How to Select a Contractor for Your Next Home Renovation Project

Published: 18th June 2015
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For any renovation, large or small, you should get a minimum of three estimates. Word-of-mouth references are best,-at least you'll know one satisfied customer. You should be wary of a jack of all trades (master of none) contractor. For a multifaceted job, such as a kitchen or bathroom renovation, you ideally want to work with multiple subcontractors who specialize in trades like plumbing, wiring, tiling or drywall.

Ask for a detailed written estimate

A number quickly scribbled on the back of a business card doesn't count.A quote should be on company stationery. The business information on it will help with background checks; the specifics will help you compare apples to apples. When getting an estimate for a deck, for example, make sure that all contractors price out using the same materials, size and a comparable layout. Question any who are significantly higher or lower than others for an explanation: What services and materials are they including or leaving out? Finally, don't make a choice based solely on the lowest price. Remember the old adage: If it sounds too good to be true, it most probably is. And you get what you pay for.

Once you've chosen a company you think you might want to use, there are a few more steps you need to take before signing a contract. It may seem like a lot of work, but it can save you aggravation down the road. Start by asking to see photos of recent work and for customer references to check. Of course, no company is going to give out the number of an irate customer as a reference. But if any of the contacts they do give are less than totally satisfied with the job they had done, you should take that as a red flag. If you have the time, try to visit the site of a work in progress.

If there's a Better Business Bureau (BBB) in your area, give it a call. Many people don't realize that BBBs keep records of complaints made against both member and non-member companies.

With one quick call, you can learn if a business has had grievances lodged against it within the past three years. To retain their affiliation with the BBB, member companies must resolve any complaints to the organization's satisfaction-although not necessarily your own.

As well, check with your local municipal licensing office to verify that the contractor has a valid operating license. Some trades, such as plumbers, electricians and HVAC installers, require specialized licenses. You can verify with their trade association or State labor board that they're qualified.

A done deal

Now that you're probably terrified to let anyone with a tool belt within 1,000 feet of your home, it's a good time to point out that the vast majority of contractors are honest, hard-working people who aren't out to take advantage of anyone . To use the old cliché, it really is only a few bad apples that spoil the barrel. With just a little extra legwork, you should be able to pick the right contractor.

Contractor questions

Here's a sampling of general questions you should ask for each estimate:

- How long have you been in business?

- What kind of work do you specialize in? (Keep in mind that the true meaning of "specialize" is not an open-ended shopping list.)

- How many jobs similar to this one have you done?

- Do you have the appropriate licenses? (Ask to see these, and take note of license numbers.)

- Will you use your own crew for the work or will you subcontract part of the job? Are the subcontractors licensed?

- Are you and any subcontractors covered by workers' compensation and liability insurance?

- How do you deal with potential health hazards such as asbestos removal?

- Why is your price higher (or lower) than the competition's?

- Are cleanup and garbage disposal included in the price?

It takes extra time, but taking time eliminates surprises.Consumer watchdogs see a steady string of complaints from consumers who hired contractors without checking their background. Local homeowners complain of losing tens of thousands to contractors who took the money, and then took off, doing little work, shoddy work, or work that did not meet code. When you are seeking bids for a construction project, you can't afford not to your due diligence.


Chloe Michelle is the chief web designer at Chloe Design ( a Singapore-based design house specializing in E-commerce Web Design and Corporate Web Development, Search Engine Optimization and Graphics and Logo Design

Renovation Contractor
Contractors Singapore

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