It’s the first rule of being a smart consumer – buyer beware. By carefully researching and shopping around, homeowners seeking to hire a contractor for home improvement projects are better prepared to make an informed decision and can avoid hassles, problems and nightmares. Taking the extra time to properly research and compare your options and not just pick the cheapest price is key in having an enjoyable home improvement experience. Ian Robinson, Managing Broker of the Northbrook office for Coldwell Banker, has seen many clients look to perform projects right after purchasing their homes, and he always advises, Ian Robinson, Managing Broker of the Northbrook office for Coldwell Banker Residential Brokerage has seen many clients look to perform projects right after purchasing their homes, and he always advises, “Your new home is one of the largest investments you will ever make. Obtain several bids on the exact same project and don't just go for the cheapest price – in many cases, homeowners get exactly what they pay for. A quality contractor will not only produce a great end result they will stay within budget, make the promised deadlines, and deliver great customer service.”
“Employing a reputable contractor for projects raises a home’s value, makes it aesthetically beautiful and provides more enjoyment for years to come,” said Jeff Hester, vice president of Hester Painting & Decorating. “Our company has come to the rescue of many home improvement project nightmares in our 45 years in business.” For example, Hester recently assisted a client who was forced to fire the original painter for a home renovation project because very little preparation work was performed. In order to complete the job at the price submitted, the first painter cut corners and carelessly applied the finish coats, which magnified every crack, nail pop and imperfection of the surfaces. Hester Painting & Decorating was then hired to re-paint the majority of the home with the proper preparation and attention to details.
The experts at Hester Painting & Decorating encourage homeowners to always make fully informed decisions when hiring any home improvement contractors. They recommend five key guidelines to help ensure a positive experience:
- Compare apples to apples. Obtain written estimates from your bidders on exactly the same scope of work. Don’t let them generalize with vague terms. Tell them to itemize all steps of their work and specify exactly what brands and products they intend to use. Also confirm the start date and expected completion dates as well as their available crew size. Keep in mind that a small crew may require much more time to finish the job. Develop a checklist to compare all bidders side by side in regards to all important factors and not just price.
- Protect your belongings. There are two major concerns involving insurance. The obvious one is to make sure the contractor is fully insured to cover your entire home, furniture, artwork, etc. – not just the room or rooms being worked on. While damage to a home can be as simple as a nick in the doorframe from the contractor’s ladder, there’s always the chance of something much more significant happening like a fire or water damage – putting the entire home at risk, thus the need for at least $2 million in general liability coverage. Also, always request to see the contractor's certificate of insurance to prove the coverages, and have them add your name as an Additional Insured on the policy.
- Protect yourself from fake subcontractors. The other incredibly important aspect of their insurance is the Workman’s Compensation insurance, which allows you protection if their employee gets hurt on your job. The problem that has developed in recent years is that many contractors no longer have real employees in order to avoid having to pay payroll taxes and workman’s compensation insurance. Instead, they hire their employees as “subcontractors.” However, even though they claim that these are subcontractors, they are really just the same former employees who have no insurance of their own. If they get injured in your home, many times the contractor’s insurance will not cover the injured employee, which could lead to your homeowner’s own insurance being dragged into the claim. The best way to protect yourself from this risk is to demand confirmation in writing that all workers are their employees, and if they claim to be subcontractors, then demand proof of insurance from each one of their subcontractors too.
- Personally meet the contractor and set the tone with your expectations. You can learn a lot about contractors by the way they represent themselves, and their accessibility before you hire them often indicates how responsive they will be once you sign a contract. Many contractors prefer to do a “drive by” estimate where they spend very little time working on your bid. The longer the contractor spends evaluating the condition of your home and discussing the project with you, the more likely you will have a realistic quote.
- Get the warranty in writing. Establish the details of the warranty before hiring – and make sure it’s in writing. Some warranties cover labor and materials, while some warranties only cover materials, despite the fact that labor fees can make up to 90 percent of the total cost.
Hester Painting & Decorating has been providing homes and high-profile commercial establishments in the Chicagoland area with high-end painting and decorating services for over 45 years, and has been honored to be selected the Best Painter by the readers of Make It Better Magazine for two consecutive years. Widely regarded as a leader in the fields of painting, faux finishing and wallcovering installation, Hester Painting & Decorating utilizes an enormous repertoire of finishes and techniques to create distinctive environments for its clients. For more information, visit www.hesterdecorating.com or call (847) 677-5130.