Have a clear idea in your mind as to what you want done.
Make it easy for the contractor to understand and visualize what the completed job will look like. Draw a sketch or layout. Show him pictures from a magazine that inspired your idea, or just write a page or two describing in as much detail as you can what you want.
Get off on the right foot
Communication is the key to getting off on the right foot with a contractor, and staying there. Ask questions, and expect him to ask questions back.
First impressions are very important for both you and the contractor. Make sure you are at home and ready to meet with the contractor at the scheduled time. If something unavoidable comes up, call him to reschedule. Expect the same from him.
Don’t ask the contractor for a “drop off bid.” It’s important for both of you to meet face to face.
Ask the right questions
Is he the owner of the business, or a salesman?
Ask who will be performing the work? Will he or a foreman be there each day leading the crew, or will he be sub-contracting some of the work to another company?
Has he done projects like yours before?
Is he confident about the amount of time the project will take, and on how much the materials will cost?
How will change orders be handled?
Ask for their policy regarding clean-ups and removal of waste from your property.
What does their warranty cover, and what is excluded from coverage?
Who is responsible for obtaining the proper permits?
Get the right documents
Insist on a written proposal that states very specifically the work to be done, who will be doing it, and for how much. The cost should be broken out into materials and labor. It should include an estimated start and completion date. It must also include specifications on the materials to be used.
A blueprint should be used for any major project, along with floor plans and elevations, so there are no misunderstandings as to what the finished job should look like. Drawing up a blueprint is sometimes included in the bid from the contractor, or you may need to hire an architect to do it for you.
Make sure to get a copy of a written warranty. Read and understand it. If you have any questions regarding it, now is the time to ask them.
Get copies of the contractor’s liability insurance policy, his workman’s compensation policy and any required licenses, if applicable.
Review the estimates
Take the time to review each company’s estimate. Make absolutely sure you are comparing apples to apples. If you are uncertain about any item on the estimate, call the contractors for an explanation.
Even if you have no questions, call each contractor anyway just to see how easy they are to reach, and how promptly they return phone calls.
Ask yourself some questions
Which contractor did you feel the most at ease with?
Which one seemed the most knowledgeable and professional?
Which one was the easiest to reach, and provided polite, courteous answers to your questions?
Who had the lowest price? The highest? What are the differences between these two bids? Look again to be sure the bids are apples to apples.
Make your final decision
Use the process of elimination to exclude contractors who did not provide the proper paperwork, or did not return your phone calls within a reasonable time.
Never make your decision on price alone.
Choose the contractor you felt the most comfortable with. The one that inspired the most trust and confidence in you.