How to select a contractor:

Hiring a skilled licensed contractor, that uses skilled professionals/workers, will provide quality of work.

Contact the office of the Department of Consumer Affairs.

They will provide you with information regarding the companies overall performance.

Contact the Better Business Bureau.

This bureau will provide you with a report on the companies reliability and other business transactions.

Visit the company’s place of business.

This is a good opportunity to determine whether or not you are dealing with a reputable firm. Meet the staff and the owners so you can get a feel of the companies operating practices.

Check all insurance certificates.

Make sure they are up to date with sufficient coverage. Get references.Get the names and addresses of one or two jobs that are presently in the works or have recently been completed.

Check suppliers.

Contact one or two of the contractor’s suppliers. Speak to a representative as to how the contractor pays their bills.

Issues to consider:

When hiring a contractor, there are some issues that might be of help for you to consider. We have listed some of them here:

Longevity of the company
Type of work the company does
Size of the company
Licensing and Professionalism
Workmanship and Recommendations

Longevity of the company

We must understand that experience does not mean the time the company has been in business. When we see a company advertise 30 years experience that may well be, but the company itself may only be in business for three months. Hardly a company worth considering on a major project. If the company has not been established for several years, it is doubtful that it has arranged and streamlined all of its procedures and work crew adequately.

Type of work the company does

Although this seems obvious enough, it is unfortunate that many homeowners overlook this. Even though a company may be in business for 30 years and can prove it, the company may specialize in some other type of work rather than what you them for.

Size of the company

This is a hotly debated issue. Many customers that we have helped over the years used to believe that dealing with a smaller firm is best. Their reasoning was as follows: Smaller company = lower overhead = lower cost to me Smaller company = more personalized attention to my project and my needs Smaller company = more care in the work they do

While the above may sometimes be true, we have found that unfortunately the old expression, you get what you pay for, rings true here. While lower overhead can mean lower cost, it is almost always true that is does not lead to better service, or for that matter better workmanship. Smaller companies cannot offer the same type of service that a larger company can. They do not have the support of staff to oversee the project, handle the business, take care of service calls, order materials, schedule workers, deliveries, materials, etc.

Another factor not often considered when dealing with smaller companies is the risk involved. Generally, smaller companies are owned by an individual, with virtually no back office support to help in case something goes wrong. Questions to ask yourself when hiring this type of contractor are:

  • What if something happens to this guy? A car accident, a vacation, a broken leg, a death in the family?
  • Will my project start on time like he promised? 
  • What if something happens in the middle of my project, will it continue, or am I just left to my own devises? 
  • Will the contractor return to work at all? 

These human conditions, unfortunately, are the most common problems with hiring a small company.

Licensing and Professionalism

We all know and have been advised that you should always deal with a licensed contractor. However, what you may not know is that a license does not ensure you a proper job. In the State of New York, there are virtually no requirements to become a licensed home improvement contractor. There are many organizations such as the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) that train and educate the industry to become Certified Remodelers. By attending and passing these instructions a contractor can show his professionalism. We believe that a homeowner should only deal with professionals who have credentials from at least 3 valid organizations and prove it!

Workmanship and Recommendations

Undoubtedly, one of the most important aspects of choosing a remodeling company is the workmanship that they can provide. Many homeowners’ try to evaluate this by getting two or three references from the contractor. Although this is widely recommended by many pundits, we respectfully disagree with this approach. If you ever heard the story of a homeowner who hired the same guy who did a beautiful job next door, but then did a lousy job for him, you will understand our point of view. There are at least three reasons why we feel this way:

  • When your neighbor recommends a contractor to you, the neighbor very often doesn’t know himself if the job was done properly. Very often the recommendation is too recent. The job is not even a year old. Show me that same roof 5 years from now, or the same bath, or dormer……….. You get
    the idea.
  • Even the worst contractors out there can find 3 or 4 jobs he did well. Possibly even his aunts, uncles or cousins job, that he did not even do!
  • The job next door, or the ones shown to you, may have been done by the same company, but by different work crews who are no longer with the company. Many of the smaller companies hire sub-contractors, and some of them even try to find the cheapest ones.

We believe that if all of the other issues we mentioned above are taken into account that the workmanship will naturally flow.

We have listed below some of the questions that you should ask a company when interviewing them, in addition, there are questions that you should be asking yourself as well.

Questions to ask the contractor

Do I have to be home during the work? Who supervises the job? Is someone always there? Do you use sub-contractor’s?

Questions you should ask yourself

When I called was there an answering machine during business hours? If so, the company may not be as big as you think. When I called were they courteous and responsive? Was the appointment made in a reasonable time period? Did the company show up on time for the estimate? Did the company answer any questions that I had as to the project or give me advise? Just these simple things are all that is needed to start the process of comparing one company to another.