On Friday, I gave some ideas for how to find a good contractor. Today I’m sharing how to get bids on your project from the list of potential contractors you selected.
Call and schedule appointments for the prospective contractors to meet you at the project site and ask them to “bid the job.” This just means that they will look around, talk about what you want, discuss what they see, measure areas, think about materials needed, propose a time frame, and discuss what kind of budget you are on.
It’s smart to iron out right now who will provide and deliver materials, and who will take care of fees associated with that if they will pick up the materials.
First thing to notice is whether they arrive on time. Of course weird things do happen sometimes, so if they are late, ask them why. If they had bad directions or had vehicle trouble, did they call and notify you of this? Personally and professionally to me, if they do not respect the timelines of an appointment for a job, can I trust them that when they tell me they will be finished with the job by a certain date that they truly will be? Arriving late to bid a job also shows me that they do not respect my time and schedule, and this will be two strikes against them off the start.
I give 30 minutes, and I will call them. If there is no answer, they have 10 more minutes. If they show up after I leave, they have wasted their time, but no more of mine will be wasted. I have not had to do that so far [Sue Ann and Lee have], but that is my policy. Ask them to also bring names and numbers of references (three or four is good) of people they have worked for that you can contact. You can also request any pictures they have of their before and after jobs. A truly competent and good contractor will be happy to show you their hard work, and for you to have references.
If they seem to shy away, or would rather just tell you about them, citing excuses as to why that customer would give a bad review, then I would suggest politely informing them that the project may not be a good fit for them. This is your money that you are spending, and if the job is not done well, you will foot the bill. Even if you take them to court over a bad job and win, you will still have to hire another contractor to come in and fix the mistakes which will cost even more than the original job did to begin with [Sue Ann knows this first hand]. Be wise with your money, and do not be afraid to turn down a contractor if you do not get good references or have positive feelings about them.
During the Walk-through
During a walk through for a bid, I have been known to dig around and find problems that should be in plain view to a contractor before they get there. For example, I only considered contractors that saw the rotten board under one of the kitchen windows for Round 2 consideration for Rattlesnake. More than one missed it, even after measuring the window and me asking if the window was structurally sound. I got a whole-hearted “Yes ma’am, that window is solid.”
I am very much a layman and am no carpenter, so if I can see something that obvious, but the professional next to me does not, then I move on. I have to be able to trust that if a rotten board is found, it will be brought to my attention and can be fixed. I cannot run the risk of them finding it later and either adding it to the bill without consulting me, or just covering it up.
Another thing to ask during the initial walk through is how long they have been doing this kind of work. If their business is new, but they have been doing this for many years, that does not run them out of the door for me.
As they are explaining things that they see need to be or should be done, can they tell you why? You’re paying them, so they should be able to explain why they are suggesting you spend more.
A great example of what I feel should happen is: every time something new has popped up with the Rattlesnake house (ya know, once or twice a week), Chris either asks me to come look, or he calls and explains what he has found, what it will take to fix it, and why it needs to be fixed. I don’t even have to ask him why.
Your contractor should always be able to explain their trade in a way that you can understand when they are telling you what they see needs to happen. If they tell you that they have to redo a job that someone else did, they should be able to explain why that is besides, “it wasn’t done right.”
“What is wrong with it?” Mandi is going to ask, and “Cause look a here, it just doesn’t look right” is not an acceptable answer.
For crying out loud, if they show up to review the project so they can bid on it and they do not have paper, pen, tape measure, etc., to do the bid with, they are not your contractor. Yes, I’ve had it happen. Twice.
I will not make a second trip out on another day so that they can remember the necessary tools to be able to bid the job, either. One chance and done with me. That may seem harsh, but houses can be sensitive with their load bearing pieces, and I can’t have them forgetting a tool that is vital to the integrity of the structure and deciding to just let it sit that way for a while, or just work around it so that in 5 or 10 years, I have to have someone gut that spot to fix it, and cross my fingers that the damage done is contained.
If they show up in a small vehicle, I also have no problems asking how they haul tools and materials. If they pause and explain about a cousin twice removed helping them sometimes, this is not the reliability that I am looking for. If they say that they brought the car to save on gas, and their work truck is at home, I can be good with that.
If your meeting is later in the day, and the prospective contractor shows up looking like they just left another job, ignore it. They probably did, and that is actually a good thing. That means that they have work and squeezed this bid in rather than sitting around all day until it was time to come to your project. They multitasked and obviously understand time management if they made it to you on time.
Stay tuned for the next installment and exploring how to look over the bids that you receive! Take care fans and friends!Hermann says please like and share!