They're in the phone book, in mailers, in newspapers, even knocking on your door. But how can you tell if a contractor is the right person for your job? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Consumer Protection Division offers these tips on selecting and hiring contractors.
Where to look
Home improvement and repair and maintenance contractors often advertise in newspapers, phone directories, and on the radio and TV.
- Don't consider an ad an indication of the quality of a contractor's work.
- Get written estimates from several firms.
- Ask for explanations for price variations.
- Don't automatically choose the lowest bidder.
Talk to former customers
Your best bet in finding a contractor is to talk to friends, neighbors, or co-workers who have had improvement work done. Talking with some of the remodeler's former customers can help you decide if a particular contractor is right for you. You may want to ask:
- Can I visit your home to see the completed job?
- Were you satisfied with the project?
- Was it completed on time?
- Did the contractor keep you informed about the status of the project, and any problems along the way?
- Were there unexpected costs? If so, what were they?
- Did workers show up on time? Did they clean up after finishing the job?
- Would you recommend the contractor?
- Would you use the contractor again?
Types of home improvement pros
Depending on the size and complexity of your project, you may choose to work with a number of different professionals:
General contractors manage all aspects of your project, including hiring and supervising subcontractors, getting building permits, and scheduling inspections. They also work with architects and designers.
Specialty contractors install particular products, such as cabinets and bathroom fixtures.
Architects design homes, additions, and major renovations. If your project includes structural changes, you may want to hire an architect who specializes in home remodeling.
Designers have expertise in specific areas of the home, such as kitchens and baths.
Design/Build contractors provide one-stop service. They see your project through from start to finish. Some firms have architects on staff; others use certified designers.)
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