7 Tips to Help You Build an ‘A-Team’ Contractor List

Lauren Wellbank
Written by Lauren Wellbank
Updated September 6, 2022
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Photo: fizkes / Adobe Stock

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Whether you're planning a one-time major renovation or have lots of smaller projects on the docket for the next several years, having a list of go-to contractors is a must. This list—often referred to as an “A-team contractor” list—will make it easy to know who to call when you’re ready to get a quote or schedule your next project.

If you’re not quite sure where to start, never fear: Let’s take a look at what you’ll need to create your contractor “A-team.”

1. Create a Spreadsheet

Before you can really get started, you’ll need to decide where and how you want to store your information. If you love to keep things digital, use a spreadsheet or online document that can be easily updated and shared with any other decision-makers. 

If you’re old school and like putting pen to paper, you might want to opt for a notepad (or even an address book) to build your contractor list.

You’re going to want to organize your list by pro type, so create your sections based on the type of professional, like “plumber,” “electrician,” or “roofer.” Each pro section should include columns for the pro’s company name, contact information, ratings, rates, and any special notes. 

For more generalized pros (like your local handyperson), note some work you know they do or don’t do. For example, if you’re adding a landscaper who does everything but trees, note it. 

2. Consider What Types of Pros You Need to Hire

Think about the project or projects you plan to complete and create an outline of the types of pros you’ll need to hire. For example, if you’re planning a kitchen renovation, you’ll likely need to hire a cabinet installer as well as a countertop installer. 

However, if you live on the fourth floor of a high-rise condo, you probably won’t need any roofers on your list. 

Some common contractors most people will need include:

  • Roofer

  • Plumber

  • Electrician

  • General contractor

  • Landscaper

  • Handyperson

If your property has special areas for concern—like a 100-year-old tree that needs the occasional trim or a water feature that needs regular maintenance— you’ll want to have someone on your list who can handle your specific needs.  

Some more specialized pros include:

  • Arborist

  • Water remediation professional

  • Hardscape professionals 

  • Basement waterproofing pro

  • Mold remediation pro

3. Research Reputable Pros Online and Through Word of Mouth

Chances are you don’t have a pro for every job that might come up, that’s where research comes in. Ask your neighbors, friends, or family members who they have worked with and liked in the past. 

You should always get at least three quotes from different contractors in your area when planning a project, so do your best to add multiple pros (ideally at least three) that work in the same category to your list. 

After gathering pro names from the people you trust, check common review sites and do an online search to see how other people rate their services. While both good and bad online reviews can be helpful, it’s important to take each with a grain of salt. 

4. Add Contractors You’ve Worked With in the Past to Your List

A contractor laying tiles on a new house
Photo: pololia / Adobe Stock

Because this list should be the best of the best, you’ll want to track down the information of pros you’ve had great experiences with before. If you’re having trouble remembering who you’ve worked with, jog your memory by looking at old receipts, email correspondence, or even old notebooks. 

Once you’ve found the information you need about past pros, verify everything is still up to date by checking their website. Make sure to add any notes about working with them, too. For example, if you know they prefer to start during early mornings, jot that down.

4 ways you can help others build their contractor team, including writing online reviews for pros you work with

5. Reach Out as Needed

When you have a need or are ready to jump into your next project, use the contract list you’ve built to determine who you’ll call and request quotes from. If you have any issues reaching a pro or difficulty communicating, make a note in your list and consider trying to find a new pro to take their place on your A-team. 

Similarly, if a pro does a particularly excellent job, make a note so you remember to make them your first call next time.

6. Ask the Right Questions 

Even if you have an ideal list of top-notch pros, not every contractor will be right for every job. When you call the pros on your list, be sure to have your project specifics in mind and ask them questions related to the work you want done. 

Some good starter questions include:

  • Tell me about your typical process for completing this sort of job.

  • How much experience do you have with this specific sort of job?

  • What is the expected timeline for this project?

  • How much variation can I expect in the estimated timeline for this project?

  • What is the expected budget for this project?

  • How much variation can I expect in the estimated budget for this project?

  • Will you obtain all the required permits for this project?

  • Can you show me before and after photos from past projects? 

  • Do you have references I can call?

Use any information you gather to add notes to your list so you can determine the right pro for your current project and keep others in mind for future projects.

7. Keep Your List Updated

Life happens, not just for us, but for pros, too. People switch jobs, retire, and move, so keeping your list updated is important. Make updating your A-team list part of your annual household maintenance plan. Pick a time to do a quick check, we suggest early in the new year,  and make sure the pros on your list are still available and highly rated.

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