When choosing the right contractor for your project your choice should be based on proven experience and skill, customer service, references, and then on price. You are building a partnership with your contractor, and you will work very closely with this person for several months or more. You need to feel comfortable, like your questions and concerns are listened to, and you need to feel that you will enjoy working with this person. Many homeowners try to force their dream into a budget that is too small, and then decide on a contractor who offers the lowest price. In the end, that scenario is fraught with disaster. It will be a painful process that results in an inferior product, delayed by change orders and disappointments.
Pay careful attention for cues that you are being listened to, and that your questions are being answered thoroughly and thoughtfully. A contractor should be taking the lead from you as you describe your vision for the project. Their suggestions should reflect your description of what you want, and you should not feel rushed or pushed into any particular decision. Even small jobs can be fraught with complications and present many judgment calls, so you want to be working with someone who is qualified and approachable.
Finding skilled craftspeople can be tough. Always begin with “qualified referrals” from family, friends and others you may know who have completed a similar project. Your neighbors are also an excellent resource. Most professionals in the industry and specialty retailers can also recommend people. Someone who is familiar with a contractor’s work and can speak about his or her experience with that person is invaluable. A random Internet search is best left as a last resort.
Once you have some referrals, then head to the Internet and check out their websites. While contractors don’t generally have all the bells and whistles on their website, they should have some web presence and a site that is professional looking and sounding. They should also have a project portfolio where you can look at pictures and read customer testimonials about their work.
Before you grab for the telephone, take some time to carefully think through your project. For even the smallest renovation you will have a picture in your mind of what you want it to look like. For larger projects prepare checklists, an outline and timetable, budgets, sketches, magazine clippings and pictures. The best contractor is limited by how clearly you can express what you want done. They aren’t mind readers, so the more time you put into preparing and being able to describe your expectations, the better your project will turn out.
When you talk to contractors, be prepared with questions that will draw out their knowledge and working style. A good contractor should be able to speak with technical expertise and describe their approach to you clearly. Expect to be offered several options for your project, ask for clear descriptions of how the options differ, and the pros and cons of each.
If you are unfamiliar with a contractor, ask for several customer references. Take the time to make these calls and prepare some questions. You want to know if the project was completed on time and on budget, what the contractor and his crew were like to work with, did they do what they said they were going to do, and would they hire them again.
Consider the “fine print” and choose an insured professional running a legitimate business. All the contractors you hire should carry liability and workers’ compensation insurance, protecting their workers and your family. You want to be sure that you are not held responsible for any accidents or mishaps. Be sure you are clear on guarantees and any restrictions involved with the work or products being used. State contract law dictates guarantees on work to some degree, but there are always exceptions. Some contractors are committed to certain product lines, and this may or may not fit your project. Layout your timeline and your expectations for the schedule, as there is nothing worse than having someone fail to show up when expected.
Pay attention to experience and technical expertise, how seriously a contractor takes their business, and how they communicate and present themselves professionally, and you will find the right person for your project.
At Nautilus Construction, open communication and customer service is our top priority as our clients will tell you. Our daily attention to project progress means you can get an update whenever you want one, and you will never feel left in the dark. At Nautilus – you get the owner on the phone – call Chris today so we can discuss how we can help you!
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Chris Legare of Nautilus Construction is a general contractor specializing in Design Build Construction and remodeling. Serving Kennebunk, Wells, York, Saco, Portland, Scarborough and beyond.