September 17, 2021

Hiring a great contractor is the first step to extraordinary

Whether you’ve only heard horror stories of remodeling projects that have gone wrong, or you are a survivor of such a project, you can appreciate the importance of finding and hiring the right contractor. Not sure how to choose? Here are some suggestions.

Hiring a great contractor
There are significant differences among painting companies. Several variables can account for this difference, including a focus on quality and service, the level of experience and expertise, employee and leadership commitment, and company philosophy. A good painting company will offer a professionally managed project, resulting in a paint job that will look great for many years to come. Weakness in any one variable will likely produce an opposite effect.

Finding the right contractor is probably an essential part of any home remodeling project, though perhaps most challenging. With the internet full of company listings, you maybe wondering, “Who should I call?” Maybe a better question is, “What company has the right expertise, and can I trust them to do a good job on my project?”

Your primary concern is your prospective bidders’ ability and trustworthiness at the initial stage of the contractor selection process. Unfortunately, an internet listing will provide few clues to those two crucial qualifications. Get referrals from friends, relatives, or anyone else whose judgment you trust. Ask your prospective bidders a few pre-qualifying questions before inviting them to view your project. And find out if they are appropriately licensed and insured.

By law, contractors who make home improvements must have a valid contractor’s license. To get this license, applicants must verify they have experience and pass an exam testing their trade knowledge. If a company does not have a contractor’s license, it may lack expertise.

State License Boards are consumer protection agencies that license and regulate contractors. Use only licensed contractors. If you use an unlicensed contractor and have an issue, resolving your complaint may be more difficult. Your sole remedy may be in civil court, and you may be liable for damages arising from injuries to the unlicensed contractor or the unlicensed contractor’s employees.

The value of proper insurance coverage can’t be fully appreciated until something goes wrong. The law requires that all contractors carry General Liability insurance and have Worker’s Compensation coverage for their employees.

This brings us to another important point— trustworthiness. If the contractor must be licensed and insured, can they be trusted to do what is needed on your project if they do not have a license?

You can quickly check the status of a contractor’s license. Still, when insurance is concerned, the only way to verify the current insurance policy is to require certificates of insurance—for both General Liability and Worker’s Compensation. These can be sent to you directly by the contractor’s insurance broker. The broker will typically do so at no additional cost to you or your contractor.

Having a contractor’s license and insurance does not guarantee that your contractor will perform. Still, with this knowledge early in the process, you can avoid spending time with someone who is perhaps wholly unqualified.

A good question to ask your painting contractor is the length of time they have been in business. Don’t ask how long they have been painting. The right question is, “How long have you been in business as a licensed painting contractor?” Length of time in business doesn’t guarantee good performance. Still, it can give you a clue as to the company’s stability, and more importantly, it would be a sign of the contractor’s track record.

You should also assess contractors themselves. There will be telltale signs. Did this contractor return your phone calls and emails promptly? Were they on time for meetings? Are they easy to communicate with? There are horror stories of disappearing contractors who become impossible to reach, so decide now whether this is someone you trust. After the proposal is received, there will be even more signs. Did the proposal arrive in a timely fashion? Does it reflect your job description, and does it state clearly what the contractor will do?

With all proposals in hand, now it’s time to compare them. Carefully review all bids and your notes on every contractor.

At this point, you may feel that you have a clear winner and are ready to award the contract. However, we recommend that you take it further and investigate their track record. You can check with the Better Business Bureau to see if they have a history of complaints. Ask to speak to a couple of their recent clients. If this is an exterior paint project, you should ask for a list of homes painted in the neighborhood. 

From your short interaction with a contractor, it may be challenging to know if this company has the capabilities you are seeking. Finished projects, past client testimonials, and personal recommendations may be your only accurate indication that they have the right stuff.

To summarize the contractor selection process:

  • Put together a list of contractors.
  • Pre-qualify all contractors on your list.
  • If licensed, insured, and experienced, proceed to the next step.
  • Get comparable proposals.
  • Investigate the winning contractor for their previous job performance and customer satisfaction.
  • If the track record checks out, award the project.