Hiring the Right Contractor

April 20, 2023

Finding a contractor to do a remodeling project is easier than ever. Using today's technology, you can search by name, zip code or specialty, you can ask for recommendations on social media or use sites like Houzz.com to find names of contractors. Yes, finding a contractor is easy; finding the right one for your job, well that requires a little more work. 

Start by gathering those names from friends, neighbors, and websites. The first criteria you want to be sure they meet is that they are properly licensed and insured. In California, the law requires anyone performing contracting work that totals $500 or more (materials and labor) be licensed. You can verify this information on the Contractors State License Board (www.cslb.ca.gov).

Next you will want to set up interviews with several of the companies on your list. Call three to five contractors on your list and see how promptly they respond. Set up appointments and see which contractors show up and who’s on time. Try not to have more than one appointment a day; you'll be taking in a lot of information and need to keep things straight as to who said what.

You may want to make a list of questions or concerns you have, so you can be sure to ask each one the same things. If someone else will be making the decision with you, make sure they can be at the appointment too so all their questions can be answered as well. Try to define the scope of your project in the same way for each contractor to make sure they are bidding the same job. 

During the interview as you ask your questions, use your own intuition about the person. Let your judgment of character work for you and trust your instincts. 

Remember, you will have this person, their employees, and sub-contractors in your house for some time. Ask for references! These should include a variety of jobs, both in progress and completed. You can ask for vendor references as well. And don’t just ask for the references—call and check them out. Call the Better Business Bureau (858-496-2131) to check for complaints. Again, trust your own judgment, but always check everything you can.

Once you choose a contractor, there are some things you can do to protect yourself during the job. Make sure the contract is detailed. It should describe all phases of the job and include all the information on the products being used. Before signing, allowances should be set on items such as sinks, toilets, faucets, and floor coverings. The more detailed the contract the less there is to disagree about once the work is under way. 

The contract should spell out the payment terms in detail. State law says a contractor cannot take more than 10% (up to a maximum of  $1,000) on the first visit. For example, a job with a total contract price of $8,000 requires a down payment of no more than $800. The remaining payments should be tied to progress on the project. As an example, for a $50,000 room addition, payments could be $1000 down, $10% at foundation, 10% at framing, 10% at roofing, 10% at drywall and so on. 

The idea is to always have enough money left to finish the project if the contractor disappears. If a contractor tells you he needs money up front to pay for material, that can be a red flag. If his suppliers want cash, that could be an indication of a financial problem. Be sure to get lien releases from all the subcontractors and suppliers on your project.

There are many reputable, reliable, honest contractors out there. Don’t let the horror stories discourage you. That is only a small percentage of this industry. If you do your homework, you will probably have a good experience. And if you call K-Co Construction, you will have a great experience!   

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