The fact is, there's an art to finding your artist. You need to be patient during the
process, but most of all, you need to be knowledgeable. To help you find a reliable contractor and not a fast buck artist, follow these suggestions.
Seek Out Those Who Know the Art of Building
Get contractor recommendations from architects, building inspectors, your local independent building material supplier, bank mortgage officers, your town newspapers real estate editor, and from your friends and relatives who have recently remodeled. Obtain at least three possibilities.
Ask to See Samples of the Artists Work
Sit down with each candidate and discuss your project. Ask to see a photo portfolio showing examples of work that the contractor has done. The best contractors will do this without being asked. If you've sketched a plan, present it. Share information about your tastes and lifestyle, and talk in general about your building ideas.
Check to ensure that this candidate is familiar with the installation and use of the products - like windows, doors, appliances, etc. - that you want in your home.
What Picture Does Their Reputation Paint?
Find out as much as you can about each contractor's credentials. Although this will take some time and legwork, both will pay off. Contact the Better Business Bureau or your government consumer affairs office for information on the contractor. Find out if the contractor is a member of the National Association of Builders (NAHB), or belongs to the National Association of Remodeling Industry (NARI). It's always a good sign if the contractor is involved in these professional organizations.
Ask the candidate for references. This will let you talk directly with homeowners who have dealt with this contractor, and might give you the opportunity to see finished projects. Visit any model homes built by the contractor.
Narrow your list of candidates down by asking them to submit proposals. In evaluating their plans, look for top quality materials that assure long-term performance - like Anderson Windows and Patio Doors.
Equally important, ask yourself whether each candidate is someone you'd really enjoy working with. Then make your decision.
Understand Every Stroke of the Contract
Study this document as if your entire project depends on it. Because it does. Study the financial details carefully. Pay special attention to total price, payment schedule and any penalties that may be brought against you.
The contract should describe every part of the job, including the start date, product specifications (brand, model, color, quantities, size,) warranties, workmanship and completion date. It should also make provisions for changes during construction, uncontrollable delays, and clean-up.
A contract legally seals the deal, so only a complete and acceptable contract. If you have any doubts after you've signed the contract, remember that most contracts signed in your home can likely be canceled by you within three working days.
License Belongs to the Artist
The contractor is responsible for obtaining all the building permits and for meeting all the building codes and ordinances. Separate permits may be required for electrical, heating and plumbing work.
The contractor is also responsible for calling the building department and scheduling periodic inspections. This is crucial, because inspectors usually have absolute authority to order work dismantled if it's not done to code or done without permit.
The Real Masters Stand By Their Work
Sometimes the true test of a contractor comes not during the construction of your new home but after. You know that true, professional contractors stand behind their work - when their crew is on site and when their work is finished.
Dependable, reputable contractors will usually write their post-construction responsibilities and assurances into the contract. You should make sure that the contractor's position on this matter is understandable and clearly spelled out before you sign the contract.
By following these suggestions you will establish a solid, professional relationship with your contractor. And if you're like most proud home owners, the end result of this relationship will also be well documented. In your family photo album.