Choosing a Contractor: the First Meeting

So you’ve done your homework and selected the contractor you want to do the project you have outlined.

What’s next? You need to meet them to start the project planning.

That’s right–planning first. Come prepared.  Be sure and bring:

  • Any plans, notes or ideas you have for the project.
  • An idea of when work can start and when it should be completed.
  • Your budget and checkbook (if necessary).
  • The contract or documents related to this relationship.
  • Photos of the space you want reworked.
  • A list of questions.
  • Your expectations for the project and the contractor.

You are off and running.

The Grass Queen

Things to Know Before Hiring a Contractor: Negotiate a Maximum Hourly Rate

Negotiation is a critical skill to have when you are choosing a contractor.  Getting an agreement on price based upon a specific hourly rate will save you money and will help control costs.

Also consider that most contractors bid a project on time and materials and consider what they give you an estimate–unless you bargain for a firm-fixed price or fixed number of hours for the job.  Either way, you need to have some controls and limits in place to control costs and help maintain your budget.

Since you have already gathered multiple bids from several contractors, you have a pretty good idea as to what they average or going rate per hour.  That will give you a good basis for understanding what a fair price for the project is.

The Grass Queen

Things to Know Before Hiring a Contractor: Get References

Referrals are always the best way to choose a partner or business associate.  When it comes to contractors, consider who you know and who they know that they could recommend to you.

You want your work done right, so the best way to ensure this is to check out contractors who have been hired and come recommended. Consider asking these trusted sources for recommendations:

  • Relatives in the local area.
  • Business associates who have hired a contractor lately.
  • Neighbors whose new landscaping you admire.
  • Friends who have had similar work done.

What should you ask? Try these questions:

  • What did you have them do?
  • What were they like to work with?
  • Did they show up on time and get the work done efficiently?
  • Did they bill you fairly and in a timely fashion?
  • Did they give you an estimate before starting? Did they stay to it?

This is a starting place.  Happy contractor hunting.

The Grass Queen

Six Things to Know Before Hiring a Contractor

We’ve discussed this in this space before, but it is worth the reminder. As you do your planning for home and office improvements for the coming year, be sure you know enough about your contractor before you hire them.

Here’s a list that will help you choose and make the decision:

  1. Get multiple estimates. It will help you understand what the job should cost.
  2. Read consumer reviews. Hearing what others have to say about your candidate can help sway your decision.
  3. Call Licensing boards.  Be sure they have adequate liability coverage.
  4. Get several references.  Talking directly with their clients helps you understand how the contractor works.
  5. Negotiate a maximum hourly rate.  Helps contain costs.
  6. Always demand a lien release.  Protect yourself.

We’ll go over each of these steps in detail in future posts.  In the meantime, read the article from which this was borrowed in the January/February issue of AARP The Magazine (

The Grass Queen