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Why Hiring a Contractor is Like Finding a Babysitter

January 7, 2013No comments

An all-too-common nightmare of home remodelers is completely blowing the budget and falling behind schedule. While it is possible to find yourself in an unsettling situation like this, the chance of it happening only increases when working with inept or amateurish contractors. Therefore, for your home and wallet — and let’s not forget your sanity — it’s important to work with a skilled contractor, with appropriate experience, that can keep your remodel on track.

It’s essential to evaluate and interview a few candidates before hiring to find the right contractor for the job. If your contractor lacks the necessary qualities, your arrangement may end a nightmare.

General Contractor and Happy Clients

General contractors watch over your project from start to finish.

If you have kids, you know what it takes to find a babysitter. The person you select will need to be experienced, accountable, personable, smart and responsible. Finding a contractor for your remodeling project is surprisingly very similar. Just like a babysitter will watch your kids from 6 p.m. to midnight, your contractor will oversee your project from beginning to end. Here’s what to consider:

Babysitters always have a list of experience and phone numbers. Contractors should too.

Hiring a babysitter without first digging into their background is a risky. You obviously wouldn’t want to put your little guy or gal in harm’s way, so you talk with the candidate’s references to hear how other parents, and their kids, describe the candidate’s character, attitude and service.

In a similar fashion, look into the contractors experience to see if it gels well with your project. A few of the important things you should consider are:

  • What types of projects are their specialty
  • What licenses, certifications, etc., they have earned
  • How long they have been in business
  • What opinion do their previous clientele have of their service and quality

For the last point above, ask the contractor for references you can contact. You can then get a sense of how they work and communicate and if there have been problems. Also, don’t forget to check out review sites — like Angie’s List, the Better Business Bureau and more — to see what the Internet has to say. You’ll definitely want to make sure the contractor isn’t on Angie’s List’s rundown of the worst contractors!

Fairmont Maple Kitchen Cabinets from

If you’re restoring a traditional home, work with a contractor who has relevant experience.

Your kids adore the babysitter. You need to be comfortable with your contractor.

My younger sister babysat part time this past summer. She said the two kids were a joy to watch, and they all got along like peas and carrots.

You and your contractor should get along this well too — like a hammer and nails, for a comparable example. You’ll be working with your contractor almost daily for a significant amount of time. Make sure you can create a comfortable working relationship, communicate easily and with respect, and trust the contractor to do a quality and thorough job.

Leave the kids with me. No Country for Old Men Babysitter

Mean babysitters are no fun. Make sure you build a good relationship with your contractor.

The babysitter’s price fits your budget. Your contractor’s should do the same.

You would never pay a babysitter before they watch your kids, but you would leave a little bit of money to order in food for the night. You only hand over the money when the job is complete. It’s good practice to use a similar payment style when working with a contractor.

First, get bids and itemized price estimates from at least three contractors. They should detail the costs of materials, labor, permits, electrical, plumbing, inspections, subcontractors and more. Not only are itemized estimates easy to compare but they will help determine how much money you should receive back if you choose to alter your project. Don’t immediately jump to the cheapest bid, but also don’t think a high price means high quality.

When it comes to financials, never pay the total cost of the project upfront. An easy strategy for payment is to split the project into thirds. This way, you’ll give the contractor some money to start the project and still have leverage should something go awry at the end. However, know that contractors may have their own payment strategies that you’ll have to work with.

When you have something important, you always leave it for the babysitter in a note.

Cell phone numbers, emergency contact information, directions, etc. The babysitter is always given this kind of information on a piece of paper: a written contract, if you will.

No matter the size of the job, always get a signed contract. It should detail the parties involved, work to be done, specifics of the products and materials, responsibilities for permits, payment plan, time frame and hours, and more. If things change, try to get that promise down on paper or via email or text message. If you were to find yourself in a legal battle, this documentation will help avoid a he-said-she-said situation.

Babysitters and contractors are always responsible and in control.

Will the babysitter let your kids do things they shouldn’t. Will they snoop around your home, have a friend over, or throw a party? These are fears of yours, but you’ll select a babysitter who can take control and knows right from wrong.

Don’t forget to consider how the contractor will manage their workers and subcontractors. Will they be around to supervise construction or will they be distant, only phoning in or emailing direction? It’s a good idea to meet with subcontractors too if they’re work is integral to the job. Make sure to assess factors like these while you evaluate contractors.

As you now understand, hiring a contractor on a whim without careful consideration can prove disastrous in more ways than one. By interviewing multiple contractors, you’ll find the right person for the job and keep your sanity and home safe.

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