If you have a bigger project on your hands, you probably want to hire outside help. For projects that require plumbing and electrical work, I can’t stress enough how important it is that you hire a licensed, insured professional like a good General Contractor. These people are the most trained and qualified to perform the job. Yes, they do cost more up front, but at least you know the standards they must uphold that an unlicensed handyman or your friend Tony from down the block may not. The safety issue is also paramount here. It’s just not a good idea to mess with pipes or wires unless you know what you are doing. If something goes wrong, it can go REALLY wrong.
General Contractors are “point people” who have many functions: plumbing, electrical, framing, building, drywall, tile work, appliance installation, woodwork, roofing, painting, and all other aspects of home repair.
Sub-Contractors are specialists in one field, hired by the General Contractor to do work for you, under the same contract (ie- Flooring Installer, Plumber, Electrician, Roofer, etc.)
When you’re thinking of hiring someone to do work in your home, it’s a good idea to get at least 3 estimates from 3 different people. Remember: the lowest is not necessarily the best. You want something that will last. Check out photos of past projects, ask for references, and get to know the quality of each person’s work.
Here are some questions to ask:
-Does the contractor hire all the workmen himself, or will he be hiring outside help (sub-contractors)?
-Which parts of the project will be sub-contracted out, and to which sub-contractor? (Check out the sub-contractors!)
-Is he licensed and insured, and can he provide copies of these certificates?
-Has he done this type of work before?
-Who will be the foreman on the job?
-Will he assist in acquiring permits (if necessary)?
-How does he invoice payment? (Some bill all at once, and some bill in increments- for example 30% up front, 30% second payment, 30% third payment and then 10% at completion. I ALWAYS ask that the project is billed in installments, and hold the last payment until the project is completed to my satisfaction.)
-Is there a one-year guarantee on all work that will be done?
I am a big fan of hiring someone that has done work for someone I know. That way you can not only see the work for yourself, but ask pertinent questions about the experience:
-Was the work completed on time?
-Was the project done to your satisfaction?
-Were there hidden costs or fees?
-Did the workmen treat your home with respect?
-Did the contractor adequately and regularly supervise the work?
If you are hiring someone you do not know, ask lots of questions. A good contractor will take the time to answer your questions and make you comfortable with the project.
Use your instincts. If you get a funny feeling at the first meeting, or the prospective contractor won’t answer the questions you are asking, this probably is not the guy for you. On the other hand, if you feel comfortable, you have seen his work, asked questions of his former clients and they have answered positively, know that he is licensed, insured and qualified, and the price is one you can afford, you have just found yourself the person to improve your home. Good luck!