How to Choose a Contractor

Getting contracting work done on your commercial or residential property can be worrisome, especially if you have never hired the company before. It doesn’t help that the economy has been deemed to be in a slump, resulting in a majority of people being more cost-effective with their money. On the upside, construction experienced a significant increase of 3.1 percent over the year and added 4,300 jobs in 2014, according to data from the Department of Labor & Workforce Development,

However, in February 2016 in Trenton, 40 home improvement contractors were issued violations for allegedly cheating customers in the fourth quarter of last year, the state Division of Consumer Affairs reported.

Customers should be more cautious with whom they invest their money. The names of the contractors were not mentioned, but this goes to show that just because you hire somebody it does not mean they will always complete the job as contracted.

“Through our year-long enforcement efforts we have been able to return significant amounts of restitution to consumers allegedly cheated by contractors who took money for jobs that were left undone or completed unsatisfactorily,” Acting Attorney General John J. Hoffman said in a statement.

1-2-3 Flip, a resource for professional property-flippers, explains that there are three major categories for contractors.

  • General contractors have experience in more or less everything. They can do carpentry, basic electrical, home renovation, basic plumbing, sheetrock and more. They are usually very experienced, manage tight schedules and tend to get subcontractors that have the expertise for the job.

A general contractor hires subcontractors and retains their contracts. The subcontractors work for the general contractor, who pays them what they agreed upon for the job or whatever kind of contract they may have. Hiring a general contractor can eliminate the stress that comes with planning a renovation or whatever improvement you’re looking into.

  • On the other hand, there are also turnkey or specialty services contractors. Most of them are listed in the Yellow Pages—for example, Roto Rooter. It is in your best interest to select a contracting business that is licensed, insured and can manage themselves and their team. They should be able to arrive on time and get the job done by the projected completion date.

The specialty services contractors may not be the cheapest option, but their work and credentials could very well far outweigh the cost. Be cautious as to what work you have done first on your property. For example, do not re-sheetrock a wall and then have your plumber come over to do some work. The plumber might have to replace pipes and could be forced to go into the wall you just fixed up. It could set you back on the project and in money.

  • The third alternative is freelance workers. They are the cheapest out of the three options. Freelance workers are similar to some general contractor workers, although they tend to lack the experience that the general contractors have gained over the years. Being that they are freelance workers, you have to manage the project yourself and tell the contractors when to come. This may be the cheapest option, but is the most time-consuming out of the three choices.

Here are some tips from This Old House magazine on how to find a reliable contractor in your neighborhood:

  • Ask family and friends—chances are that somebody you know got some work done on their property. See if they can recommend a contractor that is reliable, does fine work and is affordable.
  • Examine the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) website for a list of members in your area. The NARI has award-winning members; it’s an organization that only allows experienced, qualified and innovative contractors to join.
  • Talk to a local building inspector—they are knowledgeable of who consistently passes code requirements.
  • Go to a local lumberyard and inquire about local contractors that go there. Ask them what type of quality material they get and if they pay their bills on time.

Finding a contractor you can trust could very well prove to be difficult. But hopefully, this list gives you an idea to capitalize on and helps you to avoid the contractors that fail to live up to their expectations.

Jonathan Sanzari is a contributing writer & copy editor with Meadowlands USA. He has an associate degree in arts from Passaic County Community College and a bachelor’s degree from Ramapo College of New Jersey in communication arts, focusing in journalism. He can be reached at musa@meadowlands.org.  

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Meadowlands USA

Meadowlands USA

Meadowlands USA is a North Jersey regional publication that reaches people who live and work in and around the Meadowlands (including the Bergen, Hudson, Essex and Passaic County corridor), as well as visitors to our region. The blog edition is updated regularly and the print edition is released six times a year.

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