The horror stories abound. You’ve likely heard many of them. A homeowner enters into a remodeling or renovation project that they’ve long dreamed about, only to have the dream project quickly morph into a nightmare. And all because of the contractor they selected.
Most contractors are talented and honest people. Most are as concerned with completing your job properly as you are. But not all. Every profession has its share of bad apples, and the contracting profession is no exception.
There are contractors, unfortunately, whose overriding priority is to separate you from your money. There aren’t many like that, but they’re out there. You’ve got to be on the lookout for them.
And there are also contractors that are completely honest and earnest, but lacking in experience. You need to be on the lookout for them, too – unless you want your home to become a training ground, and your money to fund on-the-job training.
You can save yourself a world of headaches just by asking ten questions of any contractor you’re considering hiring for your basement remodeling project. Satisfactory answers to each of the below means that you’ve likely come across a jewel of a contractor. Latch onto him (or her), and launch into your project with great confidence.
- How long have you been in business? What’s a good answer to this question? That’s pretty subjective. But you’ll know a bad answer when you hear it. And you’ll know an evasive answer when you hear it, too. And evasive is bad.
- Are you bonded and licensed? Licensing alone doesn’t assure that your contractor won’t let you down in some way, but it does increase the odds that you’re not dealing with a bad apple. And if things do go wrong, you have more recourse for recompense with a bonded and licensed contractor than you would with an unlicensed contractor.
- Are you insured? Accidents happen. And they happen to everyone – no matter how skilled, talented and honest they may be. If your contractor doesn’t carry sufficient insurance, you might be held liable for any injuries or damages that may occur. Ask to see proof of the contractor’s insurance, and make certain that the insurance includes worker’s compensation coverage.
- How many employees work for you? The answer to this one is also rather subjective. And there’s really no wrong answer. But here’s what you should know: If it’s a very small operation, it’s likely that the contractor will rely on subcontractors to complete parts of your project. That’s not necessarily bad, but you’ll want to ask about the subcontractors that will be used.
- Will you provide a written quote? What will your project cost and when will it be finished? If the contractor refuses or hesitates to put it in writing, that’s a major red flag. Move on to the next candidate.
- Can I visit some of your past projects? Past projects completed properly can offer you some assurance that the quality of work the contractor promises will be delivered.
- Will you handle getting the required permits? Somebody is going to have to do this. You’ll want to know whether the contractor’s price includes handling this chore. And if the contractor tells you that no permits are required for your basement remodeling project – it’s time to move on to the next candidate.
- Are you experienced specifically with basement remodeling? Basement remodeling is rather unique. It calls for some specialized knowledge and skills. If a contractor has years of experience and lots of satisfied customers but no experience with basements? Keep him in mind for future projects. But for this project, find a contractor with experience in basement remodeling.
- Will I receive a detailed scope-of-work and a guaranteed price? A simple verbal agreement about the scope of the project along with a written quote isn’t enough. Misunderstandings about the scope of work can easily occur. So it should be absolutely clear what will be done, and what it will cost.
- Can you provide references? Lots of happy past customers means it’s much more likely that you’ll become a happy past customer.
Check With the BBB
If the answers to all the above are satisfactory, you’ve probably found yourself a qualified and reputable professional for your project. But before you hire the contractor, do one more bit of vetting: check with the Better Business Bureau.
A couple of complaints lodged with the BBB don’t necessarily mean that your prospective contractor is a bad apple. After all, there are two sides to every story. And sometimes the consumer is the bad apple in a dispute scenario. But if the BBB has recorded a history of disputes and complaints against the contractor you’re considering, it’s probably best to move on to the next candidate.
No doubt, it’s time-consuming and troublesome to go through a thorough vetting process for every contractor you’re considering hiring. But that trouble is just a fraction of what you’ll be exposing yourself to if you throw caution to the wind and hire without vetting. That’s how dreams get turned into nightmares.