How to Hire a Contractor for Home Improvement

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Hiring the Best Contractors Near Me

When tackling a major home improvement or renovation project, people often enlist the help of a professional contractor. A contractor is responsible for coordinating and completing every step of the project, from estimating costs to securing permits to completing and overseeing the hands-on work.

Contractors can tackle a wide range of remodeling projects, including roofing, siding, decks, basements, and bathrooms. They may also hire subcontractors for more specialized tasks such as plumbing and electrical services.

If you’re seeking help for a home improvement project, you may be wondering: How do I find qualified, professional contractors near me? Read on for more information about finding a local contractor, including costs, the scope of work, and key questions to ask.

Cost of Contractors Near Me

Best Contractors Near Me: Cost of Contractors Near Me

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General contractors typically charge a fee that amounts to 10 to 20 percent of the total cost of construction. It’s determined by factors such as cost of labor, materials, insurance, and more. The national average cost for hiring a contractor is $4,000, according to HomeAdvisor, but can be as low as $250 and as high as $58,000, depending on the scope of the project. Rates will also vary based on location and whether your contractor works with local suppliers for your project. General contractors pay on your behalf for labor and materials, so if they can negotiate a lower price for material and shipping, you will ultimately be responsible for a lower total cost. Rates also vary greatly based on the size and scope of a project. For example, hiring a general contractor to remodel a bathroom typically costs between $1,000 to $2,000 (in addition to the cost of the project), while building a house can cost up to $58,000 in general contractor fees alone.

Common Issues a Contractor Can Fix

A contractor can assess and repair many issues a homeowner might face. Generally speaking, if there are concerns regarding the structural integrity of the home, calling a contractor is the smartest move.

Common problems include:

  • Roof damage. Harsh weather, aging shingles, and lack of regular maintenance can all contribute to roof damage. It’s best to call in a contractor quickly, especially if the roof is leaking or if shingles have blown away.
  • Broken window seals. Insulated glass unit (IGU) windows that are exposed to a lot of sunshine are susceptible to broken seals. Any other damage to the sealant material is likely to require the expertise of a contractor. Broken seals can prevent a home’s windows from keeping out air and humidity. While this is not a major emergency in terms of safety, gas and electric bills can rise until the issue is addressed.
  • Attic insulation or structural issues. Too much or too little insulation in attics and insulation with cracks or openings to the outside won’t be as effective in regulating heat and cool air. Additionally, storms can cause water penetration and pest infestations here. It’s advised to consult with a contractor as soon as possible.

When hiring a contractor, it is important to look for the right kind of contractor for the job. For instance, a general contractor does not typically do electrical or plumbing repairs—these would fall under the skill set of an electrician and a plumber, respectively.

Best Contractors Near Me: Do I Need a Contractor?

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Do I Need a Contractor?

Depending on the situation, you may not need the expertise of a contractor. However, in some cases, such as in certain emergencies or when a project requires expert experience, hiring a contractor near you may be necessary.

Emergencies

Certain home emergencies will require the expertise of a contractor. For example, broken windows and leaky roofs should be addressed by a professional as soon as possible to prevent further damage. However, smaller maintenance issues that don’t impact the structural integrity of your home don’t necessarily require a contractor. A faulty electrical outlet, for instance, can typically be replaced by a handyman or homeowner. Basic toilet issues, such as a worn or damaged flapper valve, can be repaired by the homeowner using off-the-shelf repair kits. The best rule of thumb: Call in a professional if these emergency repairs are above your comfort or skill level, or if past repair attempts have not been successful.

Non-Emergencies

Contractors can and often do work on nonurgent home repairs like exterior upgrades and interior remodels. Some of these repairs can be necessary before a home inspection. For instance, if you’re purchasing or selling a home, it’s best to call a contractor to address any issues that could come up during a home inspection. Separately, major home remodeling projects typically require a contractor’s expertise, as these often require multiple permits and professionals to get the job done. Simple cosmetic repairs, on the other hand, can typically be taken care of by the homeowner or a handyman. Painting, basic lawn maintenance, patching holes, and cleaning out gutters or the garbage disposal are all tasks that don’t require the expertise of a contractor.

Other Considerations

For large-scale home improvement projects, such as a renovated kitchen or new siding, it’s best to call in a contractor. Their expertise and connections can make the process significantly easier, allowing homeowners to turn their dreams into reality.

A professional contractor’s work can reap the following benefits:

  • Increased home value: For those looking to sell, hiring a contractor to renovate a home’s interior and exterior can really pay off.
  • Improved curb appeal: Whether a homeowner is looking to sell or just wants to make improvements for themselves, exterior improvements like roofing and siding can boost curb appeal.
  • Transformed aesthetic: Oftentimes, homes are purchased with the design sensibilities of the previous owners. Contractors can help homeowners transform their homes into ones that are more authentic to their own aesthetic.

