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7 Biggest Mistakes in Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor

Here are 7 common mistakes people make when choosing a contractor. Find out how you can avoid them, and choose a professional you’re much more likely to be glad to work with.

Finding a good home improvement contractor is sometimes like finding a needle in a haystack. Which professional should you choose to refinish your basement, remodel your kitchen or build a garage? When you look at websites, ads, and business listings in Bowie, you may not know how to pick from all the listings.  You want someone you can trust, good quality work, and a price you can afford.

Here are 7 common mistakes people make when choosing a contractor.  Find out how you can avoid them, and choose a professional you’re much more likely to be glad to work with. 

1. Going for the lowest price
Lower is not always better.  The lowest price contractor is not necessarily the best contractor.  There’s a reason that the cost is low, and you pay for it in other ways, such as inexperience, delays, or mishaps.

2. Skipping on checking the contractor’s credentials
Check that the contractor has license and insurance. If a contractor’s insurance has lapsed, or his license has expired, your investment in your job will not be covered in the event of any unresolved mishaps. Your contractor should be able to show you all credentials with expiration dates upon request. Check the contractor’s Better Business Bureau status for reputation verification.

In Maryland, you can check for active licenses at the Department of labor, Licensing and Regulation.

3. Ignoring your instincts
Is the contractor punctual?  Did he honor his timelines when coming to do your estimate?  Did the contractor call first, or was he a no-show the first time?  Trust your instincts if there are any immediate red flags.

4. Not checking references
Ask for references and follow up on them. Past customers may give you more transparent feedback if you promise to keep it anonymous.

5. Not knowing the difference between an estimate and a bid
Is the contractor giving you an estimate or a bid?  Know the difference.  An estimate is a contractor’s best approximation (based on experience) of what the particular job will cost. This leaves things open and you may be billed for additional costs the contractor incurred for unforeseen circumstances related to the job.  The more experienced contractors are better at avoiding/minimizing this issue. A bid is a contractor’s proposed commitment to perform a specific job for a specific price regardless of the circumstances. Therefore a bid for the exact same job from the exact same contractor may be slightly higher. Consider it like paying for insurance.

6. Not checking your schedule
Before making an official agreement, get realistic start and finish dates to be listed in the contract you will be signing. Avoid conflicts with any personal deadlines you may have. Do you have special scheduling considerations? Check your personal calendar and your work calendar.

7. Not asking questions, especially about guarantees and warranties
Be clear on the contractor’s guarantees & warranties. Ask: What will the contractor do if you are not happy with the work?  What materials and appliances are covered under warranty? Make sure you know what timeframe you have to work out any problems that may come up after things are installed. 

It might sound like you have to do a little homework to find a good home improvement contractor.  But it’s worth the effort.  There’s nothing worse than having to pay for an expensive project, only to have to do it over to correct problems.  Finding a qualified licensed professional gives you the best chance of avoiding home improvement hassles and enjoying great results instead.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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