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How to Choose an Installer Choosing a Contractor

When beginning a remodeling or renovation project such as a boat deck, nothing is more important than hiring a good contractor. Follow these tips for choosing the right person for the job. These guideline are suggested by the Better Business Bureau.

Ask for recommendations.

About three-quarters of all people find their contractors through friends and family. Others find them through professional associations, such as NARI (National Association of the Remodeling Industry) and NAHB (National Association of Home Builders).

Conduct phone interviews.

Once you’ve compiled your list of contractors, ask them the following questions: Do they take on projects of your size? Are they able to provide financial references? Are they willing to give you a list of previous clients? How many other projects would they be working on at the same time? Are they properly licensed or bonded, and do they have liability insurance and workers’ compensation certificates?

Do some research.

Check your local Better Business Bureau for any complaints filed against a contractor. Call former clients to see if they were satisfied with their project. Most importantly, visit a current job site to see for yourself how the contractor works. Is the job safe and neat? Are workers careful with the boatowner’s property?

Collect plans and bids.

To compare bids, ask everyone to break down the cost of materials, labor, profit margins and other expenses. Materials usually account for 40 percent of the total cost. The rest covers overhead and the typical profit margin, which is 15 to 20 percent.

Establish a payment plan.

You can tell a lot about a contractor’s financial status and work ethic from his payment plan. For large projects, never work with someone who demands half or more up front, or who will only accept cash. Work out a fair system of milestones, generally 10 percent upon contract signing, three payments of 25 percent, and the final 15 percent when every item on the punch list is completed.

Be wary of the lowest bid.

Contractors who low-ball are probably cutting corners or may not be properly insured. The most critical factor in choosing a contractor is how well you and he communicate. All things being equal, it’s better to spend more and get someone you’re comfortable with.

Draw up a contract.

Make sure the contract details every step of the project: payment plan, proof of liability insurance and workers’ compensation certificates; a start and end date; specific materials to be used; and a stipulation that the contractor obtain lien releases (which protect you if he doesn’t pay his bills) from subcontractors and suppliers. Remember, a clear contract is the best way to ensure a successful project.

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