When it comes to home improvement and repair projects, hiring a contractor can be both challenging and intimidating. When we don’t have the expertise or knowledge to plan and execute the project ourselves, how do we determine whether the contractor we hire is qualified and capable of following through on the job? This is definitely a concern whenever we hire an electrical contractor to install home heating products and other electrical components. With that in mind, here are some tips to ensure you select the right person for the job.
Step #1. Define the project.
What kind of work are you looking to have done? We recommend writing down all the details of your ideal final outcome for the project. Determining the extent of the project, whether it’s a small installation job or a larger and more extensive rewiring project will help you feel confident and prepared when you interview potential contractors. With a clear plan, defined timeline and concrete goals, it will be much simpler to determine if the contractor in question is the right fit for the job. Don’t forget to start thinking about your budget as well – but remember that when it comes to hiring a contractor, the lowest bid should not be your only priority – workmanship, expertise and professionalism are crucial.
It’s also a good idea to talk to your city planning and permits department as you research your project. They are often a fantastic resource to help you determine what certifications and licenses you should expect to see from your contractor, as well as helping you determine how to ensure that your project meets all municipal by-law and building code specifications. In the United States, the National Electrical Contractors Association (www.necanet.org) and in Canada, the Canadian Electrical Contractors Association (www.ceca.org) are also great resources to help you determine if a particular contractor is licensed and qualified to complete the project in question.
Step #2. Do the leg work.
Once you’ve got your project clearly defined, it’s time to start looking for a contractor. This is not the time to pick the first name you come across in the phone book and hope for the best. Instead, ask around and do plenty of research. “Crowd-source” some recommendations from friends and family who have recently had electrical work done. Ask lots of questions about their experiences and how they feel about the outcome of the project, as well. Alternately, general contractors often are great resources for this type of referral. If this is not possible, online search engines can often help you find reviews of contractors in your area and help narrow down your choices. We recommend you choose three to four contractors to contact.
Step #3. Ask questions. LOTS of questions.
Once you’ve found several promising leads, it’s time to get in touch and make your selection. It’s important to give yourself options by getting estimates from at least three contractors. This will help you determine if one contractor is wildly over- or under-priced, or if one assesses your project in a radically different way than the others. Ask each contractor for a written estimate related to the work – this should be a free service, so be wary of anyone who demands payment for an estimate. A reputable contractor will be able to provide at least a ball-park estimate except in very unusual circumstances. Don’t be afraid to ask plenty of questions about the exact work involved in the project, as well as asking the contractor to account for each line item on the estimate.
It’s perfectly acceptable to ask for references and testimonials at this point. If you have the opportunity, it’s a good idea as well to ask to see work that has been completed for the contractor’s prior customers. Be wary if the contractor can provide no references or has a disproportionate number of negative reviews online.
Step #4. Get everything in writing.
Ok, you’ve done your research, interviewed candidates, and made your choice. Fantastic! Now what? Get everything in writing. Let me say that again. Get EVERYTHING in writing. This is extremely important, because verbal agreements have the potential to cause a lot of problems down the road. Ask your contractor for a final written estimate, and make sure that this includes a target completion date, the agreed-upon budget, and any other pertinent details needed to complete the project. It’s a great idea to ask your contractor to agree to a daily or weekly check-in phone call or meeting to talk about the status of the project – that way everyone is on the same page and there are no surprises or unexpected delays.
Step #5. Trust your gut.
If something feels off or wrong, or if the contractor is raising red flags early in the communication process, trust that feeling and seek help elsewhere. If alarm bells are ringing that early, whether due to poor communication or shifting estimate amounts, or vagueness or unwillingness to explain the details of the project to you, chances are that the issues will only get bigger and more complicated over the course of the project. Don’t let that happen: don’t settle for anything less than a contractor who can deliver on their promises with quality workmanship, impeccable professionalism, and true integrity.
Step #6. Leave a little feedback.
Once the project is completed, consider leaving feedback (hopefully positive if you’ve had a good experience!) on review sites or the contractor’s website or Facebook Page. This is a great way to show your appreciation for a job well done and help inform others of your experience.
We hope these tips help you with any future renovation or repair projects you might take on. Thanks for reading!