How to Make Sure You’ll Love Your Contractor

You’ve heard the horror stories.

  • “They left our restaurant 6 weeks into the reno — with our ENTIRE payment — and stopped returning our calls!”
  • “We found out the hard way they lied about being insured…
  • “The work samples he showed us turned out to be pics he found online!”

It almost makes you want to skip the whole project.

But you can’t.

  • Your warehouse is unfinished.
  • Your restaurant is bursting at the seams.
  • Your office looks like it’s from 1985 (because it is).

How can you find a contractor who will get the job done for a fair price, within your timeline, honestly and with integrity?

This elusive “needle-in-the-haystack” search IS possible. These are the 5 MUST-DOs when you’re scoping out a contractor. 

Research.

Before soliciting references and interviewing contractors, you need a clear concept of what you want done and how much you can spend. Start collecting inspiration and ideas (Pinterest is great for this), peruse cost estimates for materials and labor online, talk to other business owners who have done projects with a similar scope. Arm yourself with as much information as you can so you’re a partner in this project, not just a yes man. 

Check references.

Word of mouth is worth gold — as long as it is someone you trust. So ask the people you do trust for their recommendations. Contractors will also provide references to call, and you should. Ask the hard questions: were you satisfied? Did they follow regulations and codes — or cut corners? What didn’t you like about working with them? Would you use them again? 

This step includes verifying relevant licenses and insurance coverage. Don’t assume they play by the rules — get hard proof. 

Get several bids — and read carefully.

With service work, prices can range the gamut. Be wary of lowball bids — you might end up nickel-and-dimed for “add ons” that should have been included in the scope. Go through every bid with a fine-toothed comb, ensuring that everything you need done is actually included — and the things you don’t need are not. 

Trust your gut. 

This is your livelihood at stake. You need to put it in the hands of someone with integrity, someone you can communicate with, someone you feel confident in. A positive working relationship with your contractor is non-negotiable. If you get a bad vibe from a potential contractor…keep looking.  

Hold onto your money. 

Deposits are standard, but never pay up the final payment until all the work is finished. How much should you lay out upfront? General recs suggest no more than 10%, unless expensive materials are needed at the outset.