Hiring A Contractor Checklist: 18 Key Things To Consider
As a business owner, there are plenty of reasons your office space or warehouse might need repairs or renovations, from property damage to upgrades. Finding a contractor, working out an agreement, and ensuring the job is done on time and at a high quality can seem overwhelming, especially for larger projects. Our checklist for hiring a contractor is a handy way to make sure you’re on top of everything. We’ve grouped the list by category and numbered each item to make it easy to use.
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Experience And Expertise
There are a lot of contractors out there. One of the easiest ways to narrow down your initial list is to look at their experience and expertise.
1. Ask about past projects: Many contractors will have a portfolio or a list of clients on their website. If they don’t, ask them to provide some examples. This can give you an idea of the quality and style of their work.
2. Find the right specialization: Hiring the right contractor means ensuring they have experience in your specific type of project: A contractor specializing in bathroom renovations might not be the best choice to update your building’s stairwells. For large projects, you may need to hire more than one contractor to get the job done right.
3. Confirm years in business: You can often find this information by looking at the contractor’s website – or just asking them directly. Try to find a contractor with at least five years of experience in the specific type of work you need.
License, Insurance, And Credentials
Checking licensing, insurance, and other credentials should be at the top of your list of what to know before hiring a contractor.
4. Determine if they’re licensed: Specifics vary by location and trade, but most states require construction contractors to hold some sort of license. A license can help you determine if the contractor is qualified, as the requirements usually involve passing a test and proving they have insurance. You can check with your city’s building department to verify licensing.
5. Confirm insurance: Contractor insurance doesn’t just protect their business – it also protects yours by ensuring you’ll be compensated for any property damage or injuries the project causes. Contractors should have both workers compensation and liability insurance, and you can check by simply asking for a certificate of insurance. Remember: You never want to hire a contractor without insurance.
6. Check other credentials: Certifications or affiliations with professional associations can indicate a commitment to high standards and continuous learning in their field.
References And Reviews
Any checklist for how to hire a contractor will mention that word-of-mouth is the strongest way to find a reputable company. However, if you can’t find a trustworthy referral for what you need, here’s what to do:
7. Request references: Request at least three references and contact them. Ask about the contractor's timeliness, communication, quality of work, and how they handled any challenges or changes.
8. Look at online reviews: Check online review sites, but be cautious. While they can provide insights, some reviews may be biased or fake.
9. Contact the Better Business Bureau (BBB): You can also contact the BBB for reliable information, like if any complaints have been filed against the contractor.
The Bidding Process
Once you’ve narrowed down your list to a few companies, it’s time to move into the next phase of what to know when hiring a contractor. The bidding process is your chance to learn even more about how each contractor does business and start to iron out the project’s details. Here’s what to do when you receive an estimate.
10. Make sure you understand it: Your contractor should be clear about the scope of work, costs, and timelines.
11. Consider their responsiveness: Evaluate how promptly they reply to your questions. Good communication is vital for the smooth progression of the project.
12. Evaluate their professionalism: Consider the contractor’s demeanor, punctuality, and how they present themselves. This can reflect their overall approach to their work.
Contract And Pricing
Once you move into the contract phase, the document becomes legally binding, which makes this part of the general contractor checklist especially important. Here’s how to make sure your contract is airtight.
13. Include all the details: A contract should contain more details than an estimate, including a thorough description of the project, a list of materials they’ll use, a specific timeline with dates, a budget breakdown, confirmation of permits, and a plan for resolving disputes, like mediation or arbitration.
14. Spell out the pricing: While it's tempting to go with the lowest bid, it may not always be the best choice. Sometimes, a lower price can indicate corners being cut or potential hidden fees. Remember, good work from a licensed, bonded, and insured contractor might not be the cheapest, but in the long run, it can be a better bet than a contractor who does bad work.
15. Understand the payment terms: Make sure you understand the payment schedule. Avoid contractors who want to be paid in cash, demand full payment upfront, or want payment before the project is done. A common payment plan involves an initial deposit of one-third of the estimated costs, followed by progress payments or a final payment upon completion.
During And After The Job
You’ve signed on the dotted line, but your checklist for hiring a contractor isn’t quite done. Make sure you do the following to track the entire project and avoid any problems down the line.
16. File your paperwork: Keep all your paperwork in one place, including the contract, supporting documentation, proof of insurance, blueprints and plans, invoices, change orders, and letters and notes. Any paperwork involving the project goes in the file.
17. Take progress notes: Take note of the project’s progress and any delays that happen. Take weekly photos to document the progress visually. When the job is complete, review it in person before you make your final payment.
18. Get a final receipt: If the work is good quality and the job site is cleaned up, make your final payment and get a receipt marked “paid in full” so you can prove you paid the entire bill.
The Bottom Line
When you’re hiring a contractor, a checklist can definitely come in handy. From initial research to narrowing down your list and seeing the job through, use the above points to make your job a little easier. And remember, your own insurance company is there to help.
Still wondering what to know before hiring a contractor? Need to find your own business insurance? Contact the experts at LandesBlosch for answers to your questions. We have decades of experience working with contractors and can make sure you’re protected before you start your project.
About The Author: Austin Landes, CIC
Austin is an experienced Commercial Risk Advisor specializing in property & casualty risk management for religious institutions, real estate, construction, and manufacturing.
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