There are several ways to locate the ideal building contractor or handyman for your project, depending on the scope of the work. Don’t be blinded by the promise of a low bid or a handyman that wants all the money up front.
For a small job, putting up some up-front money to cover the cost of the materials is fine in most cases, as long as the worker is bonded and insured and you go to the home improvement store with him and write the check on the spot. Don’t hand over the cold cash standing in the doorway of your home.
Looking for Contractors in the Yellow Pages
This is possibly the worst plan of attack in your arsenal of selection options. This is what I like to call “Yellow Pages roulette”. Bad idea. Sure, all the good ones will be in there, but so are all the low-quality fly-by-night types. If you must go this route, focus on the ones with full or half-page ads and look for the little BBB seal of approval graphics.
Focus Your Bid Search on Referrals
This is the best way to get started. You can usually trust the satisfaction level of your neighbors, friends, and coworkers. I highly recommend a service like Angie’s List that relies on consumer satisfaction reports in your area. Yes, you will pay a small fee, but that’s a small price to pay if your remodeling job or new appliance installation goes south.
There are also Internet page banner ads that are posted by services that “get you three free bids online”. Some of these are better than others. One of the popular ones that I’ve seen is called QualitySmith. How it works is this: contractors sign up with the service and either pay a yearly fee or pay a commission on bids that they win.
Either way, the homeowner doesn’t pay for the service. The reliable services actually do all the background checks with the BBB and verify insurance and bond status. Be sure that they do. If not, steer clear.
Note: Why does every contractor or DIY enthusiast need a laser level? Laser levels are one of the most helpful construction tools but you need to make sure that you choose the right one for your needs, one that will last you years. I have been working with laser levels for more than 10 years so I have used just about every laser level out there, you can read my full laser level reviews here.
Evaluating Contractor-Submitted Bids
I always recommend getting at least three bids for any job, but it doesn’t hurt to get more.
As a general rule, and there is nothing hard and fast about it, be wary of both the lowest bid and the highest bid. Also, pay attention to how the bidder evaluates the job. I once landed an exterior house painting contract because I took more time measuring the size of the project and asking more detailed questions than the previous contractor. The homeowner said it gave him confidence in my professionalism and attention to detail.
Before you select your contractor, be sure that you completely understand the concepts of general contractors and mechanics’ liens. The larger the scope of the job, the more important these concepts become. You must protect yourself financially.