Is Your Contractor Up to the Job?
Posted by George Lonergan ,
When meeting with a contractor for the first time, you want to get a good feel for their level of professionalism. This is going to be a business relationship and you will be paying professional fees and you should expect professional behavior and a quality end result.
Your first meeting with a potential contractor is a job interview for them and they should present themselves that way. Things you should make note during the meeting include:
Appearance: When the contractor arrives at your home for the first time are they wearing clean clothes, have they shaved, combed their hair, is their vehicle clean and neat and does it have the appropriate signage to meet local by-laws? The signage is important because it shows the legitimacy of the contractor. In Massachusetts the regulations regarding what signage must appear on contractor’s vehicles includes:
The name of the company and the city or town where the company is located
The phone number
The professional license number must appear on the vehicle
The lettering must be at least 1.5 inches tall
Some municipalities also require email addresses
Communication: Do you receive informative responses to your questions during the initial meeting? Does the person explain themselves or just answer ‘yes’ and ‘no’?
A great question to ask about your project is, “If this were your home, how would you do it?” Even if you don’t have the technical knowledge to fully evaluate the reply, the answer should show the person’s ability to communicate clearly and give you a feel for the scope of work you need.
Punctuality: Does the contractor arrive on time for the meeting? If you were going for a job interview that mattered to you wouldn’t you arrive on time? There’s no doubt that things come up; but if they do, is the delay handled professionally and with courtesy. Were you called and told that they were going to be late? If they don’t show up when they say they will when they are trying to get your business, it could get even worse once they have your deposit in hand.
Additionally, it is a good idea to exchange email addresses so that the contractor can send you the written estimate and you can ask any forgotten questions. You will also want to get two or three referrals from customers they have done similar work for in the recent past.
Questions to Ask Referrals: What type of project was done? What problems were encountered? How were issues communicated and resolved? Were there additional charges for problems that arose? Did the contractor keep the project moving forward daily? Did they let you know the day before or early in the morning what would be going on each day? Were inspections scheduled and did they actually take place? Were the workers neat, laying down protective drop cloths on the floor and surrounding areas. Did they clean up after themselves at the end of each day?
Check Permit History: After talking to referrals it is also a good idea to go online and review permits that have been issued to the contractor in the city or town where you reside. This information will show:
Whether the contractor has previously worked in your town.
If the permits that were taken out have been closed; therefore showing completion and final inspections.
Show the dollar amounts of the projects that permits have been issued for. This will show you whether the contractor has successfully completed projects of similar size to yours locally.
The legal address for the contractor’s place of business.
The issue date and completion date for permits is also provided will show how it took to complete the project.
NOTE: If your municipality does not have this information on line, it is well worth a call to the Inspectional Services Department to gather the information.
Change Orders: How does the contractor you are interviewing handle changes to the initial scope of the job? If unanticipated problems develop during the course of the project the contractor should tell you and let you know what the potential solutions are and what the cost will be. Once you agree upon a method of fixing the problem(s), a written document recording the additional work and its cost should be given to you by the contractor. These “change orders” are often numbered.
A contractor should always inform you of a change in advance, and let you know what the cost to remediate a problem will be. This should NEVER be a surprise that appears on the invoice.
Apples and Apples: Despite having similar conversations with each contractor you meet, very often what you get back for written bids from them doesn’t represent the same scope of work. My next blog will show you how to make sure that when you are comparing bids you are actually looking at the same scope of work and materials. If you’re not careful, two identical bottom lines could actually result in two completely different outcomes.
Since 1996, George Lonergan, has been President of Lonergan Construction, Inc., a full-service, fully licensed and insured general contracting firm serving eastern and central Massachusetts. He can be reached 508-875-0052 or www.lonerganconstruction.com.
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.