A contractor’s skills, experience, and business practices can vary widely, so doing a little research up front can save you a tremendous amount of time, money, and headaches. It’s important to choose a contractor with a reputation of honesty and quality workmanship. Here are a few tips to help you make an informed decision:
Your first contact with a contractor is a good indicator of the level of customer service you’ll receive throughout your project. Did they return your call promptly? Are they courteous, businesslike, and professionally dressed?
A knowledgeable contractor will help you to make important and affordable decisions to achieve the results you want. Ask about the contractor’s work experience and request to see samples of similar work before making a commitment. Do they use only durable, premium products? Do they inquire about your lifestyle and personal preferences? Can they offer comprehensive color consultation? Do they listen to you as well as educate you about the process?
You’ll want to feel comfortable having the contractor work in your home or business. Find out the credentials of their staff as well. Are they experienced and safety-conscious?
What to Look for in an Estimate
For truer accuracy, your contractor should inspect your home or site before providing an estimate. Be sure that your estimate is detailed in writing and includes the full scope of your project, including brands and grade of materials, number of coats, etc. Cost should not be your only consideration. While a low cost may be appealing upfront, it could mean lower quality materials are being used, the contractor has insufficient insurance coverage, or you may sacrifice good customer service. Don’t be afraid to ask for a full explanation.
Insist on Insurance
To protect yourself, be sure that your contractor carries both general liability and workman’s compensation insurance. Homeowner’s insurance usually carries component for workman’s compensation, but there may be restrictions. Ask to see the contractor’s insurance certificates and call the insurance carriers to ensure the coverage is current.
How Will Your Property Be Protected?
Responsible contractors will take preventative measures to care for your possessions and property. Ask them how they plan to address these issues. Will they move and cover your furniture? Do they place plastic over sidewalks and bushes to prevent paint splatters?
Ask to speak with recent clients who have had similar work done. Was the quality of work and materials what they expected? Was the project completed on time and within budget? Did the contractor keep them informed and treat them respectfully throughout the entire project?
Understand Your Warranty
Your contractor should be able to provide a written warranty that details its duration and exactly what is covered and what is excluded for the work performed. A reasonable warranty period for most paint projects is three years. The contractor warranty is separate from the product warranties offered by the paint manufacturers.
Signing the Agreement
Once you’ve made a final decision, a detailed, written agreement protects both you and the contractor. It should include these key elements:
- Starting dates of the project, including allowances for inclement weather
- Project details and affected rooms/areas
- Specific brand names, materials, finishes, etc. to be used
- Total cost and payment schedule
- How change orders will be handled
- Warranty information on materials and labor
Look for a contractor who will do an inspection of the finished project before accepting final payment. Good contractors always strive for customer satisfaction because they know that their reputation depends on it.