6 Tips for Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor

Leah Lopez Cardenas
Updated November 24, 2021
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Before you hire a home improvement contractor, consider how to make the experience as seamless as possible for everyone involved

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After months of planning, dreaming, saving, and picking out samples, it’s finally time to take action on your big project. Whether it's a bathroom remodel or a new addition off your main level, a home improvement contractor can lend their specialized experience, skills, and knowledge to your project. Here are six essential tips to keep in mind when hiring a local contractor near you.

1. Communicate Your Goals

During your first conversation with a prospective contractor, discuss your goals for the project, from the final result to the small details. Don’t be afraid to ask your contractor questions and discuss how you can keep in touch regularly throughout the project. Hiring for home improvement requires trust, so make sure you see eye-to-eye and choose a contractor that understands your vision and has the experience the job requires.

2. Be Clear About Your Budget

A contractor discussing renovation plans with homeowner
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Communicate exactly what you want done and how much you’re willing and able to pay for the job. This way, the home improvement contractor you hire can give you a quote that sets expectations for both parties, and you won’t end up with any surprises at the end of your project.

If necessary, break the project down into multiple phases. Although spreading out project milestones may push out the project's completion date, it may be a better option for your budget to minimize the upfront cost. Homeowners can also often save money on a home improvement project by doing small tasks on their own, such as cleaning and painting.

3. Understand That Price Often Reflects Quality

Ask your contractor for their recommendations on all project deliverables and timelines and request a written description of the materials necessary for the job. While the lowest bid might sound the easiest for your budget, it’s not always the best option in the long run. An unusually low bid may indicate that a contractor uses sub-par materials, cuts corners, or is unlicensed or uninsured. 

You can avoid home improvement fraud and get the quality you’re looking for by going with a more accurate project bid somewhere in the middle and requesting past-client references to follow up with.

4. Know a Contractor's Credentials

Before hiring a contractor, brush up on common industry standards and qualifications, including any certifications they have from a national trade organization. Abbreviations behind your contractor’s name indicate that the company belongs to certain organizations that bind them to a strict code of ethics. Memberships, titles, and abbreviations may include:

Also, insist on hiring a licensed, bonded, and insured contractor. This is a must. Otherwise, as the property owner, you are liable if a work crew member gets injured on the job.

5. Get Your Home Improvement Contract in Writing

Home improvement contractors are different from general contractors because they typically keep work in-house and don’t hire subcontractors. 

Your home improvement contract should include:

  • Detailed timelines

  • Total cost

  • Payment arrangements

  • Your contractor’s license number

  • Project description

  • Names of parties involved

  • How to handle additional costs, if necessary

Your contractor should give you a timeline for the job to be completed. If they don’t, ask for one! This will give you peace of mind throughout the process and ensure everyone is on the same page with their expectations. Plus going without a timeline can really slow down your home renovation.

Do your best to stay organized by keeping job-related documents, such as contracts, payments, receipts, and contact information all in one place in case you need them for reference.

6. Educate Yourself About the Home Improvement Requirements

Doing some high-level research before the hiring process will help you understand what requirements and regulations need to be followed for your remodeling project. While your contractor will likely apply for and acquire all necessary permits, it doesn't hurt to ask for process details and updates.

The cost of the job will likely increase if the contractor is surprised by outdated wiring or other concealed budget busters, so it’s important to know what’s going on behind the scenes in your home as well.

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