Beginning home improvement projects or repairs can be daunting, especially when it’s time to decide which company to hire. There’s a lot to consider when choosing a contractor, and you may not realize how important the initial communication can be.

In any circumstance that involves the exchange of large sums of money—but especially when your home is involved—protecting yourself and your interests should be paramount. Ask as many questions as you need to ask, and pay attention to your intuition. If something feels off for any reason, don’t be afraid to end the discussion and move on to the next company on your list.

So how do you get started and ensure that you hire the right contractor?

One of the first steps is knowing the pitfalls to avoid. Even if your situation is time sensitive, try to put your deadlines aside for a moment so that you can stay level-headed as you reach out to contractors. And since that initial phone call can be intimidating, take a look at the following recommendations for what to avoid when you contact a contractor for the first time.

1. Don’t Call Contractors Before Vetting Them

contractors installing drywall in room

Don’t contact just any company.

You want a contractor you can trust, so you should only call reputable companies instead of wasting your time talking to those that lack the proper experience or qualifications. Look for a company with a proven track record—quality work, years of experience, and satisfied customers. The company should also hold any insurance or licenses required by the state.

If you’re unfamiliar with the Best Pick certification, know that any contractors on our website must meet the insurance and license requirements of the states they service, and they must also carry general liability insurance, even if not required by the state. Verified customers of each Best Pick company are independently surveyed to ensure that the company continues to meet our high customer satisfaction and quality of work standards.

2. Don’t Call Before Researching Your Job

Investigate the problem.

If you’re seeking a contractor because something in your home needs to be fixed, make sure you find out possible causes and reasonable solutions for the problem before picking up the phone. You’ll want to have a meaningful conversation with the contractor instead of feeling overwhelmed by terminology or wondering whether the contractor is making up more work than is necessary. You can find dozens of helpful articles through our website and in your copy of Best Pick Reports.

Know what you want.

If you’re hiring for an extensive project, you should have a firm budget in mind as well as specific ideas about what you want done, including a list of materials. You don’t want to spend more than you can actually afford because you got caught up in a contractor’s sales pitch.

You’ll probably want to hear a contractor’s potential solutions and design ideas, but you won’t be able to evaluate those ideas very well if you haven’t yet figured out your own vision for the project.

3. Don’t Hire the First Contractor You Call

Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.

Call more than one contractor. If you want to find the company that is the best fit for you, you will want to talk to and meet with multiple companies, especially if you’re undertaking a bigger project, like remodeling. It’s good to get at least three written estimates so that you can make an informed decision.

4. Don’t Proceed Before Asking the Right Questions

construction workers installing wall frame

Cover the who, what, when, where, why, and how.

Have a list of questions ready to ask each contractor on your list, and ask the same questions to each company so that you can accurately compare your options. You can also ask some of the same questions to each company’s references to hear their feedback.

Not sure how to phrase your questions to each company? Here are some ideas to help you get started:

  1. How long have you been doing this type of work?
  2. Can I see proof of your licensing and insurance?
  3. Who will be doing the work?
  4. How are the crew members supervised? Will a supervisor be on-site every day?
  5. How often does the crew clean up the jobsite?
  6. When will you be able to start the job? What’s your estimated time for completion?
  7. Will you coordinate permits and inspections, if necessary, or is that my responsibility?
  8. Who should serve as my primary point of contact if I have questions or concerns? What is the best way to contact that person?
  9. What are the terms of payment?

For bigger projects, it’s always good to request the contact information of several clients who have had similar work done. Ask for their honest feedback about the quality of the work and their experience with the company—both positive and negative.

5. Don’t Allow Yourself to Be Bullied

You don’t have to do anything.

Be wary of anyone who tells you that you need to make an immediate decision or sign a contract right away. Don’t make a decision simply because you’re in a high-pressure sales situation or are offered a “today only” incentive; a reputable company will allow you time to research your options and gather other bids.

The Bottom Line

Home improvement projects can be a lot of fun, but they can also be stressful, especially when you’re not quite sure how to hire a contractor. Use the questions and recommendations above to help you avoid common mistakes, and take your time as you find a local contractor who will do the best job possible. All of this legwork on the front end will pay off with high-quality work and a good experience.

For helpful tips and more information to consider before you sign a contract, check out the Best Pick Reports blog for articles on home improvement scams and reputable contractors.