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Homeowner prohelp


House Remodeling and Repairs
Finding and Choosing Professional Help

The best time to choose someone to do repairs on your home is when you don’t need them. When the water pipes have burst and the basement is flooding it is not the ideal time to begin the search for a plumber. When an emergency occurs, you will likely have to take whoever you can get. When the outside temperature is 10 degrees and the heating system goes south, you will be scrambling for the Yellow Pages looking for the first large ad that catches your eye. Of course you may find a very competent heating and air conditioning specialist this way, but you will be choosing them based solely on the size of their advertising budget.

A better way to approach the search for reliable help is to do it in advance. When everything is working fine in your house, you have the luxury and time of comparing professionals in different trades. When you are behind the eight ball with water pouring through the ceiling, it is easy to make expensive mistakes.

Where to find professional help for your house

Not only can finding a good contractor be difficult, evaluating the ones you have found can take a lot of time. Fortunately, there are other options.

Another good source of finding repair people and contractors is through personal referrals. Start by asking people that you know–friends and co-workers–who are the most reliable. Since one of the most important characteristics you will be evaluating will be reliability of the worker, you don’t want a referral to come from someone who isn’t reliable them self!

Another good source of recommendations is your local building supply house. The employees there work with contractors on a daily basis and probably can give you a fairly good evaluation of them. Seeing a contractor having to return four times to get material because they miscalculated the job tells the building supply house employee a lot about that individual. Hearing a contractor’s assistant complain about not getting his paycheck on time may say something about the reliability of the contractor.

 Once you get started, it gets easier.

A very good source of referrals for trade professionals are other professionals in unrelated fields. For example, once you have found a plumber in whom you have confidence, it is likely that he or she will be able to give you a few names of electricians. Then the electrician should be able to refer to you the names of good roofers and general carpenters. Before long you should have a number of possibilities for people in each of the trades.

How to evaluate professional help for your house

Once you have several choices for each trade you need to narrow it down to a primary choice and a backup (if your water heater is leaking and your choice for a plumber is at the beach, you will need an alternative!) The most important items to evaluate are on the following checklist.



How long have they been in business?


Do people consider them to be reliable?


How is the quality of their work?


When the work was finished, was the job site neat and clean?


What is their hourly rate?


Is the work done by them or will someone else (e.g., an assistant) be doing the actual work?


Do they have proper insurance coverage?


If necessary, do they have the proper license?

When Your Choices are Made…
Keep track of your choices! Put them on your list of who to call when you need professional help and keep it in a readily accessible place.