Hire the Right Contractor!
Let’s face it… you can’t always do it yourself. Some times you will need to hire a professional contractor. Contractors are not all the same and the following paragraphs will help you choose the right one!
The first thing is choosing who to come out to your commercial property or house and provide you with estimates. You can find contractors many ways. I suggest asking colleagues or friends if they have had any similar work and who they used. Referrals from manufacturers are also a good place to find certified or approved contractors, most will have a special section on their web site to research their approved contractors.
When you are calling for an estimate, ask if they offer free estimates. Most contractors will give out free estimates. Call several contractors. Your goal is to have two or three estimates to choose from when making your decision. When contacting a contractor for an estimate you will need to qualify them. Ask if they provide the service you need. Ask if they have liability insurance and workman’s compensation. Ask if they have a license, if required in your area. If they answer No to ANY of these requirements, thank them for their time and move on.
When speaking with contractors, either in person or over the phone, you should take notes. Use a separate sheet of paper for each contractor’s notes so you don’t become confused who said what. If you don’t understand something, swallow your pride and ask for clarification on the topic. Tell the contractor your goals for the project and ask his advice of the best way to achieve those goals.
Ask for an estimate from the contractor. Always demand this estimate in writing. Ask the contractor to include any statements he may have verbally made such as, “this will last ten years” or “we apply two coats”. Your written estimate should be detailed. If you have a question, ask. If you want a revision then ask for one. This estimate will become a binding contract once you sign it. Leave nothing to interpretation or assumption.
When comparing the estimates look at more than price. Price is the last thing you should be concerned with because it’s not what you pay it’s what you get for your money! Contractor ABC may be trying to sell you a poor quality job for a high cost, while Contractor XYZ may be trying to sell you a high quality job at a moderate cost. You have to compare “scopes of work”. This is why you need a detailed estimate. You can not make a decision until all contractors are bidding for the same scope of work. Scope of work and quality of materials will determine price.
Always ask for proof of insurances and licenses. If the contractor has them he should have no problem providing them to you. This is not an option, always insist on written documentation. Always ask to see similar work. Ask to speak to past customers.
Investigate, Investigate, Investigate. The Attorney General of Illinois lists construction and remodeling contractors as the 3rd most complained about industry in Illinois. This is because some people may make un-educated decisions based on lowest bidder and are upset when they find out why the bid they choose was the lowest. Call the insurance company listed on the certificate that was provided to you. Make sure the policy hasn't lapsed. Call the state licensing board. Make sure the license wasn't’t revoked or forged. Drive by these addresses and take a look, if it’s exterior work. Check with the Better Business Bureau, Attorney General, Chamber of Commerce or any affiliations local contractors may have and ask if the contractors have any complaints.
A note about licenses; Licenses are not required in all areas but are required for Roofing in Illinois. A "limited" roofing contractor license is acceptable for residential roofing, however commercial or industrial roofing require an "Unlimited" roofing license in Illinois. Insist on seeing a copy of this license and/or check out your contractors at the IL department of Financial and Professional Regulation web site. (http://www.ildfpr.com)
Now you know you are dealing with reputable contractors. Now you know all contractors are bidding to do the same work. Who do you choose? Do you think it is safe to go with the lowest price? Maybe; But who has the better guarantee? Who has more experience with this type of work? Who took the time to really make sure you understood the process? Who do you feel more comfortable speaking with? Do you have a hard time contacting any of these contractors? If you have a hard time in the sales process, imagine the response (or lack of response) you will get if you make a warranty claim!
How far apart are these proposals in price? If they are all essentially the same scope of work by legitimate contractors then they should all pretty much be in the same ball park money figure. If not, you have to ask yourself why. Better yet, ask the contractors why.
After you have qualified all of your potential contractors, you know they are all worthy of your business, the contractor that earns your business is the one you trust the most. TRUST.
Written on December 12, 2003 by Thomas Kral, the founder of Reliable American, Inc.
Contact Thomas for your free estimate or for further information.
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