Home Improvement / Repair Estimates

When you think you may have found a general/building contractor to hire, there are some simple steps to follow before committing to hiring them or signing any contracts. Make sure to ask for contact information of previous customers they have worked for. Phone, email or call round and visit these people to get an idea of the quality of work done and the person’s opinion of the contractor. Don’t just take the contractor’s word that the people were happy with the job.

They should be happy enough to chat with you if you explain to them why you would like to talk with them. Most people like giving their opinion, good or bad, about something they’ve been involved in. Be prepared before contacting them by making a list of questions that are important to you, some examples might be:

  • If they needed more work done in the future would they hire the same contractor again?
  • Was the quality of the work satisfactory?
  • Did the contractor clean up at the end of each day or just leave the place in a mess?
  • Was it easy to communicate or discuss any issues with the contractor?
  • Were there any unforeseen problems or last minute changes in the project, and how did the contractor handle these?
  • Did the contractor finish the work punctually and on budget?

These are just some examples and you’ll probably have some specific ones related to your own priorities.

When to get a general contractor

If the work you’re planning on getting done will involve more than three different subcontractors, then it’s probably better to go for a general contractor who can deal with all aspects of the job or project. They’ll have more influence over subcontractors, may have access to discounts through their suppliers and you will only have to deal with one person when coordinating things for the whole project.

How to evaluate bids

The first step is to get several estimates from local contractors for the work you have in mind. These can then be further refined into bids once everything has been discussed and taken into account. A good estimate should contain details of all the work that will be carried out, materials required, necessary labor and the length of time to complete the job.

Spending the time at this stage getting several estimates and then evolving them into bids with more detail, plans and exact dimensions can take some time and a lot of discussion, but if it’s a large enough project for hiring a general contractor then it can also be the opportunity to save big bucks on the project by making sure that everything is stipulated and clear before things get underway. Once you agree on a particular bid, that then forms the contract for the construction costs and work.

Compare all bids based on the same specifications and details of work. If everything is well planned beforehand, then once the project gets underway, the likelihood of unexpected problems is much less and therefore the probability of having to stump up more cash than expected, or suffer from delays, is also greatly reduced. Also, making changes because you thought of something after starting the project is usually more complicated and more expensive than including it from the start. 

Guide to hiring a contractor - Part 3 (Contracts)