How to Choose A Contractor (or Other Home Pro!)

A good contractor will be one of your best friends during a home project. Finding said contractor, however, isn't always free taco day at your favorite restaurant. I've had clients who are nervous about hiring anyone because the last crew dripped paint all over their hardwood floors (true story!). Heck, even I had a debacle at the old house in which a plumber repaired our sewage ejector pump incorrectly the first time and "had" to charge us again for a replacement. Insert eye-roll here.

Anyway, with all of the hiring I do for clients and myself, I've discovered how to find the good eggs in the basket and skip the rest. Here's what you should do before hiring a crew:

1. Ask around. Your friends and family will sing the praises of contractors they like, so grab that information and use it. Speaking from experience, both on a personal and professional level, this is the best way to find a quality crew. And if none of your nearest and dearest have a recommendation for a particular project, don't be afraid to ask a trusted pro if they know anyone. For example: I always ask my real estate agent first because he's given me solid referrals in the past and I totally trust his judgment.

2. Get multiple quotes. If you ask your friends and family and trusted professionals and STILL come up empty-handed, it's time to get some estimates. As tempting as it might be, don't hire the first person you Google. Too much information is better than not enough, so I recommend getting three (or more!) quotes for your project before pulling the trigger. And get them in writing! Not only will this help you remember what everybody said (because you will forget), but having a clear scope of work will keep both of you on the same page and prevent any "surprises" later.

3. Quiz them. When a pro comes to your house for an estimate that’s the time to ask all of your questions. This goes for trusted referrals AND newbies you find online. I grill them about their hourly rate, project timeframe, who buys the materials, etc., and honestly, I want everything answered right then. If your contractor is doing a lot of um-ing and I-don’t-know-ing, then they’re probably not the one you want. (Or at the very least, they’re not knowledgeable enough to be running around writing estimates, so who’s to say what they tell you will be accurate?) All of the good contractors I've hired have been excited to talk about their work, anyway, so don’t be afraid to speak up if you’re not sure about something.

4. Determine your dealbreakers. Everybody has different priorities for a home project and you need to find a contractor who will check most of those boxes. At Casa Ronchetti, we go for professionals with three things: great communication skills, short order availability (because when I have a gap in my schedule we need to GO), and a willingness to let us DIY part of the project. Your needs will probably be different--most people don't WANT to tile a shower--so take a few minutes to pinpoint the must-haves before you hire anybody.

What do you look for in a home professional? Any other tips to share? And since we all have one, what’s the worst project fail that’s happened to you? Ours might be the ejector pump fiasco, because sewage backing up into the bathroom is such a great time.