Get a Good Contractor Estimate
Choosing a Contractor of Integrity
Getting a contractor estimate for your porch project is a process.
If you understand the process, you increase the likelihood for a very successful partnership with your contractor.
for Your Porch Project
Our good friend and founder of The Porch Company, Nancy Moore, shares some tips with us on how to select a good contractor - one of integrity.
We sure appreciate Nancy sharing her many years of experience as a designer and builder of custom porches.
In this first video, you'll learn insider tips from Nancy Moore for selecting a good contractor, getting a contractor estimate and what preparations you should take before you begin.
In this second video, you'll learn what goes into the price of a project and how to manage expectations during your porch design and construction project.
Nancy's Tips for Hiring a Good Contractor
- Hire a person of integrity by checking out the company
Do they return calls to you?
Are they consistent?
Do they speak badly about their competition?
Do they explain things thoroughly to you so that you can make good decisions?
Do your contractor have the heart of a teacher? An informed client is the best client.
- Get on the internet and do your homework.
Go to the Better Business Bureau for your city.
Go to Angie’s List, City Search or just Google the company.
See what others say.
Be direct and honest. Expect the same from the contractor.
- Hire a contractor experienced in your type/size of project.
Find out the types of projects they are doing - even the contract amounts.
Learn what their “sweet spot” is...what kind of projects are they most comfortable and have the most experience and skill.
This is where the contractor will shine.
Don't hire a cabinet maker to build your porch or vice versa.
Both can be people of integrity but have much different skill sets.
So manage your expectations.
- Inspect the contractor's work
See at least one project the contractor has built.
Does it have structural integrity?
What about the finishing details?
Look at another project of the contractor's with the same intensity as you will be checking out your own project.
By seeing a project firsthand, you know what to expect from that contractor.
If you expect more than, let them know. The contractor can decide whether he will take the job on. Please expect to pay more.
- Subs versus employees
If a contractor does not need a full-time roofer, electrician or carpenter, they might sub the job.
But if they routinely need a carpenter, to keep costs down, they might employ them.
With employees, there may be more quality and consistency. Plus scheduling is easier.
Bottom line, either system works.
- Contractor estimate: fixed bid versus cost plus
By working on a fixed bid, a contractor must be efficient with their time and materials to be profitable.
If a contractor cuts corners, their reputation is on the line.
An experienced contractor can foresee issues and challenges in the project and takes that into account when providing you their contractor estimate.
- Permits and licenses
Make sure the contractor carries both liability and workers compensation insurance.
Why do you want to check this? It is legally required because it helps to protect you, the client.
Ask the contractor for a Certificate of Insurance.
Be sure it's not just a copy the contractor made. Make sure the insurance company mailed it to the contractor.
Your contractor should be licensed.
Contractors will have a monetary limit on the amount of a contract they can take.
Ensure your contractor can legally contract for the size of your project.
Inquire about a permit. If your contractor says that no permit is required, then double check with your building codes department.
It is in your best interest and the contractor's as well to have the job inspected.
If your contractor avoids getting a permit, that should raise a red flag in your mind.
Contractors should pull the permits themselves rather than ask you, the client, to do that.
- Contracts, terms and payments
Always work from plans and a contract - not plans drawn on a napkin.
You should know exactly what you are getting in writing: a written bid and plan, not simply a contractor estimate.
Typical terms might be:
--- A payment at the beginning of the job (to ensure the contractor that you are committed)
--- A final payment (at the end of the job) that equals the initial payment. This is made after you, the client, are 100% satisfied with the job and all punch list items are done to your satisfaction.
--- Intermediate payments at various milestones of your project. For example, you might make a payment when the porch foundation is completed or the roof is completely shingled.
Do not setup intermediate payments based on time - for example, in 3 weeks a payment is due.
Summary of Nancy's Tips
Most contractors are people of integrity doing the best job that they can.
If your contractor is operating outside "sweet spot", as Nancy calls it, you may encounter a bad situation.
If you have done your homework, that is research your contractor and concluded that the company is a good choice, then
please trust your judgment. Assume that things will go well. If there are a few bumps along the way, then realize that
everybody makes mistakes and your contractor will do the right thing. Enjoy the building process.
By the way, did you know that Contractors need a lead paint certification for their company if they do renovation and remodeling?
Especially if they work on homes built prior to 1978. Just something to know when you get a contractor estimate.
Some other links you may enjoy
We graciously thank Nancy Moore of The Porch Company
for sharing all these invaluable tips with us for choosing the best contractor for the job and getting a solid contractor estimate.
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