Matt and I have DIY’ed our way through so many projects in our own home and all of our flip houses, but there are still projects we aren’t comfortable doing and have to hire a contractor to do. Hiring a contractor used to scare me. I didn’t want to be taken advantage of. I didn’t know if I could trust them. I wasn’t sure if they were “over-selling” me. I wasn’t confident about the quality of work they would do. To be honest, it was stressful for me to hire a contractor. Not anymore. We have had to hire many contractors over the past few years for all kinds of jobs and we have learned so much through the process. I feel so much better about it, and now, I look forward to hiring someone else to do the work. I want to share our tips on how to work with contractors that will ensure the best outcome with every job you have done. These tips will save you a lot of money, time and heartache working with contractors. I would have loved to know all this when we started out. 🙂
How To Work With Contractors
- Do Your Research
If you are hiring a contractor, make sure to do your homework and know what the job entails. YouTube and good ol’ Google are great resources for this. When we hire a contractor for something, we research what the job should be. We want to have a general idea about the work it involves, supplies needed, products used, etc., so that we are knowledgeable when we are talking to the contractor. This gives us more confidence when we are negotiating, it eliminates the contractor selling us something we don’t need and basically, the contractor can’t take advantage of a “lack of knowledge” about the project. This happened one of the first times we needed floors installed that we couldn’t do ourselves. The floor guy tried to tell me that I needed to do something to the floor underneath the new floor. I told him that wasn’t true and the new flooring could go right over the old floor. I was right and saved us more than $500 on that project. Having a general idea of the project will make sure you are getting exactly what you need and it will give you confidence when talking to the contractor.
- Be Specific
Have a plan when you meet with the contractor. When you are explaining the work you want done, be as specific as you can. Again, you don’t want to be sold something you don’t need and you want to make sure the end result is exactly what you thought you were paying for. Before calling a contractor, know exactly what you want.
- Get 3 Bids
I always get multiple bids for anything we are hiring out. My number is 3, but you could get more than that. It is amazing how much money we have saved by getting multiple bids.
- Read Between The Lines
When you get a bid/contract from a contractor, go through it with a fine-toothed comb. You want to make sure everything you want done is included and there isn’t anything else in there that wasn’t agreed on. You don’t want to pay for something you don’t want and you don’t want to be sold something you don’t need. Do not sign any contracts or agree on a bid until you have seen it all in writing and you have read through it carefully. This came into play with another carpet layer. They wanted to charge us for moving boxes off the floor we were getting carpeted (really???), and they were also charging us to remove the old carpet after I told them we would remove it ourselves before the install. Take the time to read any bid and/or contract carefully.
- Know What To Ask
This goes along with being knowledgeable about the project, but make sure to ask a lot of questions. You need to be comfortable about the work that is getting done, the timeline, what’s included, etc. Don’t let the contractor leave until all of your questions are answered.
Just because a contractor gives you a bid, doesn’t mean there isn’t room to negotiate. I always negotiate a better price with the contractor. ALWAYS! They want your business and are usually willing to work with you. If you are someone who has projects all the time like we do, you have even more negotiating power. You can keep them busy more often.
- Ask Your Friends
This is something that I learned going through the flip houses. I would have one contractor come in and give me a price for one project and then I would ask them if they knew someone who could do a different project. I was able to get a long list of contractors just by word of mouth. Ask your family and friends who they have hired for their projects. They are the best reference to use.
- KEEP THAT LIST SAFE
Once you start hiring contractors and you like their prices and their work, keep a list of their contact information safe and sound. This list is gold to you. When I switched phones, I lost my contact list. I literally could have cried, but since I had given the contractor names to family and friends, I was able to get the list back. Guard your list with your life. You have worked hard to find the good ones.
It is never fun to talk about budget (unless you are like me and love to talk about it), but it is the main thing to have in mind when talking about how to work with contractors. You need to have a budget in mind (learn what the budget range should be when you do your research about the project) before you call the contractor. I wouldn’t tell the contractor your budget until he/she gives you a price. He/She may come in way under your budget. He/She may also come in way over your budget. If he/she is way over, tell him/her what your budget is for the project and maybe you can work out a price that works for both of you.
- Don’t Pay Up Front
NEVER pay a contractor until all of the work is complete. A good contractor should be able to pay for the supplies and do the work and then bill you in the end. Some contractors ask for the money for the supplies up front, but if possible, pay in the end (supplies and labor) when the job is complete. We have paid for the supplies up front and then paid the rest of the bill when the job was complete, but we prefer to pay for it all when the job is done.
- Check References
Always check references for any contractor you hire. They should have a list of people you can call.
Make sure the contractor shows you POI (proof of insurance). You want to make sure they are fully insured in case something happen on the job. This is a deal breaker if they don’t have it. Accidents happen and you need to protect yourself and your property.
This may not apply to you if you don’t have a certain time you need things done, but for our flip houses and some of the projects I need completed for my blog work, we usually have a timeline we are working with. This means that all the jobs I need to hire a contractor for, I call early and start scheduling ASAP. There is nothing worse than having everything done on your end, but you have to wait on a contractor to fully complete the job. Know your timeline, plan ahead and start scheduling contractors sooner than later.
I hope these tips on how to work with contractors are helpful. We would have been better prepared in the beginning if we had a resource like this. We would have saved a lot of time, money and stress if we had it.
For us, our goal is to find contractors that we can call every time we need something done. We want a contact person for every job we can’t do ourselves. There is nothing better than having a good relationship with your contractors so you can call them whenever you need them.
If you have others questions about how to work with contractors, please leave them in the comments.
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