Whether you’ve got so much flooding in your basement that you could reenact scenes from the movie Waterworld or you just can’t stand to look at the drab paint on your living room walls, finding the right contractor for a project can be difficult. When the work is completed, you have to live with the results—good or bad. We have provided some simple steps to ease the process and help you hire a company that will leave you with the dream you envision.

Review your project. Before reaching out to a contractor, it’s a good idea to outline the details of your project. Not only should you consider what you want done, but you should also determine how soon you need the project started and completed and how much you can afford to spend on the project.

While your answers will vary based on the type of project, knowing what you want in advance can give the contractor a clear idea of your expectations. Keep in mind that the timetable you set is an estimate, and it should be flexible. Some jobs may require more time if materials are out of stock or if you experience inclement weather. Some contractors will not be able to start work immediately, so if you know that the leak in your roof won’t wait for two weeks, try to pick a company that can start sooner rather than later. However, you shouldn’t settle for a subpar company just because of better availability. Knowing in advance that you have a hard deadline or a more flexible timetable can help you choose the right contractor for the job. When possible, try to plan projects far enough in advance to get a quality company.

Use a trusted source. EBSCO Research was founded in 1997 to help homeowners find top-quality contractors. By evaluating and documenting the experiences of homeowners, we are able to narrow down the best companies for your projects. Each year, we interview thousands of homeowners and record their recent experiences with companies in nine major metropolitan areas. We rate each company based solely on the research performed by EBSCO Research employees in our research center.

Companies that are deemed a Best Pick™ are invited to participate in our publication. Each Certified Best Pick™ has to receive more than 100 reviews and maintain general liability and state-required insurance as well as any required licensing for its field. Each year, companies must requalify in order to maintain their status.

If you’re not in one of our markets—Atlanta, Birmingham, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, Maryland / DC, Northern Virginia, or Philadelphia—use the steps below to help narrow down potential companies.

NOTE: If you decide to use another method to select a contractor, it’s important to still perform research on each company you’re considering. While there are other services that advertise similar methods, double-checking their claims will ensure that you are choosing the best company.

Research potential companies. Once you have an idea of what you need, you can start to compile a list of contractors who can perform the job. It’s helpful to talk to people who have had similar work done on their homes. Not only can they refer you to a potential contractor, but you can also learn about the process before you experience it for yourself.

Once you gather a list of potential contractors, the real research begins. It’s important to answer the following questions to determine if the company you’re considering is right for your job:

  • Does the company have a brick-and-mortar office or a home office?
  • How long has the company been in business? Is it family owned?
  • Does the company have the proper insurance and licenses for their line of work?
  • Is the company a part of any professional organizations?
  • Has the company won any awards or earned any certifications?
  • How experienced is the company with the kind of work you want done?
  • Does the company have any customer reviews?
    • Were the homeowners satisfied with the work?
    • Was the work completed on time?
    • Did the homeowners experience any issues with the company? If so, were these issues resolved?
    • Did the homeowners have any communication problems with the company?

Ideally, you should pick a company that has significant experience with the type of work you want performed. And if you encounter problems after the project is completed, you’ll want a company that will be there in the future to help you through any issues. Check if the company has any complaints filed against them—professional licensing bodies will often list on their sites any complaints against the company or an individual, along with the details of the license, such as license type, expiration date, and issue date. While price is important to the decision-making process, you should not choose a contractor on price alone. A low-priced contractor may seem attractive, but you could be sacrificing reliability and quality.

Interview potential companies. After you’ve narrowed down your list, begin contacting companies to discuss the specifics of your project. At this point, you can relay your vision to the contractor, and the contractor should give you project details and a cost breakdown. You can use this discussion to address any concerns you have and get an idea of how the project will be completed. The contractor should be able to tell you when to expect the work to be done (morning, afternoon, daily, weekly), if there will be one or more contractors working at a time, and if there will be a supervisor to manage the team. Also, the contractor should inform you of how the job will be performed—Will they pressure wash the house before they paint? Will you need to move any furniture out of the way? Will you need to provide materials before the job begins?

After the initial conversation, the contractor should provide you with a written description of the work that will be performed, along with the estimate and timeline. Companies should offer a guarantee for their work, and you should not be required to pay for the total cost of the project up front. Be wary of companies that require cash only.

Hire the chosen company. After you have reviewed two or more bids from companies, choose the company that best meets your needs. All project details should be in writing along with any verbal commitments made earlier in the sales pitch. Before you sign the contract, read it thoroughly and ask questions about anything you don’t understand. Once you sign the contract, you are obligated to follow through with the signed agreement, so be careful before you make a commitment.

Whether you’re hiring a contractor to beautify your home or to complete some much-needed repairs, you want to hire the most qualified people you can. It’s important to do your research before opening your door to any company. A poorly chosen contractor could invite problems that you will have to live with later down the road. The right contractor can help relieve some of the stress associated with the home improvement process. By thoroughly researching companies and asking the right questions beforehand, you can identify contractors that are the best pick for you and your home.

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Source: EBSCOhost Home Improvement Reference Center: Landscaping & Lawn Care.

For more information on our sources, please contact us directly.