One of the biggest decisions an owner who wants to repair a fire-damaged house must make is which contractor to hire.
Choose the wrong contractor and you could be doomed to cost overruns, project delays, shoddy work and a great deal of stress and frustration.
To help you make the best decision here are some tips for selecting a contractor for the repair and renovation of a fire-damaged house.
Finding a Contractor
There are a couple of ways to find contractors for your project. One of the most popular is to simply talk to people you know. This way the person referring the contractor is someone you trust who has first-hand experience with the contractor’s work. So your first step should be to talk to friends and family. Another option would be to ask your insurance agent for recommendations.
Beyond talking to people you know, another method you can use is to conduct a search online for contractors in your area. You can visit the contractors’ websites and may be able to find testimonials and reviews about them as well.
Finally, one more option would be to go “old school.” You could check the Yellow Pages and local newspaper for contractor ads.
Screening Potential Candidates
Once you have found a few contractors for your fire-damaged house repair project, the next step is to screen the candidates. Some information to get includes:
Company Information –
You need the legal name of the company that is going to complete your renovations. The company should be registered as a corporation, a limited liability corporation (LLC), or other business entity. Also, be sure to get the contractor’s address, telephone number, fax number, and e-mail address.
Employer Identification Number –
Just as the government issues a Social Security number to every American citizen, Uncle Sam gives a federal tax ID number to every business owner. This is called an Employer Identification (EIN) Number. Be sure to get this number from the contractors.
Work Experience –
You want to hire a contractor that doesn’t just have repair experience but also has experience doing repairs on fire-damaged houses. Make sure you find out how long the contractor has been in business and how much experience he or she has doing repairs on burned houses.
The contractor should be licensed – be sure to find if they are and, if so, how long they have been licensed. It is recommended that you only use contractors who are licensed and insured. Make sure you ask to see the contractor’s license and proof of insurance. Do so before you use his or her services to renovate your fire-damaged house.
Here’s why: A licensed contractor must carry liability insurance that protects you from claims and worker’s compensation issues. These issues could arise from injuries that happen while the contractor’s employees are working on your property.
A licensed contractor ensures you that he or she is knowledgeable about what is required for the property. The contractor will ensure the repair are up-to-code and done with the highest quality workmanship.
Do not forget to check with the state and the Better Business Bureau to make sure that the contractor’s license is valid. Also, check whether anyone has filed any negative complaints against the contractor. One more thing to check – whether the contractor has broken any laws.
Work Availability –
You want a full-time contractor who is available immediately. Ideally, the contractor should not have any other contractual obligations. These obligations could interfere with your schedule to renovate your property quickly. Always ask whether the contractor is currently working on another property. If so, find out what the projected completion date is.
Number of Employees –
The contractor may need a certain number of employees to ensure the project is completed on time and budget. Find out how many employees he or she has.
Once you have screened the candidates and lowered the list to a few names, it is now time to conduct interviews.
You should arrange a face-to-face interaction between you and the contractor in a place where you are not distracted or interrupted.
If you are holding interviews at your office, block off some time in your schedule. Also, set up several interviews during that time.
Limit each interview to 15 minutes or less and keep time using a buzzer or a wrist watch.
When you sit down to interview the contractors, you should be assertive and inquisitive. Courtesy is important, but do not be afraid to ask the contractors questions about their finances, tools, and employees.
Here are some warning signs to watch for as you go about selecting a contractor. If you notice any of these things immediately remove that contractor from your list of potential hires.
Warning Sign #1 –
The contractor lacks references. If you are meeting a contractor for the first time, his or her references are your only tool for verifying qualifications and workmanship. If the contractor cannot provide you with any references, then move on to the next applicant.
Warning Sign #2 –
The contractor wants new tools. Sometimes contractors ask new clients to buy them new tools to repair their properties. Do not fall for that trick. Legitimate, experienced contractors who own companies with employees will have their own tools.
Warning Sign #3 –
The contractor lacks transportation. Any contractor who is serious about his or her business will have a reliable truck or van. You want to hire a contractor who is able to transport material and tools to their employees on an as-needed basis. This helps ensure your property can be completed within a timely manner.
Warning Sign #4 –
The contractor has an insufficient and/or transient crew. Avoid hiring contractors with skeleton crews or crews that fluctuate with a high turnover rate. Usually, a contractor who lacks employees lacks the ability to manage and keep employees.
These tips should help you find a qualified, experienced contractor to repair your fire-damaged house.
Want to Avoid the Repair Process?
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