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How To Hire A Contractor: 7 Top Tips

Are you planning a gorgeous new remodel? There are a few things you need to know (and do) before it’s full steam ahead on a renovation. The top item on the list: hiring a contractor. Learn all the ins and outs of how to hire a contractor that you can trust for your next home improvement project.

The idea of hiring a contractor often makes novice home renovators squirm. Entrusting someone with such a large project in your precious home is enough to make anyone a little nervous, right? And then, there are so many horror stories floating around to consider.

So how do you find a contractor that’s right for the job and can bring your home renovation dream into reality? As it turns out, I have several helpful tips (9 of them, in fact) to help you through the process, so you hire a contractor that you trust.

But quickly, before we cover how to hire a contractor, what is a contractor?

What is a general contractor?

Do it yourself, home renovation and construction concept with DIY tools, hardware and swatches on wooden table, top view

A general contractor is someone who manages a construction site (or remodeling project) by overseeing the day-to-day operations, managing all the subcontractors who do the labor, and communicating all necessary information to the homeowners.

Or, put another way, they’re your touchpoint person who acts as your go-to for all questions, pulling necessary permits, changes, snags, pricing, etc.

The general contractor keeps everything running smoothly with renovation projects on the job site and helps coordinate different subcontractors in order to meet construction deadlines.

That person will also usually meet with the building inspector at the end of the project to ensure that your building permits pass or understand why if they don’t.

How To Hire A Contractor: 7 Top Tips

Rendering of a home with images of people working in each room.
Bauplan Grundriss Hausbau – Wolfgang Filser [Jede Nutzung ist honorarpflichtig. Veroeffentlichung nur gegen Honorarzahlung, Urhebervermerk und Belegexemplar. Die Verguetung muß erfolgen gemäß der gültigen MFM Honorarliste. Sparkasse Bad Tölz, BLZ 700 543 06, Konto 551 020 81. Kontakt: e-Mail: [email protected]; Telefon: 08042/ 97 87 87 ; Belegexemplar bitte an Wolfgang Filser Lain 30a 83646 Arzbach]

We have been through more home improvement projects than the average homeowner, so we’ve had more than our fair share of good and bad experiences. It’s safe to say that we’ve learned a LOT about hiring home renovation contractors!

I’d like to help make your learning curve easier, so here are my best tips on how to hire a contractor that will do the job right.

1. Plan Your Home Improvement Project In Advance

House drawings with a calculator, pencil and small toy house.
Bauplan Grundriss Hausbau – Wolfgang Filser [Jede Nutzung ist honorarpflichtig. Veroeffentlichung nur gegen Honorarzahlung, Urhebervermerk und Belegexemplar. Die Verguetung muß erfolgen gemäß der gültigen MFM Honorarliste. Sparkasse Bad Tölz, BLZ 700 543 06, Konto 551 020 81. Kontakt: e-Mail: [email protected]; Telefon: 08042/ 97 87 87 ; Belegexemplar bitte an Wolfgang Filser Lain 30a 83646 Arzbach]

If you haven’t heard, there’s a major nationwide shortage of, well, everything! Many supplies are delayed or on backorder – if you can even find them at all.

And labor? Well, many companies just don’t have the help they need, so projects are taking longer than normal. And that’s also translating into a delay in starting new projects.

If you know you want to do a project, plan ahead.

Start interviewing companies and contractors so that you know what you want to do and get on the list in order to get started as soon as possible.

2. Decide Whether You Want To Act As A General Contractor

If this is your first remodel, I would encourage you to hire a general contractor (GC). Managing all the pieces in a home renovation can be overwhelming for anyone new to the process.

So, it would be helpful to have someone who knows construction to manage everything.

At this point, we know the process well, so we no longer need a GC. Instead, we do what we can and work directly with the subcontractors who do the rest of the work.

3. Get Referrals

Pink heart with the word referrals and clothes pins on a table.
Writing note showing Referrals. Business photo showcasing Act of referring someone or something for consultation review Clothespin holding pink paper heart several clothespins wooden floor

Ask friends and family for contractors or companies they would recommend. As you go through the process of how to hire a contractor, this connects you with contractors who are pre-vetted by people you personally know. 

