Finding The Best Home Improvement Contractor

So you finally decided to take on that home remodeling project. Good for you.

While I admit there is something about doing your own home remodeling, the first thing you need to ask yourself is whether you are truly up to the task. If, after doing some research and inner searching you decide that you need to have a true professional home improvement company do the job, there are a few things to do to get the job off the ground.

Figure Out Your Budget

Home improvement projects aren’t cheap. Even the smallest of laundry room could cost over one or two thousand dollars.

If you know anyone that has had a similar renovation recently completed, you can ask them how much the project costed if you feel comfortable doing so. Otherwise, the best idea is to search online.

There are many forums and other websites that people talk about their home improvement projects. However, you need to know that prices are relative to the area which you live. It is best to do a local search so you have a better idea what it will cost in your area.

My rule of thumb is to double whatever figure I first thought of. I recently had a local home improvement company completely renovate my laundry room. I was estimating it would be around $1,000. Well, the final price was $2,000 after a $300 addition to the project after the original estimate was completed.

Find Local Contractors

This isn’t the hardest task really. You can easily find a list of 30 to 50 contractor by using websites like Manta.com or the Yellowpages.com.

The problem is that much of the details on those sites are incorrect. After painstakingly building a database of contractors over an hours or two, there is nothing worse than finding out the information is incorrect. What a waste of time.

Of course you can do a simple search on Google for home improvement companies in your area, and that should get you a fine list. But the problem is that some of the best and most affordable company’s websites aren’t optimized for Google Searches. By using this method, you are finding the most internet marketing savvy companies, which usually means they charge the highest prices because they get the most calls.

Another option you have is to use a local website that partners in the with the top local home improvement companies. A site like this is PittsburghHomeImprovements.com. All you have to do is enter your information and they will provide it to their incredible database of the top home improvement companies in the area. All you have to do is sit back and let the companies call you.

Accepting A Bid

However you find your contractors and receive your bids, the next step is to accept a bid. While you might want to simply go with the lowest estimate, there are a few things that you might want review prior to accepting that bid.

First, how soon can each contractor start your project. If you are in a hurry, and the cheapest bid can’t start for a month or two, you might be forced to go with another bid. Also, how fast will the project be completed. Some companies will over promise and say a job can be completed quicker than they can actually do it.

If one company’s bid is quoted quite a bit quicker than all of the other contractors, you might want to either question that or go with another bid. I would always rather a contractor overestimate than underestimate the time needed to complete the job correctly.

Choosing Home Improvement Companies

If you have home repair or renovations that need to be done, you need to contact several different home improvement companies to find the best one to do your job. They should each offer a free estimate, but you will need to learn more than just the price. You also need to investigate the home improvement companies themselves, such as their record with the Better Business Bureau, how long they have been in business, and whether they have insurance against damage to your property or your neighbor’s as well as worker’s compensation for their employees.

Try to always deal with locally based companies. When there are storms and many homes are damaged, such as by hail or high winds, many “gypsy” or “vagabond” contractors move into the area temporarily. These home improvement companies may offer excellent rates, but there is usually no way to check their record or to reach them if the repair is sub-standard. For example, many of these transient home improvement companies may replace your shingles in what looks like a professional manner. Two months later, when a heavy rain arrives, your roof may leak. By then, however, these home improvement companies have moved on to greener pastures with your money.

When you get cost estimates from the different companies, also ask them to provide firm completion dates. There have been many instances of home improvement companies starting a project that should be finished in a week and then moving to another, better paying project before completion. The initial job may remain in limbo for weeks or even months before the contractor and crew return to finish it.

You also need to get commitments from companies on what days and hours they will need access to your house. If you like to sleep in a bit on Saturdays, for instance, you might want to request that they not begin at 7 am on that one day.

If you can possibly avoid it, do not pay home improvement companies the full project amount in advance. Once they have received all the money they will get from you, there is little incentive for them to have completing your job a priority. It is customary for some home improvement companies to ask for a down payment or partial payments at pre-determined stages. Make sure these benchmark payments are based on completion levels and not time increments. For example, if the job involves rebuilding the roof deck and installing shingles, you could make one of the benchmarks contingent on the decking and felt installation being completed.

Ask friends or relatives to recommend home improvement companies they have used with good results as well as any they had unsatisfactory experiences with. If you notice projects in your neighborhood, ask the homeowners about the home improvement companies involved, especially if the results look nice, and how satisfied they were with the work.

Make sure any company you select are bonded, and that they bond or at least perform background checks on their employees. You should also place any valuables, such as jewelry, out of sight while workmen are in your home.