Top 15 Mistakes When Hiring Contractors

Although it may be obvious, every activity on this list should be completed BEFORE you hire a contractor.  The minute you sign a contract you immediately lose the negotiating leverage to define the relationship and the outcome of your project.  It seems logical that most of your energy should be applied to the EXECUTION of the project.  In reality the biggest impact you can have on the success of your project is during the PLANNING phase before you choose a contractor.    An apt saying is “failure to plan is planning to fail.”  With that said let’s look at the list from bottom to top.

15.  Not checking into what licenses and permits the contractor needs.  I’ve seen a contractor or two cut more than a few corners in this area.  This is not “set it and forget it” so do your homework.

14.  Not checking the contractor’s license, bond & insurance.  The “right” contractor should be able to quickly provide supporting documentation.

13.  Not asking for and checking references.   It takes time but it’s worth it if you want to avoid a multi-thousand dollar (or more) disaster.

12.  Not giving the contractor clear guidelines for working in your home.  Having contractors work in your home feels invasive at times.  Minimize this by providing clear guidelines for them while they are working on your project.

11.  Not reviewing completed projects by the contractor.  Before you sign take a tour of  projects your contractor has completed.

10.  Not checking for complaints.  There are many tools available to you online from the State Contractor Board to Yelp.  Spend a few minutes researching.

9.  Not understanding how and when the contractor expects to be paid!  Know if your contractor expects to be paid in cash, by check or by credit card and what amount is expected up front for materials.   NEVER pay the final amount until you’re 100% satisfied with the job performed.

8.  Not meeting face to face.  You learn so much about a contractor when you meet them in person.  Make it a priority and get a second opinion from your spouse or a friend.

7.  Not asking for an itemized bid.  It’s hard to compare apples to apples if you get one lump sum figure.  It’s also impossible to know what they will be doing unless you have a written and detailed bid itemizing the work and the materials that will be used.

6.  Not getting clarity.  Fixed price or an estimate?  This one has bit me in the butt once or twice.  My seven year old niece can provide an estimate.  A pro provides a fixed price or at a minimum a price range to allow for unforeseen issues.  Confirm the price.

5.  Not knowing who will perform the work.  The person writing the proposal is not necessarily the guy who will do the work.  Find out who will be on the job site.

4.  Not getting three (3) quotes.  You’re asking for trouble if you don’t know the high, middle and low job estimates.  If your prices are all over the board it might be that you’re not being clear about what you want accomplished.

3.  Not having a detailed contract in place BEFORE any work begins.  Put it into writing because  memories can fade quickly.  Having a written agreement will help avoid misunderstandings and conflicts.

2.  Not knowing what YOU are responsible for.  When you don’t have a clear understanding of what the contractor will and won’t do as part of his/her scope, you’re asking for trouble.  Inevitably you will be responsible for some parts to keep the project on track.

1.  Not trusting your gut!  If something feels wrong it probably is.  Listen to it and walk away.

Avoiding all fifteen of these every time you hire a contractor is difficult to do.  If you have to nail just one of these make sure it is to always trust your gut.  When I have ignored my intuition and pushed forward anyhow, I have frequently paid the price.

Happy Hiring and Disaster Avoiding!