a good contractor will make sure your project runs smoothly, stays in budget, and gets done in a timely manner—so choosing the right one is essential. Keeping these things in mind will help you pick the right person for the job, get the results you’re dreaming of, and minimize stress during the process.