Finding a great contractor is a homeowner’s rite of passage, especially if you’re looking to take on a major home improvement project, or you simply need some assistance around your house. It may be the difference between a botched job and a job well done. But how exactly do you find home improvement contractors you can trust? Let’s find out.
What do contractors do?
The term “contractor” refers to a person or company hired to fulfill a contracted labor or service project. Within the home improvement context, it typically refers to someone who performs specialized work as part of a construction or home improvement project. In many cases, your contractor is the one doing the actual work, but they may also help oversee bigger projects and provide expertise as needed. There are many different types of home improvement contractors:
A general contractor doesn’t specialize in one specific contracting trade. General contractors might be a jack-of-all-trades, capable of fixing basic plumbing issues, painting and general handiwork, for example. General contractors are also people who can help oversee bigger home projects. In this role, they’ll typically help manage the supplies and hire the correct people to get the job done.
A plumber is somebody who specializes in sewage and drainage. Plumbers help install the initial pipe systems when a home is built, and local plumbers are typically called on for maintenance throughout a home's life. You’ve probably called a plumber if you’ve ever experienced a severely clogged toilet or backed-up shower drain.
An electrician is another type of specialized home improvement contractor. Electricians are responsible for installing wiring, switches and outlets in your home — pretty much anything that’s powered by electricity. If you call on an electrician, you’re probably looking for them to do one of a few things: inspect electrical components in your home, identify electrical problems, install new electrical components (like extra wall outlets) or repair wiring.
A carpenter is a woodworker. Carpenters are responsible for constructing and installing the framework of a home, including the walls, doors and cabinetry. Some carpenters will do basic framework, whereas other more skilled carpenters get involved with the aesthetics of beautiful cabinetry and molding. These kinds of small-but-thoughtful details may help elevate the elegance of a home.
A painter is, you guessed it, responsible for painting. Although you may potentially be able to go the DIY route for a smaller painting project inside your home, painting contractors bring technical know-how to the table. They know how to paint smoothly over different materials, how to lay a proper base coat and, ultimately, how to do a professional paint job both inside and outside of your home.
Heating, vents and air conditioning (HVAC)
A HVAC contractor is responsible for installing the heating and cooling system in a home. After the initial installation, they are typically called on during seasonal transitions to fix or maintain a heating or cooling system, ensuring optimal performance and temperature control.
A roofer is responsible for installing and maintaining the roof of a building. If you’re building a home, your general contractor will hire a roofer to properly install a roof that’s weatherproof and sturdy for the environment you live in. If you’re buying a home, you likely won’t deal with a roofer until your roof needs repairs or replacing down the line.
A landscaper is a contractor with a green thumb. Landscapers typically spend most of their time in your backyard, doing things like installing irrigation systems, installing new outdoor features and planting and nurturing new greenery.
When do I need a contractor?
There are several instances where calling on one or more home improvement contractors may be necessary. If you’re building a home, you’ll likely need a skilled general contractor and an architect to manage your project from start to finish. During a major home renovation project, you’ll likely call on one or more contractors as well. The appropriate contractor will depend on the project. If your project involves multiple elements — for example, you’re looking to repaint your home and replace your roof — you’ll likely need both a painter and a roofer.
There are also some projects that may not require a contractor — as mentioned, some enjoy a DIY project. Before embarking on a DIY project, however, it helps to make sure you have the right tools for the job and honestly assess whether the project is potentially above your skillset. If you’re dealing with electrical issues, for example, safety is of the utmost importance, and it may be wise to call on (or at least consult with) an electrician.
How to choose a contractor
There are several ways to find a reliable home improvement contractor. You can start with a simple web search. It’s helpful to note your location in your search and what the project is to narrow down your results. Another, often more helpful, way to choose a contractor is by word-of-mouth. Consider asking friends or family if they have someone they trust. Finally, you could try visiting a home improvement retailer near you and asking for recommendations.
Whether you’re building a home, doing a major renovation or need help with some other project around your home, a contractor is who you’d call on. Some home improvement contractors specialize in specific trades like plumbing or electrical systems, whereas other contractors are more like general practitioners. If you’re looking for the best contractor near you, consider calling on a friend for a referral or seeking out someone with positive reviews.