Best Contractors Near Me: DIY vs. Hiring a Professional Contractor

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DIY vs. Hiring a Professional Contractor

With all the above considerations in mind, homeowners often wonder whether it’s best to hire a contractor or tackle the project themselves. In some cases, taking the DIY approach can reduce costs; in others, having a professional handle the work is a better investment.

If a home improvement project falls within your skillset, hiring a contractor may not be a necessary expense. Most homeowners can confidently tackle cosmetic repairs, including painting interior walls and installing certain kinds of flooring. Those with basic carpentry, electrical, and plumbing skills can take on even more projects and repairs. Researching a project can help bridge any skill gaps for basic projects.

For more complicated projects, a homeowner can certainly do the necessary research and even attempt to complete the project on their own. However, expenses can add up quickly, especially if mistakes are made and need to be repaired along the way. This is especially true for projects that need to pass a home inspection and require permit approval. This is the time to critically evaluate your skill level and the amount of time you can invest.

Generally speaking, a homeowner should call in a professional in the following circumstances:

  • The home is producing unfamiliar sounds and smells that cannot be attributed to any other factors.
  • They do not have the time to devote to completing the project, including obtaining the necessary permits.
  • They do not have experience in this particular area of home improvement.
  • Safety is at risk.
  • The project needs to pass inspection or it could present a problem in a future home inspection.

Best Contractors Near Me: How to Find a Reputable Contractor

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How to Find a Reputable Contractor

When hiring a professional contractor, it’s important to conduct thorough research. A contractor should have the necessary qualifications and experience to complete the renovation project effectively. Here are some factors to consider when hiring a professional and tips for how to choose judiciously.

  • Look for a professional with an established business and reputation. If you aren’t sure where to begin, ask for recommendations from friends or acquaintances who can speak to the contractor’s work and skills.
  • Ask for estimates from more than one professional before making a final decision. Be wary of contractors who promise significantly faster time frames or lower costs than the others, as this may signal an inferior quality of work.
  • Ensure the contractor has the necessary certifications, qualifications, and experience to complete the home improvement project. Verify their licensure through your state board, check their professional references, and reach out to the local Better Business Bureau and local credit bureau.

Additional factors to consider include geographic location, type of residence, and personal budget and timeline.

Questions to Ask Your Local Contractor

Asking a local contractor the right questions at the outset can minimize miscommunication and help get the results you want. Here are some recommended questions to ask a contractor throughout the home renovation process.

Before hiring a contractor and starting the project:

  • How long have you been in the industry? Do you guarantee your work?
  • What is the estimated cost and timeline for completion, including cleanup? Can you provide it in writing?
  • Have you completed other similar projects? If so, what challenges may arise, and how will you address them?
  • Can you provide your contractors’ license(s), insurance, and references?
  • What is the payment agreement structure?

During the project, if there is a problem:

  • How will you fix this? What are the next steps?
  • What additional costs/time will be added?
  • What do you need from me to expedite the process?

After the project:

  • To whom do I address payment?
  • Where can I leave a review or testimonial? (Like many service businesses, contractors rely on word-of-mouth referrals and will greatly appreciate a recommendation if you are satisfied!)

Best Contractors Near Me: Questions to Ask Your Local Contractor

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FAQs

Hiring a contractor can be a confusing and daunting process, especially for first-timers. Here are some frequently asked questions along with their answers to help guide you in your decision to hire a contractor.

Q. What do I do when a contractor doesn’t finish the job?

If your contractor doesn’t finish the job, a first step is to compile the necessary paperwork and evidence that the contractor is not working in a timely manner or has completely abandoned the job. Then, it’s recommended to consult a lawyer before formally firing a contractor and asking for a refund.

Q. Do contractors give free estimates?

Generally, contractors will give free estimates depending on the size, nature, and complexity of the job. Contractors are likely to offer free estimates for smaller jobs like window cleaning or painting.

However, for larger tasks, you may be asked to pay a fee ranging anywhere from $150 to $1,000. Elaborate projects like a home renovation or remodel may require a consultation, which is a multiple-step process that includes formulating plans, drawing up designs, and even visiting the space, which can be both time-consuming and resource-intensive. Similarly, an estimate is less likely to be free when the task involves diagnosing the source of a problem (such as a leak) in addition to treating the problem itself.

Q. What is the difference between a general contractor and a licensed contractor?

Typically, a general contractor can handle most home improvement or repair projects. This person may or may not be licensed. If a general contractor is licensed, it means that this person has experience, knowledge, training, and certifications or licenses. It’s advisable to opt for a licensed general contractor rather than an unlicensed one; unlicensed individuals may not be able to offer insurance, such as workers compensation insurance, in the event that a worker has an accident while working on your property. A contractor’s license doesn’t just serve to ensure that this person’s work is up to code—it also protects the homeowner from liability.

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