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Secrets to hiring a good contractor, and warning signs of a bad one

A home improvement contractor shares her secrets to make sure you hire a good contractor who will finish the job and not overcharge you.
Posted at 7:18 AM, Mar 11, 2024

If you’re thinking of freshening up your home this year, the good news is that the shortages and delays of the past few years are mostly over.

However, you can still run into problems. The first mistake to avoid is hiring the wrong person to do the job.

Contractor Hannah Wells, owner of REP General Contracting, put the finishing touches on a full bathroom remodel. She is turning what had been a dated '90s room with a wall of mirrors into a showcase bathroom.

"This is a beautiful quartz ledge we have installed," she said, talking of the state-of-the-art quartz countertops.

She has also replaced an old-school garden tub, surrounded with tile, with "a sleek new modern deep soaking tub," she said. But finding someone to redo your bath or kitchen can be tough, especially with labor shortages.

How to find a top-quality contractor

Wells says to find the right contractor:

1. Start by getting referrals from friends, neighbors and your neighborhood Facebook group. Once you get a few names, Wells says check the Better Business Bureau report on each one, paying particular attention to complaints against them, and how the contractor responded.

"That is going to be the best and most authentic proof that there is somebody that is reputable and qualified," she said.

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2. Then, she says, get multiple quotes for the project in writing, and never just a verbal quote.

"Get several quotes to see what ideas each contractor has," she said. "It’s essentially free education."

3. Pay in stages along the way, never paying all the money upfront, where they have no incentive to finish the job.

4. She says don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions as work progresses.

5. Look for a contractor who isn't afraid to show off their work on social media, as she does.

"I have found a lot of success being completely transparent with our projects on the internet," she said.

Their website and social media should show a lot of before, after, and work-in-progress photos.

"It should be a firsthand representation of the quality of work that they offer," she said.

Red flags to watch for

However, Wells shared some red flags to watch out for, such as a contractor who claims they're insured but can't show you the paperwork.

"Don't just take his word for it," she said, "ask him to provide a certificate of insurance."

Another red flag is a contractor who gives a quote that seems too low.

"If it's cheap and it's fast, it isn't going to be good," she said.

Finally, she says decide if you want a contractor who does the designing themselves or hires it out.