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12 Tips on Hiring a Contractor

Whether you are considering a small remodeling project, or a large condominium reconstruction, here are 12-tips you should consider when selecting and hiring a contractor.

  1. Think through what abilities, and skills you are looking for in a contractor.

    1. What kind of job is it? Does the job require certain technical skills; for example, plumbing, or electrical?

    2. If it is a big job, does the contractor have the financial means to perform the job?

  2. Write down the profile of the company you are looking for.

    1. You should be specific about the type of company you are looking for.

      1. Many homebuyers seek to work with a small custom homebuilder because they believe that a smaller homebuilder will be able to deliver a more "custom" home than a large homebuilder. This may be true. However, you should exercise caution. Oftentimes, a small contractor is not able to recruit quality subcontractors to your job because the contractor does not have sufficient work to provide to the subcontractors. Because it is the quality of the subcontractors' work, which ultimately determines the quality of the construction, this may cause you some pause. Additionally, a small contractor may not have the financial means to perform the work: you may find yourself having frequent payment disputes with a smaller contractor because it may lack sufficient financial resources to perform the work.

  3. Shop around. You should compare several contractors. You should not sign a contract with the first contractor you visit before meeting with at least two other contractors to engage in a comparison.

  4. Check the contractor's license. In Oregon, you may verify the contractor is licensed at the Construction Contractor's Board's website.

  5. Select the appropriate people for assessing each of the abilities and skills you are looking for.

    1. If you do not have expertise in construction, you should have someone assist you in interviewing the candidates who does have expertise in construction. This person can be a friend or a hired construction consultant.

    2. Pay attention to people's track records.

    3. Review whether the contractor has any disciplinary history with the CCB. When reviewing disciplinary history, you should be careful to put it in context with respect to the size of the contractor, how many years the contractor has been in business, and what type of construction the contractor performs.

    4. Ask whether the contractor has been involved in a lawsuit previously. However, remember: merely because a contractor has previously been engaged in litigation is not, by itself, necessarily reason not to hire that contractor. The construction industry tends to be litigious.

    5. Ask for references.

    6. Check the references.

  6. Look for a contractor who has a lot of great questions. You want to work with someone who is passionate about your job.

  7. Pay fairly. You oftentimes get what you pay for. Although price is important, you should not confuse price with value. You should seek value.

  8. Get everything in writing.

    1. If you make changes to your original plans, write down each change, even if it is minor, and have your contractor sign or initial the change.

  9. Understand the contract.

    1. A written contract protects both you and the contractor. Put all agreements in writing and avoid oral promises. Ensure the contract includes:

      1. A list of materials to be used, specifying the quality, quantity, weight, color, size, or brand name.

      2. A starting date and a completion date.

      3. The total price, a payment schedule, and whether there is a cancellation penalty.

      4. Everything you feel is important to the project, such as specific materials, complete clean up and removal of debris, and any special requests.

      5. A list of exactly what the contractor will and will not do.

  10. Inspect the work.

    1. If you do not have expertise in construction, have a friend, acquaintance or hired consultant assist you in determining whether the contractor is performing its work in a workmanlike manner and in compliance with the contract.

    2. Recognize that the job interview continues while the contractor is working on your job. If the contractor is not performing adequately, you should consider terminating the contractor. There are thousands of contractors. Although you should be reasonably accommodating, you should not settle if, after witnessing the contractor's work, you would not have hired that contractor.

  11. Pay directly, correctly, and obtain construction lien releases.

    1. Have the contractor supply a list of all subcontractors and material suppliers that will work on the project.

    2. Be certain you obtain a lien release from the contractor, each subcontractor, and material supplier.

  12. Know Your Warranty

    1. Remember: a warranty is only as good as the warrantor.

    2. Generally contractors provide a one-year warranty. Ensure you make any warranty claims in writing as soon as a problem arises. Despite the one-year warranty, a contractor’s liability for construction defects may extend beyond the first year. In any case, do not wait to make a claim upon your contractor or to consult an attorney.


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