How to Hire the Right Contractor for Your Home Project

November 17, 2021

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Text by Kristin Amico


Finding the right contractor can mean the difference between a well-organized and enjoyable project, or one that is plagued with budget issues or quality concerns.

Larissa Cook, executive vice president of Boston-based FBN Construction, offers homeowners tips on how to hire the best contractor for a successful project from beginning to end. Her more than fifteen years at one of the city’s premier residential construction and remodeling firms has made her a pro at working toward positive outcomes with clients and partners.

Here’s what she advises.

Get Contractor Recommendations and Gather Your Team
To start the process, source contractor recommendations from the community. Ask friends who recently completed a home project or look to home designers and architects for suggestions.

Review the contractor’s project portfolio and set up an interview. This initial meeting will help you understand how they work with clients, how responsive they are, and if your goals align.

For the most seamless project, it is vital to find a contractor early in the process and develop your entire design and construction team in order to have them working together towards your goals and objectives. Each offering their expertise and information critical to decision making.

“Don’t wait until after you’ve fallen in love with a design concept to seek out a contractor or construction team. That may result in learning your dream house is outside your budget or is a no-go for other site-related reasons,” warns Cook.

Prepare a Contractor Meeting Checklist
Go into selection meetings with as many details as possible, including:

  • Photos of similar projects – from magazines or online resources for home improvement
  • Initial plans or concepts from the designer or architect
  • Your ideal project budget and your maximum budget
  • Desired completion date
  • Any factors that might impact the project. Will you be living in the home during renovations? Are there environmental concerns, etc.?

In addition, be prepared with a wish list that includes must-haves and another list of nice-to-have features you can live without.

Cook advises that some compromise may be involved to hit budgets or deadlines. If you can detail needs versus wants, there will be less friction throughout the process.

Look for a Contractor who is Transparent and Inspires Trust
“At FBN Construction, our goal is to give clients the most accurate estimate based on scope, but we also explain how unexpected issues can alter fees and timelines. We want to set realistic expectations and build trust with clients,” explains Cook.

If you are interviewing several contractors and want an apples-to-apples comparison, ask detailed questions about what’s included in the fee, what’s not, and how change orders are billed. You may find that contractors who provide the lowest bids are like budget airlines who tack on a long list of add-on fees for services you assumed were covered in the estimate.

You’ll also want to ask about the project team. How will the project be supervised and managed? Who will be doing the work? Are they part of the contractor’s core team, or will subcontractors be responsible for a large portion of the work? If so, how long have they worked with the subcontractor, and can they vouch for their craftsmanship?

Likewise, ask about the warranty on the work. If there’s an issue six months after completion, will they show up promptly and make repairs?

After Hiring a Contractor, Here’s How to Maintain a Successful Relationship
Selecting a contractor is only the first step in the process. After agreeing to move forward, Cook explains the best way to ensure a smooth process from beginning to end.

  • Maintain open and clear communication. If you have a concern, voice it immediately. The sooner you speak up, the sooner the contractor can adjust.
  • Attend regularly scheduled progress meetings and respond to questions or clarification requests promptly. This is the best way to avoid problems before they happen.
  • Make timely decisions. The more you finalize before construction begins (from small items like finishes and paint colors to critical factors like room dimensions or layout of cabinets), the faster the job will be completed.

“Ultimately, working with a contractor is a long-term relationship that often lasts more than a year. Find a firm that you are comfortable with, and one that demonstrates it shares your vision,” adds Cook.

FBN Construction, Boston, 

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