Just like you probably wouldn’t trust a medical intern with a complicated medical procedure, you shouldn’t put a major renovation project in the hands of contractor who simply isn’t that experienced. In home renovation, as with most all professions, experience is irreplaceable when it comes to doing high quality work.
In addition to finding out how much experience a contractor has, there are other questions you should be asking to get a clear idea of the quality of work and professionalism you can expect. Find out how long your prospective contractor has been working with his or her subcontractors. Ideally, these two parties will have had a working relationship for several years. Additionally, make sure a contractor’s past jobs have ended positively. Check reviews online, and check with your city or state’s courthouse to see if there are any lawsuits against the contractor (or any subcontractors) you’ll be working with.
The right kind of experience
When we talk about experience in home renovation, it’s important to acknowledge right away that not all contracting experience is the same. When you interview prospective contractors and take bids, make sure to get the specifics on what sorts of projects they’ve done. Some contractors will have a wealth of experience in constructing new homes, for example, but not so much experience in renovating old homes — which itself is a distinct knowledge and skill set.
Before you shop around, make a detailed list of exactly what work you want done. Then search online, or ask around for contractors who have a track record of doing this work well. A contractor may have rave reviews for rehabbing kitchens, but that does not necessarily make it the best company to lay tile in your new bathroom.
To wait or not to wait?
Some say that the best contractors are always busy, and you have to be willing to wait. This may to true in some sense, but the most experienced contractors are on top of new inquiries, and don’t like to leave prospective clients waiting. If you get a call back promptly, and the contractor is honest about the wait time for new projects, this is a good sign of professionalism — but it may also be true that you can find another experienced contractor who can get to your project right away.
Checking your references
At the end of the day, there are many qualifications you are looking for that can’t always be measured or proved with credentials or a contract. Before hiring a contractor that you think is right for the job, ask for a list of references and be willing to follow up on them. Ask former customers their thoughts on the value for money of the job, the professionalism of the contractor, the timeliness of the work, and how easy (or difficult) the contractor was to work with. Hearing from former clients will give you the peace of mind that you’ve made the right selection.
Experience means many things in home renovation
Experienced home renovation contractors have learned the importance of maintaining open lines of communication, working within a set budget, listening to clients, staying on schedule, and delivering quality workmanship through and through. A contractor that is both experienced and reputable will put your renovations dollars to the best possible use, and give you the best overall return on your investment.