Hiring a Contractor
Your home and your business represent some of the largest investments that you will ever make, so it is extremely important that you set aside time to carefully select a competent contractor to work on your project. Not unlike choosing a doctor for yourself or your family, you want to be sure to find one who is highly recommended and has proven experience, preferably at least 5 years. Below are some important things to consider when hiring a contractor.
When Choosing a Contractor
- Talk to people you trust. If you know of any family or friends who have worked with contractors in the past, ask them about their experience and whether or not they would make a recommendation. Even if they advise you not to hire a certain contractor, that still helps you narrow your choices. Another good source would be a real estate agent you trust, since they tend to work with contractors often.
- Visit the Better Business Bureau website or call them at 513-421-3015 to research a particular company.
- Always get bids for your project from at least 3 contractors. Make sure that these estimates include the same information and scope of work for your project with as much detail as possible. If 1 bid is significantly different from the others, then there may be something missing or included in their scope of work that is different from the others.
- Get references from the contractors and ask about their past projects. Be sure to take the time to contact these references, and visit the projects if possible. Ask plenty of questions. Most people will be happy to discuss their experience with a contractor whether it was good or bad.
- Ask to see the contractors’ proof of workers’ compensation and liability insurance, and check to make sure that it has not expired. If an accident happens on your property and the contractor is not insured, you as the owner will most likely be held responsible for compensation.
After Choosing a Contractor
- Have a detailed contract written. The more details the better. This will protect both you and the contractor and avoid miscommunication. Never assume that anything is included until you see that it has been written in the contract.
- Establish a clear and detailed schedule of completion in writing. While reasonable exceptions can be made for variables like weather, it is important to establish a clear completion date rather than leaving the project open-ended.
- Make sure that the appropriate permits have been obtained before work starts. Ask the contractor to show you proof that the permit has been obtained. You can also call the Building Department to verify that the permits have been issued.
Other Things to Consider
- It is a bad sign if a contractor is reluctant to obtain permits or inspections. Some contractors may claim that they do that particular work "all of the time" without getting a permit. The only way to be sure if a permit is required and what inspections are required is to ask the Building Department directly.
- For permits involving drawings, take the time to review the approved permit drawings as well as all notes and attachments. Call our office with any questions you have. If the contractor obtains the permit, ask to review the approved permit drawings yourself before work starts.
- Be wary of contractors who ask for money before work has started. Establish a clear payment schedule based upon milestones. For example, it can be based upon different inspection approvals.
- Do not issue final payment until you receive proof that the final inspection has been approved and no additional inspections are required.
- Inspect the project yourself with the contractor at regular intervals to make sure that all of your concerns are being communicated and questions are answered. This will avoid any surprises at the end of a project. Your contractor should encourage this kind of open communication because it provides you with the result you are looking for and prevents potential delays in final payment for him.