What to Look for in a Contractor

Finding the right contractor for your project can be a difficult challenge. There are so many options and variables to consider that it is easy for anyone’s head to start spinning just thinking of the possibilities. You want to make sure that you are getting a trusted partner that you can work with seamlessly, especially if the project is large in scope and duration. While the industry has worked diligently in recent years to build a strong reputation, a small portion of construction firms still operate with shady business practices that give all of us a poor name. While not a complete list, the content below should set you on the right path to choosing a great contractor that will deliver a complete job at a fair price.

  • 1. Knowledge of Construction/Specific Trades – When you call in to consult with a professional, you have the right to expect to work with a professional! This sounds obvious, but you would be shocked at how often “professional” firms have very little industry or building knowledge. Your contractor should have an expert knowledge in their trade, as well as a general knowledge of the building process to know how they fit in. Remodelers need to have extensive knowledge of the entire project and a solid team of subcontractors that meet their own and customer standards.
  • 2. Craftsmanship/Quality of Work – While many contractors may “talk the talk,” they also need to be able to back that up with a professional-quality project delivered each and every time. You would think anyone you hire would deliver this bare minimum but there are thousands of low-quality projects around Lansing that I’m sure still give the homeowners heartburn. This one can be tough to verify so try to visit past job sites or look at plenty of pictures to give yourself a good idea of their attention to detail and overall craftsmanship.
  • 3. Professional Appearance – A sign that can make it immediately obvious whether you’re working with a serious professional or a “trunk-slammer,” fly-by-night contractor is how they appear. Judging a book by its cover can be bad, but when your hard-earned money is on the line shouldn’t you take every factor into account? Sharp, clean uniforms and an official company vehicle help show that this remodeler takes himself and your project seriously.
  • Time in Business – How long has the firm you are interested in hiring been in business? While not perfect, the length of time that the company has been continuously operating can be an excellent indicator of how long it will continue to do so. This is not to say that someone with years of experience who founded a newer company will be a poor fit, and there are some other unique cases as well. Typically though, those who have made it through the tough times before will be able to again while newer companies will have no track record of survival.
  • 5. Licensed and Insured – There are no two ways around it – you must ensure that the remodeler you hire is fully licensed with the State of Michigan and properly insured for general liability and disability. While it doesn’t happen very often, if a laborer working on your property is hurt during the project and is not covered by his company’s or a personal insurance policy, you could end up fronting the bill and being responsible for the entire situation. Stressful!
  • 6. No High-Pressure Sales – If you have ever had a pushy door-to-door salesman for home improvement or other products try to shove his way into your home, you know it is not a pleasant experience. Often they are driven purely by sales quota goals and have zero interest in actually helping you solve your problems. The opposite is someone who is too relaxed and doesn’t provide you information in a timely manner. Look to strike a balance between the two by finding attentive service combined with a little breathing room to consider your options.
  • 7. References/Referrals/Reviews – Read everything you possibly can online prior to contacting the remodeler you are interested in. Glowing, positive reviews from a variety of sources is one of the surest signs that you are barking up the right tree for your home renovation project. Even better is being provided with a list of references (R. L. Rider Remodeling provides one with all proposals) that you can personally call or email to discuss their experience. Best of all is a referral from someone you know well that had a great experience with the builder.
  • 8. Contract & Specifications Detail – One of the most important things you can do when hiring a contractor is to carefully read the contract before signing on the bottom line. Is the contract detailed about what is and is not included? Does it provide specifications that clearly paint a picture of the project and what quality of materials you can expect? Does it have a reasonable payment schedule that will protect both parties? Signing a contract and making a down payment is the point of no return so be sure you feel completely comfortable!
  • 9. Warranty & Service – Warranty and the service you receive after the project is done is often overlooked in the construction industry. We make it a priority after experiencing firsthand the variety of “hassle-free” warranties that turn into nightmares. This ties in with length of time in business as well because the longer a company has been around, the more experience and assurance you have that they will be there should anything go wrong. Remodeling has so many points where something can fail that it is best to know the company who did the work will be there to stand behind it for years to come.
  • 10. Your Personal Preferences – While most of the above advice is general, you should absolutely involve your personal preferences in the process. It can be very helpful to make a list of 5-10 items that you deem most important for your project’s contractor. Maybe budget is not a huge concern for you, but it is non-negotiable that your firm have both design and build functionality. Maybe your schedule must be worked around because you have a date set for a family reunion and it must be complete by then. Jot down a list and make sure any contractors you consult can meet these terms before you go too far down one avenue only to find you wasted your own time.

Again, this is not a complete list but it is a great start for thinking about what you are looking for in a contractor or remodeler. Feel free to cross off anything that you don’t feel is important, and please put a high priority on what is most important to you and your family’s project. This is a highly individual experience where everyone is looking for something a little different so don’t be shy in making your expectations known.

Have questions about a project? Need help deciding on a contractor? Give us a call at 517-487-3713 or fill out our web contact form and you will receive a response within a max of one business day. We are committed to zero sales pressure and seek to provide a professional, knowledgeable experience to every client that contacts us!