6 ‘Must-Haves’ when Hiring A Contractor

A photo of the Westar Construction crew standing outdoors next to a piece of heavy machinery.

We know that Hiring a Contractor can be a difficult task (we’ve hired our own sub-contractors before). So we created this list to help the visitors to this page so they will know some of the ‘must-haves’ when it comes to hiring a Contractor for just about any project in any given trade. Let’s kick it off!

1. License and Insurance: Let’s get the obvious out of the way first. Licensing insures that the person is registered to do business and has met some educational requirements for the field they’re doing work in. The contractor will usually have to have two years’ experience in a management setting in their trade in order to apply for a license. Another requirement for acquiring a Contractor’s License is General Liability Insurance. Liability Insurance is crucial to protect the client and contractor from financial loss due to injury or accidental damage to property. If you hire a concrete contractor who, while operating a skid steer, hits the corner of a garage and knocks that portion of the home off its foundation, the cost of repair can be quite high. Bottom line is that you run a greater risk of poor workmanship, fraud, and financial liability by hiring an unlicensed Contractor. And it is unlawful to do so.

2. Experience: Hiring someone who knows what they’re doing. Verifying experience can be difficult: an expert in a field can tell the difference between a novice and an expert with ease but it is difficult for a person with little to no knowledge of that trade to evaluate the Contractor they’re speaking to. Thankfully, through the online review process, it is relatively easy to track down solid contractors who have done work properly and left their clients happy. But online reviews aren’t everything; there can be a lot of shortcuts taken by the contractor that their customers aren’t aware of and won’t surface for years and a typical homeowner might simply chalk up to wear and tear. We recommend homeowners consider the following when making their choice:  a Contractor’s years of doing business, a diverse portfolio, online reviews and/or recommendations, and your gut instinct. These are your best bet for hiring someone who has the experience to get your job done correctly.

3. Warranty: Do you need one? As of this blog post’s writing (June, 2017), Contractors in the State of Utah are not to provide a warranty for their work in any fashion, for any amount of time. This means that as soon as the contractor is paid in full, the work that the contractor performed is now the client’s responsibility. This is where it is absolutely important to hire someone who is knowledgeable and has integrity. Some Contractors will offer a 1 year warranty (Yep, we do!) for their clients piece of mind, and that’s a good thing, but in our specialty field (concrete) it will usually take several years for defects in workmanship to show up, so a warranty isn’t really a guarantee that you’re dealing with a quality Contractor, nor does a lack of a warranty mean that a contractor will do bad work. The offering of a warrant usually is contingent on the how reasonable past clients have been when calling upon a Contractor’s warranty. Example: a rogue crack in a $10,000.00 concrete driveway slab that has proper control joints and was properly placed should not be something a client feels the Contractor is responsible for, as concrete cracks in unexpected ways sometimes.

4. Pay attention to how the contractor treats you: The first few minutes matter! Chances are that if your Contractor doesn’t treat you with respect, than they aren’t going to care about the quality of the work they’re doing. We believe that a Contractor should do what they say they’re going to do, including be on time for a preliminary estimate or, in the case of an emergency, inform the potential client of any issues. We believe that customers should be free to ask questions without fear of asking a ‘dumb’ question and that a Contractor should be approachable and available to discuss project details and concerns with their clients. Don’t settle for less. There are plenty of contractors who value their clients and want to provide good service to them at a price that is fair (yep, we’re one of them!). Communication, respect, and trust are important aspects of the contractor/homeowner business relationship.

5. Bid Pricing: Fair to all parties. There can be a large difference in the bids a typical homeowner gets at the start of their project. Different contractors have crews composed of different workers who may take more or less time to complete the same task. A larger company can have more overhead while a smaller company can have less. Also, a contractor might capture an item as part of their bid that another contractor omits and the omissions will require coming back to the client for a change order or lowering the quality of a project. These are all factors that each Contractor will take in to account when creating a bid, and so it is important for a homeowner to clearly understand what each Contractor is offering in their respective bids and then compare. An example: one contractor’s price for a driveway tear-out and replacement may be $1,000 higher than their competitors, but that higher bid includes adding 3 inches of roadbase and a higher bag mix of concrete to improve the new driveway’s quality, whereas the other bids did not include any of those additional items. Clarify, compare, then decide.

6. Communication: Do you understand? Now I’m not only talking about the ability to communicate verbally with your Contractor and their crew – though it is very important – but also the ability of your Contractor to listen to what you, the client, want to get from your project. There are Contractors who want to tell the customer what they want, rather than listening to what the customers goals are. In some cases, those Contractors just ignore the wishes of the client entirely and do the job the way they think it needs to be done. Sometimes, it is necessary for a Contractor to guide a client, but the client should never feel left out of the decision making process and should know why the Contractor is making the recommendations/decisions they are. We also believe that it is important to be able to communicate effectively in a variety of ways, including verbally, e-mail, and text messages.

We hope this list will be useful to you. If you’re a client looking to hire a General Contractor or Concrete Contractor, please reach out to us! We’d love to work with you and build something great together! Call us today at 801-243-7827 or email [email protected].