6 Things to Do Before Hiring a Contractor

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By: Heather Boag
Published: May 6, 2014
Last Update: February 10, 2023

We’ve talked a lot about home renovation projects, including when you should do-it-yourself and when you should hire a pro instead.  If you do decide that a professional contractor is the way to tackle what needs to get done in your home, it’s important to hire someone who is honest, reliable, and has the technical know-how to get the job done right.

These contractors do exist, however, they can be hard to find.  Once you make the decision to hire a contractor, what can you do to ensure that you’re working with one of the good guys?  Click ‘Next’ to read our 6 tips to find out.


1. Get Recommendations

Your friends and family are a great resource when it comes to recommendations.  If someone you know has recently had renovated their home, ask them about the contractor they used and whether or not they would work with them again.  Of course, you should also turn to Google+ Local reviews as a way to identify well-recommended contractors in your area.


2. Talk on the Phone

With the recommendations you received from family, friends, and your online sleuthing, you’ve probably got a shortlist of contractors that you could potentially work with.  Now it’s time to give them a call to narrow down that list even further.  Ask whether or not they take on projects of your size, how many other renovations they’ll have going on at the same time, and the length of time that they’ve worked with their subcontractors.  The answers to those questions – and any others you’d like to ask – will reveal their availability, reliability, and potentially how smoothly the work will go.


3. Meet in Person

Based on your discussions on the phone, choose three or four contractors to meet for estimates and further discussion.  As you talk in more detail about the project you’d like them to complete, make sure you have a sense that they’re listening to your needs and have the skills and knowledge to complete the work.  It’s crucial that you’re able to communicate effectively with the contractor you choose.


4. Compare Bids

A good contractor will want to get a sense of what you’d like to see out of your project, and your budget.  Ask each contractor to break down the cost of materials, labor, and other expenses if possible so that you’re comparing apples to apples.  However, price shouldn’t be the only factor that you consider.  Beyond technical competence, you want someone that you’re comfortable with – after all, they’ll be in your home every day until the renovation is complete.


5. Set a Payment Schedule

Be weary of any contractor who wants half of their money upfront, as that could be a sign they have financial problems, or that they’re concerned that you won’t pay the balance upon seeing their completed work.  For large projects, most contractors typically ask for about 10 percent at the contract signing, with three payments of 25 percent evenly spaced over the duration of the project.  The final 15 percent is due when the project has been fully completed.


6. Put it in Writing

Ensure there’s a contract that details every step of the project, including your payment schedule, start date, projected completion date, and the specific materials and products to be used.  If there’s anything in the contract that you don’t understand, be sure to ask before you sign on the dotted line.  Insisting on a clear contract isn’t about mistrust, it’s a way to help ensure a successful renovation.


If you’ve decided to hire a contractor, it’s important to take your time to find someone who not only has the technical skills needed to complete the work, but also who you feel comfortable with being in your home for the duration of the work.  It’s important that you work with a contractor that is reliable, honest, and well organized.  Following our 6 tips can help you to find a quality contractor.