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Finding the right contractor - the artist who will carve your dream into reality - is a real challenge.  It requires research, interviewing, negotiation and yards of documentation.  The fact is, there's an art to finding your artist.  And you need to be patient during the process.  But most of all you need to be knowledgeable.  To help you find a reliable, modern master, and not a fast buck artist, we make the following suggestions:

 

Seek Out Those Who Know Fine Art

Get contractor recommendations from architects, building inspectors, bank mortgage officers, your town's newspaper real estate editor, and from friends and relatives who have recently remodeled.  Obtain at least three sources.

 

Ask To See Samples Of The Artist's Work

Sit down with each candidate (in your home) and discuss your project.  If you've sketched a plan, present it. Share information about your tastes and life-style, and talk in general about your remodeling ideas.  Ask to see a photo portfolio showing examples of work that the contractor has done.  Proud parents photograph their babies. So do proud contractors.  The best contractors will show their portfolio without being asked.

 

What Picture Does Their Reputation Paint?

Find out as much as you can about each contractor's credentials.  Although this will take some time and leg work, both will pay off.  Contact the better business bureau or your government consumer affairs office for this information on the contractor.  Ask the candidate for references.  Good contractors get fan mail.  Ask your candidates for theirs.  Narrow your list of choices down be asking them to submit proposals.  Along with the proposals, request both liability and workers compensation insurance certificates. In evaluating their plans look for top quality materials and assure long-term performance.  Last but not least, ask yourself whether each candidate is someone you'd really enjoy working with.  Then make your decision.

 

Understand Every Stroke Of The Contract

Study this document as if your entire project depends on it.  Because it does.  Study the financial details carefully.  Pay special attention to total price, payment schedule and any penalties that may be brought against you.  The contract should describe every part of the job, including the start date, product specifications (brand model, color, quantity, size) , warranties, workmanship and a completion date.  It should also make provisions for changes during the construction, uncontrollable delays and clean-up.  A contractor legally seals the deal, so only sign a complete and acceptable contract.

 

Artistic License Belongs To The Artist

The contractor is responsible for obtaining all the building permits and for meeting all building codes and ordinances.  Separate permits may be required for electrical, heating and plumbing work.  The contractor is also responsible for calling the building department and scheduling periodic inspections.  This is crucial.  Because inspectors usually have the absolute authority to order work dismantled if it's not done to code or without permit.

 

The Real Masters Stand By Their Work

Sometimes the true test of a contractor comes not during the construction of your home improvement, but after. You should know that true professional contractors stand behind their work - when their crew is on site and when their work is finished.  Dependable, reputable contractors will usually write their post-construction responsibilities and assurances into their contract.  You should make sure that the contractor's position on this matter is understandable and clearly spelled out before you sign the contract. 

 

By following the suggestions on this page you will establish a solid, professional relationship with your contractor.  And, if you're like most proud Remodelers, the end result of this relationship will also be well documented:  In your family photo album.

 

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