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How To Hire a Contractor

Have you lived with the imperfections for years of a cramped deck, an ugly patio, an ineffective sprinkler system, or an overgrown mishmash of landscaping? Have you dreamed of having an outdoor kitchen, a Pergola, a stamped concrete patio, or a fireplace constructed? If so, there are many things to consider before you hire your next contractor.

Do you want the one of the best contractor’s available, or are you going to settle again for the cheapest in town?

How important is insurance that your contractor carries? What about his Certifications, his training, his reputation in the community, and his awards? Are any of those important to you?

Before letting the new construction begin, these questions need to be answered. If you're looking to begin any project from a minor upgrade to a major remodel, the following information is for you.

Undertaking an outdoor remodel of any size can be an exciting prospect. Many customers get so excited about starting a new outdoor remodel project that they end up jumping in too quickly with the wrong company. Don't skip the preliminary stages of hiring the right contractor. Do your homework, plan carefully, and follow these steps:

Get a clear idea of what you want. A good contractor will be able to help you improve upon your idea, but if the picture of what you want is too vague, trying to convey your vision to someone else is bound to be more difficult.

Create a realistic budget. If HGTV says that you can build a new deck for $1,500; well, you might be able to, if you do it yourself, but if HGTV is the only source for your numbers, then plan on investing significantly more for the same deck from a professional contractor.

Have a specific budget range number in mind on what you are able and willing to invest on this project, and will you be able to afford everything at once, or will it need to be accomplished in phases over a few years? Then, when you begin meeting with contractors, tell them what your budget range is, and allow them to tailor a plan for you that maximizes the value of your budget.

Give yourself time to qualify and select. If your patio though is caving in, this might not be an option, but for many other remodeling projects, early planning will give you time to closely examine prospective companies. If your project is for the outdoors, during the peak season months of February through October; expect a great contractor to be booked up with appointments for 1-2 weeks in advance, and to be booked up with projects from 1-3 months in advance; depending on the scope size of the project.

So, if you call on March 15th for a project you want started on March 20th, to be completed by March 30th, it is not very likely that many great contractor’s will be able to accomplish that for you. Give yourself, and them, the time needed. For projects that you want completed by April 1st, make your 1st call no later than Feb. 1st. If you want your project completed by July 1st, make your 1st call no later than April 1st.

When you hire a contractor, getting to know who's out there and what they can offer is a key element in many successful remodeling projects. If your contractor has 100’s or 1,000’s of satisfied customers with testimonials, and has local community or industry awards, industry certifications, and is a preferred contractor with vendors; then it is a pretty safe bet that your experience with that contractor is going to be a rewarding experience.

Get multiple bids, if you can. Unfortunately, many small contractors in today’s world provide lousy service and will be out of business in a few years. Choose companies for your bids that have a reputation for showing up for appointments, providing timely written quotes, and a willingness to work with you on your budget, whether or not if it is in phases.

Check for licenses and insurance. Most states require remodeling companies, electricians, plumbers, and roofers to be licensed and insured. There are some exceptions for smaller projects, but any large undertaking should definitely be done by a licensed, insured contractor.

Ask for testimonials. A great contractor will have excellent testimonials, and will be happy to share them.

Check the background of the contractor. Sometimes even the most careful planning and examination can still lead you to hire a contractor that is less than what you expected. Identifying that you've hired the wrong contractor early will waste as little money and time in firing them, in order to start over and hiring a better one.

Assess punctuality. Does the contractor promptly return your phone call the same day? Do they try to reach out to you by e-mail, and texting? Those are all great things. Did the contractor show up for his appointment with you on time? Did you receive a written quote on a timely basis? If yes, these are signals of a well-run and highly organized company.

Understanding how to hire a contractor is a task that takes some practice; the more you interview prospective contractors, the better you'll get at it.

Remember, it's worth the time to do the work before the project begins. It's your home, and you have to live in it after your contractor has moved on to the next project. Great contractors respect this and want you to be as happy with their performance on the job as you are about the finished product.

If you're elated with the finished project, there is a good chance that you can be a testimonial for them to get more work in the future!

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