Updated: Apr 12
Have you been dreaming of revitalizing a space in your home or possibly building? There are countless items on your “to-do” checklist, decisions hanging over your head, and that little voice telling you this project can be put off for yet another year. You consider making the project a DIY (do it yourself), with a little elbow grease and a whole lot of luck. That’s when you realize you don’t have the equipment, time, or energy to tear down a wall or rip out the floor. To keep those renovation dreams from turning into a nightmare, select the right contractor to support your mission.
BlueWing co-owner, Landon Shewmake, describes how not all contractors are created equal, "Before becoming a contractor, I had the privilege of hiring amazing men and women in the trades to help with my different projects. Many, I am still friends with today. On the flip side of the coin, I also rode the renovation roller coaster with some of my hires. I have experienced contractors disappearing into the night with the job unfinished (I think they are in the Bahamas now and I still need my door hung), using language that would make a sailor blush, and leaving the jobsite looking like a cross between an ashtray and a frat house."
Empower your search by asking these questions before coming to a hiring decision:
1) Are They Credible?
Make sure the contractor has all the right documentation. If contractors could have warning labels, they would be on those who do not present their Certificate of Insurance and Business License to you upfront. In the state of Tennessee there are a couple of different licensing types. The state offers a “Handyman” license for projects 25k and below and then another license for projects north of 25k. If the project is greater than the license amount, it is not uncommon for contractors with a “Handy Man” license to ask the homeowner to pull the permit or to break up the project into smaller phases to avoid the issue with the licensing limit. This practice is unethical and should be avoided. Make sure you attain proof that any contractor you intend to work with is insured with general liability, which protects against claims of bodily injury or property damage. Proof of worker's compensation is a necessity, as without it the homeowner could potentially be liable for medical bills and lost wages of a worker injured at the jobsite.
2) Do They Have a Portfolio?
Take a look at the website or social media page of the contractor you are interested in hiring. Become a detective and treat their page like a crime scene. Is there any evidence of previous work they have done? Before and after photos are a great way of knowing what you are signing up for. Look for quality craftsmanship to make sure they take pride in the work that they do. Find previous project photos of spaces that you intend to renovate. Hiring a contractor with mostly bathroom remodeling experience to finish a basement is like hiring a giraffe to win a short contest. If they don't have any photos posted of finished jobs, it might be time to move on!
3) Is Trust Established?
As your search for the right general contractor commences, keep in mind that this will be someone who you will work with closely for at least a couple of months. Trust should be established early on. Can you trust this person and their team to be in and out of your home for weeks at a time? One way a good contractor can build trust is by maintaining a clean job site, which is critical for the safety of the workers, the efficiency of the project, and the sanity of the homeowner. Find a team who you know will take all the necessary precautions to create a quality outcome and not destroy your space. A warranty is another great way to establish trust in the contractor/client relationship. Presenting a warranty shows that the contractor will stand behind their work and fix any wrong-doings after the projects completion.
4) Is Communication Professional From The Start?
You will want to find a contractor that is highly communicative and client focused. This is your project, after all. A good contractor who has assembled a team for client support is a mix sweeter than sweat tea on a hot summer day. All of your calls, texts, or emails should be answered in a timely manner and with thoughtful responses. You never want to be left waiting to hear back from a busy contractor for a week at a time. Take a mental note of how the potential contractor communicates with you from the beginning. Are they super attentive and reply to your questions, comments, and ideas? That is who you should be hiring for the job.
5) How Do They Handle Challenges?
It is inevitable that projects will not go as planned. In those moments, can you expect a proactive approach or avoidance? Can you expect a variety of solutions offered or murkiness in what to do next? Can you expect professionalism in communication or emotionally charged conversations? Contractors should have lots of experience with challenges - trust us.
6) What Are The Reviews?
Read reviews and gain insight from previous clients. Reviews are highly important to gather an understanding of the contractor’s credibility and reputation. You don’t want to hire someone who does a poor job. Make sure that a large gust of wind won’t knock your house down by finding some previous clients’ reviews. Listen to red flags when you hear them!
7) How Are The Books Managed?
In a typical remodel project, there are 10-15 finishing selections, sub-contractor bills, rough materials, labor costs, and administrative expenses such as permits. A succinct way to say this is “lots of money.” What system does the contractor have to manage the myriad of costs? This is important for you to consider so that as the client you can be billed correctly. We urge you to pay the right amount for your project and please pay no more!
Now it is time for a Bonus Question!
8) Would I Go On Vacation With Them?
If the answer is “maybe for a short weekend,” you possibly have a winner. If the answer is no, keep looking.
You are now one step closer to the space of your dreams. Feel free to print off this list for your next contractor meeting and be sure to share with a friend. At Bluewing Homes, we are eager to discuss your project and share our responses to the above criteria. Connect with us HERE.
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