Seven Things to Consider Before Hiring a Contractor

Are you thinking about remodeling your home or starting a backyard patio project? If you’re not a detailed or ambitious person, you may need to hire a contractor to perform some or all the work. Do your homework and be crystal clear with your remodeling or landscaping contractor to reduce miscommunication and expensive errors. Here are some time-tested tips from, the world’s leading online legal resource:

1. Does it make sense?
Before moving too quickly, ask yourself if it makes sense to remodel. Are other neighbors enhancing the exteriors of their homes and improving their yards? Are you preparing to sell your house or planning to stay a while? While an important move, remodeling and landscaping can be expensive, and you may not fully recoup your investment.

2. Do your homework.
Before calling a contractor, figure out what you want. Visit showrooms, talk to friends and neighbors who have recently remodeled, or read home and landscaping magazines. Start a notebook to collect your ideas, product information, and samples.

3. Build a budget.
Keep in mind, especially when remodeling an older home, there may be unexpected surprises (such as plumbing or electrical) that could drive up costs. To be on the safe side, add 20% to the generally recommended costs of a remodeling project.

4. Get a recommendation.
When searching for a contractor, word-of-mouth is a reliable method. Ask your friends and family if they have worked with a contractor or landscaper recently, or reach out to your real estate agent for a professional they recommend. Make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded, and insured. Always get at least three proposals from different contractors and compare the details.

5. Check your permits.
Be wary of the contractor who says you don’t need to pull a permit from city hall for your project. A permit represents the minimum construction standard set by a local community and protects the homeowner from shoddy construction or landscaping practices. If you live in a historic neighborhood, there may be more restrictive guidelines to follow.

6. Get it in writing.
Never agree to hire a contractor, even if it’s your brother-in-law, on a verbal agreement. Always insist on a contract. Be precise about what services will be performed and due dates. Specify what products and materials will be used. Spell out when payments will be made to the contractor, and clarify your rights if the work is not completed to your satisfaction. If need be, contact an attorney to review the document before signing.

7. Be completely satisfied.
Never pay for the entire project upfront before construction begins. In most cases, you’ll put down 25% of the total project before it starts, then make payment portions at milestones up until its completion. Withhold your final payment until the project is completed to your satisfaction.