Today we met with the electrical contractor to work out all the details, make sure our scope of work and estimate was on point, and hired him! I have hired a lot of contractors in my day job, and now hiring them for my personal project is important too, so I wanted to share with you the steps to finding a good contractor or subcontractor.
1. Know your scope of work. I image every contractor screaming in their heads: "HELP ME HELP YOU!" You need to know what you want. If you don't know, educate yourself and learn a little. For example, if you say to the tile guy: "How much money to tile my bathroom?" he is going to need to know all the details to get you the best quote. Know exactly what tile you want - the size of the tile matters. Know the exact space and area you want tiled. And be ready to have an answer when he needs to know how much spacing between tiles for the grout and much more. This is a simple example, and it only gets more intricate with bigger scopes like electrical and plumbing. Study up on what you want and be ready to make quick decisions. If you need to, write it out or have a drawing. This this for your own peace of mind, and to help the subs.
2. Get recommendations. Some of our best subs have come from word of mouth. We talk to our friends and neighbors, and have gotten some great names from the guys at the local lumber yard and hardware store. Sure, you can google it and get some names, but that word of mouth recommendation is golden. Even one sub can recommend subs of different trades that they've enjoyed working with in the past.
3. Call six subs for each trade. Call all your recommended guys and the googled guys. Not everyone will show up to look at the project, and not everyone will respond with a bid. This happens in the residential and commercial world. Every time you meet a sub, you will learn a new method or detail about the trade. Sub walks can be free education for you. Make sure you tell the same trades people the same details so that they are bidding apples to apple (this is where the writing out the scope and having drawings really helps). It's even okay to have all the subs show up at the same time for a job walk, and it's okay that they know they have competition. The is a more commercial setup, so be prepared and professional, and have those scope of work documents.
4. Analyze the subs and their bids. Ask lots of questions of the subs, about their business and what they specialize in, their crew size, what type of materials they use and where they source them. Ask about the time line and when they are available. Ask lots of question to vet them. Hopefully, you will get at least three bids per trade, this way you will have a good idea on what the work should cost and if anyone is a complete outlier. After getting the bid, call them back to make sure you understand every detail of their bid and that it matches to what you want, and that they didn't add anything extra or leave anything out. If it's not detailed enough, ask them to break it out by material and labor, or have a parts list. This is not superfluous work, this is an absolute necessary step before hiring any sub, especially if you have never worked with them before. It might take an extra hour now, but will be worth it in the end.
These three steps set up a solid foundation for you to pick the best, most reputable subcontractor. With all of this work and information you gather about the subcontractors and bids, you can be confident in your hiring. Best of luck, and let me know if you have any other tips in the pre-hiring process.