Finding a quality contractor or handyman these days is tough work. Plus, making the hunt even more difficult is the reality that there are several unlicensed and or unqualified contractors out there who if they spoke their mind, would be speechless.
So how can you make sure you find a reliable and reputable contractor who keeps their promises and will do quality work? And, how do you make sure you’re hiring the right professional for the job?
Do you need a Contractor or a Handyman?
Some projects require in-depth knowledge and even local or state certifications; for these projects, you’ll need a contractor. Other projects can be tackled by someone with some very basic skills and for these projects, you can call a handyman.
A handyman will typically complete general home repair and simple routine maintenance projects, such as small painting jobs, fence repairs or perhaps replacing a toilet.
A general contractor (GC) acts as a manager for large projects. They hire contractors, known as subcontractors, to perform specialized tasks such as installing new plumbing, installing new countertops, or rewiring a house. General contractors make sure that all permits are filed, all deadlines are met, and costs stay on budget.
Tips to Find a Quality Contractor or Handyman
- Get a Referral from Someone You Know and Trust. There is nothing better than getting a recommendation from someone who has already hired a handyman or contractor and had a great experience. Other referral sources could include your local realtor, your neighbors, and even your work associates.
- Contact your local Contractor Trade Association. Construction pros and handyman that join a local construction association take their trade seriously. These associations provide their members with continued education and valuable networking opportunities to work with other construction professionals. In California, there are multiple trade associations that you can locate with a quick search on Google. The California Building Industry Association and The National Association of Remodelers are two examples of associations where you will find qualified professionals.
- Social Media: You will be surprised how your network will chime in and share some recommendations if you post that you are searching for a contractor or handyman. You can also post your project on one of the largest contractor communities on Facebook Group: CALIFORNIA CONTRACTORS. This community has over 15K construction professionals that would love to respond to your inquiry.
- Google Search: We leave this as a last resort. As you can imagine, searching on Google can be a hit-or-miss experience and the first page of Google will be full of ads from companies like Home Advisor, Thumbtack, or Angie’s list. These companies can be a decent resource for contractors, but you should know these companies earn money by selling your information to contractors who in turn are paying for your contact information.
You have your shortlist of options. Now What?
The first step in narrowing down your shortlist is to begin asking the contractors for their license numbers and certificates of insurance. All California contractors, regardless of the city in which they operate, are required to have a construction license. If you are in California, you can check the status of the contractor’s license at CLICK HERE. A licensed contractor should also have General Liability Insurance in place and if they have employees and are doing business in California, they are legally required to have Workers Compensation Insurance in case an employee is injured on the job.
IMPORTANT: A handyman cannot charge more than $500 per job for labor and materials. Over $500 per job requires a contractor’s license.
If your job is small such as replacing a toilet or a simple fence repair, you could probably skip on asking for references. However, if your project list includes a full kitchen remodel or a room addition, we suggest you get at least 2 references. Be wary if the contractor shows you pictures of projects he or she has completed and doesn’t offer to give you a name and number to call and verify the work performed. Contractors taking pictures off of the internet and representing them as their own work is a sneaky practice that shady contractors will use.
When you have an opportunity to talk to references, ask them:
- How did you find this contractor?
- Were they responsive to your calls and requests?
- Was the project completed on budget? If not, what happened?
- Did the contractor keep their promises to you?
- If there was any disagreement, what happened?
- Would you recommend this contractor to someone in your family?
Questions to ask once you hire your contractor:
- What are the projected Start and Finish dates?
- Are there financial credits if the promised finished date is not met?
- Will the same crew be on the job each day?
- How much trash will be generated, and will it all be cleaned up every day?
- Will someone need to be home while work is being completed?
- Will you use any tarps to protect furniture and other objects?
- Will your contractors wear shoe protection when they’re coming in from outside?
- Where will you need to store tools and materials during the project?
- If it’s a large project, ask if the contractor brings a port-a-potty or if subcontractors will be using one of your restrooms throughout the day.
Ready to Hire Your Contractor? Time to Get an Itemized Bid
Every contractor you interview should provide you with an itemized bid. This is a bid that lists, item by item, everything you’ll be paying for. It should include:
- All labor costs (including estimated subcontractor costs, if your project calls for them)
- All materials (including specifics such as paint, drywall, and light fixtures)
- All permit fees
- Any other expenses, such as travel fees the contractor expects to bill for
An itemized bill gives you clear and upfront information about how much the project will cost. It also gives you the power to stay on budget. If the contractor’s initial bid is more than you can afford, you can easily change the scope of the project to better fit your budget. For example, you might decide to go with less-expensive tile or do all the painting yourself.
If changes to your original quote are necessary, document them on your original quote and make sure that both you and the contractor sign it. Your quote should also contain applicable information regarding warranties or guarantees on work performed and materials used.
Keep this agreement in a safe place until your warranty expires in case you ever have to pursue legal action against the contractor.
You also need to clarify whether the contractor’s bid is an estimate or a fixed price. Estimates can wind up costing you much more, so find out what factors might affect the final price.
If you’re looking to get started on a project that will take you one step closer to the home of your dreams, don’t let the process of finding a contractor and seeing the project through to completion overwhelm you. By following the advice of this guide, you’ll be able to handle this task like a seasoned pro!
Below are Facebook Groups that are managed by: The Contractors Resource Center. We do our best to ensure that all contractors in these communities are licensed and insured. Please do your own verification.
If you have any questions about contractors having the proper license and or the proper type of insurance, call us! We are here to help! Contact: Kevin at: 530.320.3617 or email at: [email protected]
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