This way, if they had a great experience, you can reasonably expect that you will too!

Don’t be afraid to ask to go over to their house and see the work their contractors did too. It may feel rude or intrusive, but most people are happy to show off a brand-new remodel!

If you aren’t able to find anyone through friends, ask a wider circle of people. Create a Facebook post, or try asking on your NextDoor neighborhood page.

Take those recommendations and start by calling several contractors who have the best reputation before moving on to anyone else.

However, if you still can’t get a recommendation or two from those approaches, it’s time to turn to a paid review service like Houzz or Angie’s List. I’ve never done this myself, but I know some people who have had great success finding a great contractor that way.

Just keep in mind that these contractors will often come with a higher price point to help pay for the advertising costs.

And before you hire anyone, make sure to also read online reviews to vet them even more.

4. Get Multiple Project Bids

Notebook on a desk with the words Bid Proposal.
Bid proposal is shown on the conceptual photo using the text

Get at least 2-3 estimates from different contractors for your home renovation project. Be sure to have them come over and walk through your space.

You should be as specific as possible, including details like: 

  • demoing the wall 
  • rebuilding the wall
  • rerouting electricity
  • texture/drywall
  • paint
  • and more 

Talk them through the project as you describe what you want, then ask them to put together a quote for you. Most contractors get a quote ready after they leave over the course of a couple of days.

Get it in writing! Make sure to have the entire project breakdown with an itemized list of things to be done. Having it all listed out will help ensure that you’re on the same page and prevent confusion or other problems later. 

5. Evaluate Their Professionalism

The process of going through how to hire a contractor is your chance to evaluate each other to see if you’re a good fit.

Pay attention to their professionalism.

Did they show up on time? Did they fully answer your questions? Do they carry liability insurance?

If a contractor is rude, super late (without communicating to you), etc…don’t work with them. That might sound harsh, but trust me on this one. I’ve always had bad experiences when I used these people!

I also recommend checking out reviews on any potential contractor you’re thinking about hiring. Your local consumer protection office, the Better Business Bureau, and other related resources are helpful for finding out whether local contractors have complaints filed against them.

The right contractor for your remodeling project is out there. It just takes due diligence to find them.

6. Come To An Agreement About Expectations

Two hands shaking.
friendly handshake on white background

Once you decide who you want to hire as your contractor, take some time to communicate with that person before work begins to make sure you’re on the same page about certain things.

As you go through the process of how to hire a contractor and drawing up the contract, it’s important to come to an agreement about:

  • the start date and timeline 
  • work schedule
  • down payment amount
  • payment schedule (payment plan, including when they expect final payment)
  • anything else that comes to mind (it’s better to overcommunicate than under-communicate!)

NOTE: Many contractors prefer cash payments. If you agree to this, make sure to come up with some sort of “receipt” that you both sign so you can track how much is given and have proof they have been paid.

Pro Tip: Always read the fine print in any contract. It could spell out hidden cost items and other essential items you need to know.

7. Get Everything In Writing

Contract with a pen.
Pen on the contract papers

Home renovations are notorious for going over schedule and over budget due to finding unexpected surprises once the contractors get into the job.

If you need to make changes mid-project (and you will), a good contractor will give you the details and estimated costs in writing. Make sure you get that!

How To Hire A Contractor: Conclusion

Learning how to hire a contractor can be an intimidating process for someone who has never done it before. However, with these tips, you can feel confident in hiring good contractors and get your renovation completed like a pro!

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Tania Griffis is an accomplished writer, blogger, and interior designer with a Journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma. She started her popular blog, Run to Radiance, in 2011, demonstrating her design expertise through the personal remodeling of six houses to millions of readers across the globe.

Tania also owns The Creative Wheelhouse, a respected ghostwriting agency for bloggers, further showcasing her talent for creating engaging and informative content.

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