Ipswich Bay Builders tips on how to get the most from your contractor:
- Do not hire a contractor willy-nilly from the yellow pages or an advertisement. Ask friends, relatives or neighbors for names of contractors they have used. Also, ask local lumber yards for a list of names of contractors they might recommend. Most building inspectors in the Newburyport & Ipswich areas should be able to tell you if “ABC” Contracting is reputable.
- When you have a list of two to five contractors, call them. Briefly, describe the scope of the work you want to be done and ask if they are interested. If they are, set up a meeting with each one individually, not as a group. Ask each one to bring to the meeting a list of references, a certificate of insurance showing liability and workman’s compensation coverages, and any licenses they may have. Most states require both types of insurance coverage and up to date Construction Supervisor licenses.
- During and after your initial meeting, decide if you think you can work with the contractor. A construction project on your home is a big deal, with lots of interaction between homeowner and contractor. You must be able to form a friendly bond with the contractor for the duration of the project.
- At the initial meeting, show the contractor what you want doing. While architectural plans are not necessary for every job, they are very helpful as it puts everyone on the “same page”, and all contractors will be bidding on the same set of drawings. If you do not have plans, the more pictures, drawings and sketches you have to show the prospective contractor, the better. Remember, you will probably be interviewing several contractors, so have copies of everything.
- Call the provided references. You will get a wealth of information from past customers, and may be able to shorten your list of potential contractors quickly. In particular, ask about the type of work the contractor did for the reference, hours per day that were worked, courtesy of workmen, cleanliness of the job site, and would they hire that contractor again. If you have the time, ask to see the project in its finished state.
- When you have received all of the bids for the project, don’t be surprised if they cover a wide range from unbelievably inexpensive to way over the top. All contractors see jobs differently, and have different ways of accomplishing an end result, which affects the pricing. For instance, a contractor that specializes in kitchen/bath renovations may not have a clue when it comes to pricing a window replacement or siding job. This is where the information from references becomes invaluable. Try to choose a bid somewhere in the middle of the mix, assuming it fits your budget if you have one. Your budget may not realistically cover the job you want done, so the job may need to be downsized or done in segments.
- After you have chosen a contractor, meet with them and work out any differences you have with understanding all of the aspects of the project, from start to finish. Then work out a payment schedule that works for both sides. NEVER pay for an entire project up front. One third to begin, one third at an agreed upon point in the job, and the final third upon completion is a common schedule, as is billing the customer weekly with prompt payment of that bill. Remember, the contractor may have sub-contractors such as plumbers and electricians on the job, and as he is responsible for paying them promptly, you need to also be prompt in writing a check when necessary.
- The final step is a contract. Most states require one for any job over a certain monetary amount. In Newburyport for instance, a construction contract is required for any job over $1000. Though with a good lawyer any contract can be broken, they show good faith on both sides. The contract should spell out the scope of the project, exactly what is being provided by the contractor as far as materials and services, a total price for the job, and a payment schedule. Both parties need to sign and date the contract. Remember that any changes in the project from the plans that were bid upon will affect the price, usually adding to the total.