Three must-do’s before beginning that home improvement project

It can be daunting to take on a home improvement project. For those who find the whole process overwhelming, it can help to think of it in three easy steps.
Step #1: Get organized,
Pick your fixtures, colors, etc. prior to calling a contractor. While home improvement contractors may be willing to help you in the design process they are not designers for the most part. There is, however, a middle ground.
Online resources such as the Houzz website and Pinterest are a great place to find ideas. If design help is important, see if any local contractors have accounts on those sites. They are a cost effective way to share ideas and communicate about tastes and preferences. (Here is a link to my own Houzz profile, which is filled up with “idea books” for typical suburban home remodel/redecorating projects)
Once you have made most of your project decisions and it is time to get the ball rolling.
Step #2: Narrow down the field of contractors.
This should be easy process. You may get lucky and have a friend or relative – or, increasingly, a facebook contact –  who just had some work done and has reviewed their contractor favorably. This is always a good start to the process. You can ask realtors as well; they will all know several contractors that their clients use.
Beware the google search. Although almost all contractors will have some sort of web presence, few local home improvement businesses have the resources to get ranked highly in google’s search results. Search engine optimization and google page ranking is easily gamed by companies with plenty of money to spend. A simple search for Home Improvement Contractors in my area, for instance, generates a list with only about 25% of the entries actual contractors; the rest are click-bait “ranking” sites.
To save yourself from wasting time interviewing unlicensed contractors, run the company names through the Dept. of Consumer Protections “eVerify” system (see my previous post on this topic). It will only take a few minutes once you are on the site.
Step #3: Meet with the contractors to discuss your project. 
  • Unless your project is small and/or the contractor comes highly recommended by a trusted contact, three different quotes is a good minimum. Prices tend to have a significant variation.
  • Have something to show them such as  magazine clippings, Pinterest boards, or Houzz “ideabooks” for the materials you want to use.
  • Ask if the contractor will need to hire subcontractors such as a plumber or electrician. Specialized trades carry specialized licensing requirements.
  • Make sure that the contractor is properly insured. Ask the contractor to have his/her insurance agent send you a copy of the company’s proof of insurance. Take a moment to review it. If the contractor is a one man show, Workers Compensation may not be required if the contractor has filed a waiver with the Town. If numerous employees will be at your home or subcontractors will be required the your contractor MUST have Workers Compensation insurance. The insurance form is standard, make sure that the this box has been checked. If a worker is injured at your home and the contractor does not have appropriate insurance, you could be liable for any injuries.

If you have done your homework up to this  point, you will be in a position to think about the value you will be getting for your money. More on that in future posts.