Whether looking to finish basement square footage or update and remodel existing square footage, make sure you follow the “basic five must-do’s.” If you bypass any of these, you may become one of those unfortunate customers who feel taken advantage-of or ripped off. With so much information available there is no reason for this to happen other than you didn’t do your homework. Treat your home like the investment it is by following these basic steps in hiring the right contractor for your project.
First, cross-reference your research. The internet is the basic source for home improvement contractors in today’s market. Many have their own web pages, which may offer customers a wide variety of important information including licensing and bonding, business background, designs of past work, photos, referrals and testimonials. Established contractors put themselves “out there” through established forums. Remember, it doesn’t cost money to get listed on KSL.com. Search engines such as Google and Bing are good sources to begin a list of potential contractors. Once a list is established, call and schedule a bid appointment.
Second, when meeting the contractor to establish a bid, verify that they are in fact, state licensed and bonded with liability and commercial insurance as well as Workers Compensation. To think this is of little importance, or to think you will get a lower price by side-stepping these important requirements is like crying foul to an empty audience.
Third, ask the contractor his thoughts on permitting. If applying for a building permit is brushed off as an unnecessary cost deemed to only slow down the construction process, this is your red flag. A building permit should be insisted upon by the contractor. It protects the contractor just as much as the homeowner.
Fourth, establish work experience. Experience includes everything from who will be performing the work, an approximate schedule of completion, communication between customer and contractor, ethics, and finished project. It also includes guarantees on work and product used. It is imperative, whether a contractor is hired for a small job or one costing tens of thousands of dollars, and remember, you get what you pay for in most regards. This doesn’t mean you need the most expensive contractor, but you do NOT NEED the least expensive. You will usually get what you pay for. If the price is too good to be true…it is…too good to be true.
Fifth, ask for and seek out references. Read comments by customers on google sites such as Craig’s list, KSL-Classifieds, and on the contractor’s web page. Also check with local vendors such as lumber, plumbing, and lighting supply houses who deal with reputable contractors. These suppliers know who’s who in the contracting community and can usually help you find the right one. Remember, even if you know who you want to hire, and that contractor is well-known, reputable and highly recommended, do your due diligence by requiring yourself to meet with and obtain at least two other bids. The end result is you establish for yourself that the contractor you hire is the best for your project.
Todd Cella is the President of Utah Basement Kitchen and Bath, a basement finishing contractor. He lives in Layton with his wife and 4 kids.