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How To Choose The Right Contractor

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

Well,'s finally here. If you've been following along for some time now, you know we've been working on getting our bathroom renovated and this Thursday is DEMO DAY!! WHOOHOO!! I'm literally counting down my showers in that bathroom!

Here's a quick rendering I did for Mr. The paint color is still uncertain but you get the idea.

A little backstory: In March I moved in with Mr and his three dogs, two boys and a cat. The bathroom had been neglected to no ones fault of their own, simply because life happened. It's the original bath from when Mr purchased the house some 17 years ago and it's been my least favorite space since we started dating,...good thing he's handsome. Let me tell you, when this man said we could renovate, it was like Christmas and my birthday had come early and on the same day! "You're in charge" he said. Well, duh!

I found all of my materials, in stock, in a day. Since all the contractors I work with on projects are far away from the wilderness we live in, I reached out to someone I know that had done work at my parent's house and my brothers place. He came over, we had a nice chat and I gave him ALL the info. In a few days we got a bid!! Great!! I sent him the materials list and we got another bid. A little higher than he had estimated but still fine. Then we started talking about starting work and everything went down hill. The excuses started to come and the bid, you guessed it, grew again. This time by $3,500.00 for things like having to go to more than one location to pick up materials or making sure we had a toilet at the end of each day, in what he knew damn well, is our only bathroom. Give me a friggin break, man.

We spoke on a Tuesday, about 8PM, when I had called about starting work the next day, only so he could tell me we weren't and hung up with a promise that he would call me the next day to discuss scheduling. In the mean time, I emailed him about some changes to the scope of work since Mr's head was about to pop off from increase after increase. Two weeks later, when I still hadn't heard anything, I reached out. "One of my guys has Covid. I can't do the job right now". I never did get that revised bid. I guess "one of your guys having Covid" means you can't send an email.

Honestly, when he didn't call me the next day, I knew he wasn't the guy for me. Enter Facebook. I posted a request on our community page and BAM - in a day I had several great contenders to choose from. Here's how I came to my final decision on who to hire:

Licensed and Insured:

These folks are pulling your house apart!!! Even the most thoughtful and careful contractors make mistakes so, I would say, this is one of the most important questions to ask when hiring someone to work in your house. Not only could someone fall or get injured but they could very seriously damage your property and you must have some recourse set up so you don't get yourself sued or end up with a giant repair bill that you'll be responsible for. Make sure you ask for credentials - don't just take someone's word for it. Follow up locally to ensure that they have the proper paper work in order. The same goes for any subs they might be bringing onto the job,

Check Referrals and Complaints:

Ask around. Search the Google listing for customer reviews. Check the Better Business Bureau. Ask to speak to clients and subs. Was the final cost close to the proposed bid? Do they pay their subs on time?? Did they show when they said they would? Was the work completed close to the time line given? Ask for a portfolio of completed projects. If you'd do research like this on where to get the best tacos in town, don't you think the same should be done for someone whos going to mess with the electrical work in your house? Research, research, research!!

Know What You Want and Get Several Bids:

Contractors will happily come by for a free consultation and give you a bid. Get to know your project so you can speak about it confidentially when chatting with a prospective contractor. If you find that you're not familiar with the ins and outs of, say, a kitchen renovation, take notes at the meetings so you can give this information to the next guy. Always, always, always get everything in writing, This will be your best back up should trouble arise down the road. Make sure to review any and all bids for consistency on the labor and materials and if you have questions, don't be afraid to ask...IN WRITING! Don't hire the contractor with the lowest bid just because they have the lowest bid. There's a reason they're cheap and you don't want to find out why the hard way. Set up a pre-determined payment scheduled outlining the deposit, any progress payments and when the balance will be due.

Vibe Check:

When I had originally reached out to our contractor, I emailed him a scope of work and asked that he reply back just so I was sure he'd received it (this was actually a test about following instructions and responding to my requests). And he did, unlike ALL of the other guys I'd reached out to. When he said he would have a bid to me in 48 hours, he did. When we made an appointment for him to swing by the house, he said he would call me at 3:30 to confirm and he did. When he said he would be here at 6PM, he was. After we met our contractor, I knew he was our guy. He had a good vibe and he felt like "our people". After he'd proven to be a man of his word by following through with the little things, we felt confident that he could follow through with the big things. There's nothing more important than feeling like your contractor has your best interest at heart.

Red Flags:

As with anything, there are a few things to look out for when choosing a contractor. Are they constantly running late? If so, they may be frazzled, disorganized or have too much on their plate which could mean your project will not receive the care and attention it should. Are they a smack talker about old clients, vendors or subs? They clearly have no respect for the folks that keep them in business. If a contractor wont allow you to see previously completed work, speak to subs or contact old clients, ask yourself why. If the work is good, and the folks the contractor work with are happy, there is no reason to keep you in the dark, Take a peek at a portfolio. If those images are subpar, imagine what the work that didn't make it into the portfolio looks like. If more than a few of the folks you reach out to give you a poor review, believe them!! It's never everyone else's fault!

Deciding to do work in your house is a huge undertaking, even when its a small space so it's super important to make sure you choose to work with people who are knowledgeable, reliable and honest!

Bets of luck!!

PS - I once signed up for one of those Hire A Contractor types of websites to get leads and you know what? They, in no way, checked my credentials. They just took my word for it that my business was in fact a business and that I was in fact qualified to do the job I was selling. If they aren't checking up on designers, do you think they are checking up on plumbers, electricians and GC's? Its so important to always do your own research!!!

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