Home Improvement

JJ's Home Improvements - Remodeling Services, Renovations, Home Improvements, Commercial and Residential Remodeling Contractors in Ann Arbor, MI.


There are a lot of things that you've got to watch out for when hiring a home improvement contractor. Home improvements are major and highly important--and expensive--undertakings. Do not take the process of finding the right contractor lightly. Too many things can go wrong if you don't watch every single step of your decision making process. Murphy's Law is definitely at play in home improvement work, so let's make sure you have some serious decision making knowledge under your hat before you start giving your money to someone.

First, you should ask for referrals to contractors. This is your most important source of information and knowledge. People who have earned good references from others must have satisfied their needs and desires, and they must have done so at a fair price. It's not very likely that they caused them trouble, gave them a hard time, got into legal disputes, or did work that was insufficient or overpriced. You should get your referrals from neighbors, family members, or good friends whom you know have had experience with the home improvement contractors in question. Don't just go asking their opinions, though. Make sure they have real experiences to tell you about and that they have common sense enough to know what they're talking about. Also be sure that they aren't just referring you to a contractor friend of theirs without justified cause to be confident in them.

If you don't have anyone you know who can give you good referrals, check around at local lumber yards and Home Depot or Loewe's stores. They'll know who they do a lot of business with. They can tell you who buys the quality materials and who pays their accounts up on time.

Once you've got your list of referrals, start making some telephone calls. Get these guys to talk to you in detail on the telephone before you have them come meet with you. You need them to answer some basic questions up front:

*Have they done projects like yours and of your size before?
*How many other projects have they got going on right now?
*How well do they know their subcontractors?
*Who are some of their previous clients?
*Would they be willing to give you information so you can check their credentials with local banks and suppliers?

If they cannot answer all of these questions to your satisfaction, you probably should not work with them. For those whom you continue to see as your potential contractor, check every reference that you possibly can, leaving none out of the loop. Check with former clients, check with the creditors, check with their insurance, check up on their bonding. Don't think that you are going too far or being invasive to do these things. You are selecting someone to give a lot of money to and some who you are going to allow to spend many, many hours on your property and maybe inside your house.

Once you have your list narrowed down, hold face-to-face interviews. What you want to get from these interviews include different bids, and these different bids must spell out everything in writing. You want to see every single thing that they are going to do for you. You are also comparing prices, of course. However--when it comes to home improvement contractors, the cheapest is definitely not always the best choice. Look for the very best balance of quality and price that you can get. Remember, you're going to get what you pay for.

Also, during the face to face interviews, see how well you actually like the guy. It's very important that your personalities gel because you are going to be involved in a lot of communication. You need to feel some kind of personal rapport with the guy that you go with. If someone seems a little shady to you, even if his bid seems good, think twice about him. Of course, what you are going to do is check up on the guys you think you like with the Better Business Bureau anyway. You don't want to be taken in by a slick salesman who is long on personality and short on substance.

In fact, once you've got your top prospects, visit a local job-site and see for yourself how efficiently they work, and how well they keep the site as uncluttered and neat as is possible. Once again, this is not invasive--at least, not to the guys who are high quality and honest. They'll love for you to pay them a visit while they work--it gives them a chance to get to know you better and "show off" for you, giving them an edge over lesser contractors.

And finally, never pay the full balance at once up front, and don't work with anyone who would make you do that. Pay a deposit, then a second installment about halfway through the work's progress, and then hold the final payment until you have been shown documentation that they have settled all of their bills and the work is completely done to your liking. Don't get stuck with their bills or with unsatisfactory work. In fact, you may want to have your lawyer handle making all payments to them--a dishonest contractor will think twice before trying to pull a fast one on someone who can make money by ripping them apart in court.

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