Contractor vs. DIY: 4 Questions to Help You Decide When to Hire Help

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construction workerMy husband and I have remodeled many homes and we have experienced many frustrating moments. Our first major remodeling project was opening a wall between our kitchen and dining room, finding knob and tube wiring and hiring a contractor. We did not have the knowledge to do electrical work so our first contractor was hired. This situation taught us it’s sometimes best to hire a contractor.

Deciding to hire a contractor

The infrastructure of a home includes the wiring, plumbing, heating and cooling, structural framework, and concrete work. A great deal of personal knowledge or a licensed contractor is necessary to remodel these portions of a home.

Questions to ask

Ask the following questions to help you decide whether a contractor is right for a remodeling project.

1. Do you have the knowledge base to do complete the remodeling project?

Evaluate your knowledge base to determine whether you feel comfortable with attempting the project. Are you willing to take the time to learn the process through reading and/or attending classes to understand the process. If not, hire a contractor.

2. Do you have time to complete the project?

Time constraints will contribute to hiring a contractor. Contractors work by the hour or by the job. Their main priority is finishing the project in a timely manner. Hire a contractor if the project must be done within a specific time constraint if you are unable to allot the appropriate time.

3. What is the quote for the project?

Ask a contractor(s) for a quote to complete the project. Evaluate the quote(s) for time and cost. Do both areas fit into your time constraints and budget? Remember, quotes are an educated guess. When hired, always check with the contractor periodically to see how the quote is holding up. It is better to know upfront if the project is going to take longer or cost more.

4. Do you have references of satisfied clients?

Obtain a list of satisfied clients from any contractor. Call the satisfied clients and ask to see some of the contractor’s finished work. A visual inspection of a completed remodeling project will help you determine whether the contractor is right for you.

Based on my years of experience, any essential element of a remodeling project that includes the removal, addition, or moving of a home’s infrastructure should be completed by a contractor. Contractors specializing in each area provide a homeowner with the reassurance that the project is completed. Weigh your knowledge base to determine whether hiring a contractor is right for your remodeling project.

How to Choose a Remodeling Contractor for Your Home

More than likely you have heard one horror story after another, and then some, of unscrupulous contractors who don’t finish a job after they have gotten your money or if they finish the job is it subpar with a lot of poor craftsmanship. You file a complaint with a consumer protection agency, but there aren’t any stiff penalties at all for these contractors who will no doubt do it again to some other unsuspecting client. It is all a vicious cycle that doesn’t seem to ever end. The sad part is a lot of people who have had horrible experiences with contractors don’t file any complaints, so it is nearly impossible to find out who they are.

The reality is you will need to take responsibility in protecting yourself. By that I mean to educate and arm yourself with knowledge that you will need a great deal of. That means doing research, study, and contemplation on your own. Otherwise, you will become prey to those unethical contractors who could easily rob you blind and leave your home in shambles. Here you will receive the necessary information covering three key areas to get you started in choosing a suitable, highly ethical, and top-notch professional contractor. There are many excellent remodeling contractors in existence. You just have to do you homework first.

What You Need to Know Firsthand

In 1935 the National Association of The Remodeling Industry began under a different organization for its time. Then in the mid 1960’s it changed its name to reflect what it is today. By 1983 it took the final name of NARI, National Assoc. of the Remodeling Industry. This is your first step to take in considering a remodeling contractor. NARI‘s website has dedicated a link for Homeowners that lists selecting a remodeler, who are NARI certified professionals, finding contractors, remodeling tips, and interviewing remodelers. NARI is the only association that is dedicated to the remodeling industry. They focus on professional conduct, continuing education, training, and most importantly, the fair and ethical treatment within their industry. Be sure to view NARI’s excellent introductory video from YouTube.

Tips on Hiring a Contractor

There is a great deal of information on tips for which I will try to cover the most important ones. However, thanks to the internet there is no excuse anymore in not doing your own homework or due diligence on choosing a remodeling contractor that’s right for your home.

Tip #1 – If they aren’t listed with the Better Business Bureau they must be reputable. Not true at all. As I mentioned earlier many people who’ve had bad experiences oftentimes do not make a complaint to the BBB, because it has to be completely in writing. According to an issue in Money Magazine it stated the BBB does not do an adequate job with reporting offending companies, or contractors in this case.

Tip #2 – The contractor that offers you the lowest price is the one you should go with. Absolutely not, if they do the services for a lower price it may not be for what you want performed. It could be a way to entice you, then come up with excuses on how they did not see this or that, more like a bait and switch tactic. Also, it could be a red flag this contractor is not financially stable. This may sound extremely tempting to go for a lower price, especially in this economy, but don’t fall for it.

Tip #3 – Be sure to avoid high pressure salespeople with their “this price is only available today if you sign up with us right now” impending doom line. It’s an old trick to make homeowners make a quick decision that only benefits them, not you.

Tip #4 – The most important one of all, the down payment. If a contractor asks for a huge amount of money upfront more than likely they are not in good financial shape. Yes, some contractors will ask for a reasonable amount of money up front, however, the high quality ones have good working relationships with suppliers and can purchase materials on an open account with 30 days to pay dependent on how long they have been in business.

Important Questions You Must Ask

Once again, there are many questions to ask a perspective remodeling contractor however, these particular questions are a good first step to this vital process before hiring a remodeling contractor.

Start off with questions regarding their experience. Ask for three references of three projects that will be similar to yours. Did you work off a fixed price contract or a cost-plus/time & material contract? How did the final price compare to the original estimate? Did any problems arise and how was it handled?

For scheduling you need to ask how long it took from start to finish and was it completed by the scheduled date? These next set of questions are extremely important regarding their qualifications. First off, start by asking how long they have been in business. Do they belong to any related trade organizations or to NARI? How will they handle the money during the project? Ask how you can check their credit worthiness. Last but never least, be sure to ask what their contract will look like. Is it all inclusive? How are disputes resolved?

Purchasing a home was of course the biggest investment you ever made. Second to that is investing in a remodeling project, plus hiring a true professional remodeling contractor to get the job done smoothly, efficiently and economically. Now that you have a good amount of information to help get you started you can ward off those contractors that have given the remodeling industry a bad reputation and to finally make it right.

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