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How to choose the right contractor

Author: Marv Shidler
Last updated: April 11, 2009

Choosing a contractor is one of the most important and challenging decisions you can make when planning a project. Here are some basic guidelines that can help make the selection process easier, and the job run smoother:

Requesting Bids
  • Determine your need. Make sure the contractor has adequate experience for your type of renovation.
  • Choose at least three contractors to present bids.
  • Ask for a copy of a contractor's certificate of liability insurance and Workmen's Compensation Insurance.
  • Ask for three references of past customers. Follow up on the references by asking specific questions.   For example: Was the contractor available and open to discussion of problems? Did he return promptly to fix any problems after completion?
  • Make sure all bids are on the same set of plans. Then you can compare “apples to apples.” Beware of any bid that is substantially lower than the others.
Reviewing the Contract
  • The contract should detail what the contractor will and will not do. For example, how will construction debris be handled?
  • The contract should specify all materials, including size, color, model, brand names and products.
  • Carefully study and approve all plans which should be identified in the written contract.
  • Look for a warranty for a minimum of one year.
  • The total price, payment schedule and cancellation penalty, if any, should be spelled out in the contract.
  • Beware of the lowest bidder. A substantially lower price could mean substandard materials will be used or something has been left out.

If you do your homework, you will find a reliable contractor to do quality work at a fair price.