Tips on Choosing a Contractor
If you’re in the market for a new home or thinking of remodeling, there are some important points to consider to assure the best results. On this page, we’ll provide you with some tips on finding a contractor, comparing costs, and signing the contract.
Benefits of Using a Professional
Most builders don’t just start building homes right off the bat. They first entered into the home building industry working for a framer or some other related trade. Eventually, they venture out on their own using the knowledge they gained through years of on-the-job training. The same applies to subcontractors.
Knowledge of Building Codes and Regulations:
Whether we like it or not, almost everything we do is subject to regulation. Building or remodeling your home requires permits and must pass inspections. Professional builders and remodelers understand the requirements that must be met.
Established relationships with subcontractors:
Like most businesses, builders have a list of preferred suppliers and subcontractors whom they trust.
Building a new home is a full-time job. Brave do-it-yourselfers can estimate spending at least 35 hours per week on a 1,500 sq. ft. home over the course of about six months.
This can be a tricky task. Builders understand the building process better than anyone and know when to schedule each step (i.e. do you install the toilet first or the flooring?). One sub cannot do their work until another has completed theirs. Having someone who understands the process can prevent delays which can be costly and frustrating.
Builders have the responsibility of correcting certain defects that may occur in a home in the first ten years after it is built. This also applies to homes built with the homeowner acting as the general contractor.
Occupational & Safety Health Administration (OSHA):
Builders must adhere to the construction site OSHA safety requirements and must ensure their subcontractors comply as well. This responsibility is passed on to the homeowner if they choose to build their own home.
Appropriate Insurance Coverage:
Builders know what their liabilities are and carry the required insurance such as Builder’s Risk, General Liability and Workman’s Compensation.
Finding a Contractor
Your home is too important to entrust it to anyone but a professional.
- Interview two or three prospective contractors.
- Seek referrals from friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and others.
- Visit with your lender and local trade association, Home Builders Association of Lincoln.
- Check with the Better Business Bureau.
- Make sure the contractor has Workers Comp and liability insurance.
You should ask for a list of names and phone numbers of their previous clients who would be willing to talk with you. Questions you might ask include:
- Are you happy with the work?
- Did the builder/remodeler do what was promised in a timely manner and within the agreed-upon budget?
- Would you hire this builder/remodeler again?
If the builder or remodeler has an open house, visit the home and spend time looking at the workmanship including cabinetry, trim work, paint, and carpeting. Don’t be afraid to ask questions!
Always keep value in mind when shopping. Just because a project is less expensive does not mean it’s a better value. Likewise, a more expensive bid does not automatically assure higher quality.
Signing the Contract
Find out whether the contractor uses a detailed written contract that protects both of you from any misunderstandings. A written contract must spell out the work that will be performed:
- It should specify all materials to be used in terms of quality, quantity, color, size and/or brand name.
- A payment schedule should also be established. All of these terms should be spelled out in the contract and clearly understood by both you and the remodeler/builder.
- The contract with your builder or remodeler should state that the work is to be performed in accordance with all applicable building codes and zoning regulations. If you are remodeling, check with the Building & Safety Dept. to find out what permits are needed to proceed with your project.
- Do not sign a partial or blank contract! Read each clause carefully and ask any questions you may have before signing. Then, retain a copy of the contract as soon as you sign and file it in your records.
- Any warranty (including terms, conditions and oral promises) offered by the contractor should be in writing in a language you can understand. You should read it carefully. Make sure the written contract includes: the contractor’s full name, address, telephone number and proof of Workers Comp and liability insurance.