Tom Shafer

10 questions to ask yourself before hiring a home improvement pro

March 24, 2014

Nervous your remodeling project is going to turn into the kind of disaster you see on home improvement shows? Your anticipation or anxiety to see the process get underway could depend on who you hire to complete it. Once you've gotten some quotes from contractors, how do you decide who to hire? Well, you can start by asking yourself these questions:

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How soon do you want to begin this project?

  1. How did you find the contractor? You may decide you trust a personal recommendation more than finding someone through an ad or commercial. On the other hand, if you've been able to see some of the contractor's work, the method in which you first were introduced may mean less than the quality of the finished product.
  2. Is a slick, easy-to-navigate website important to you? An up-to-date site where you can see completed jobs, featured products, and the history of the company can go a long way toward building trust.
  3. Were you offered financing? If you need financing, then carefully consider the terms being offered and o your research on the contractor's past jobs. It could be that what the company really sells is money and the project is but a means to an end.
  4. Have you seen examples of the contractor's work firsthand? This already has been mentioned several times but it still deserves it's own question - it's that important. Look for yard signs at a job site around your neighborhood. Ask the homeowners if they were satisfied with the work, if you can possibly view what was done, and what their experience working with the company was like.
  5. Was one estimate you got significantly higher or lower than the others? If so, don't hesitate to ask a few follow-up questions about the cost breakdown.
  6. Did you like the contractor? This one may sound simple, but that gut feeling can be meaningful. Once you've seen some of the contractor's work and know it's up to your standards, think back to your first meeting. Did you get along? Would you be comfortable having this person in your home?
  7. Which products does the contractor use? If you are getting replacement windows, the person you hire needs to tell you the name of the manufacturer(s) he or she works with. If you can't get an answer to the question, it may be a red flag. Why? Well, the home improvement pro you're thinking of hiring may tell you what you want to hear concerning thermal performance, durability, and warranty, but you should check the manufacturer's website to verify the windows have the features you want.
  8. Are the samples shown to you clean and up to date? If contractors can't take proper care of the samples of the products they're selling, it may make you wonder if they'll keep your home clean. On that note, glance at the car or truck the contractor arrives in. If it's covered with paint drippings and general construction debris, you may want to do some deeper digging into the pro's reputation.
  9. Do the contractor's laborers work directly for him or her, or are they subcontracted? Subcontractors are fine, but make sure that the dealer has enough to finish the job.
  10. Is the contractor high pressure, almost forcing you to sign a contract before he or she even leaves your home? That could be a sign the person you're interviewing works on a high commission rate and might have simply told you what you wanted to hear to make a sale.

Home improvement need not be a never ending nightmare, as it often is depicted on television. With some investigation and careful selection, it can be a great experience.


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