Last weekend, I dragged my reluctant family to our local greasy spoon so that I could have tomatoes and grits with my breakfast, the kind of breakfast I grew up with. While we waited in line to pay – yes they still do that too – I was busy looking at the sea of business cards adorning the desk. Not too long ago, independent businesses had green sheets, school sports programs and those cards as the main source of leads. Well, and word of mouth of course. Lucky for us, the Internet has taken much of the guesswork out of hiring contractors and given voice for satisfied and not so satisfied customers. And we don’t have to keep track of ALL of those cards.
So why not take advantage of all that information before picking up the phone and getting on anyone’s potential customer list until you are ready?
Finding Reputable Contractors
If you don’t already have a flooring professional in mine, ask the people you trust most: friends, family and neighbors about their experiences.
And if that doesn’t work, there’s always Google… No really, the first few pages of Google list a bevy of popular websites for the search you are conducting, ads notwithstanding. The further you go along in the results, the more diluted the match to your specific search and the likelihood of user clicks goes down.
Community groups on Facebook and neighborhood sites like Next Door are a great venue for finding flooring contractors in your area. They are a fast and relatively anonymous way for neighbors to ask for and offer referrals. Many users will also offer advice on problems or ideas they had when remodeling as well as working with specific companies. My local group on Facebook even allows for local businesses to advertise their business on Tuesdays. It’s the perfect opportunity to message them with any quick questions you may have – consider it a pre-interview. Check the rules of your group for posting times and search out other groups in your area.
My child’s school PTA sells advertisements for all of the event programs, yard signs, T-shirts – I’m pretty sure there’s not a space they won’t sell ads for. I will warn you though, the company I called to remodel my shower advertised in the local school’s gym and they were $10,000 more than the next closest bid! Some people will say get three bids, but I say call as many contractors as you need to feel comfortable with your decision.
If you are new to the area, ask your real estate agent if they have a company they recommend. Many agencies host contractor meet and greets where agents meet contractors in person and get to know the businesses their clients may need.
Becoming a Contractor Private I:
- All potential contractors should have a professional website. A company concerned with gaining quality customers and jobs will spend time and effort on their website. Think twice about anyone without any online links or listings at all. Home remodeling, including wood floors, is a big-ticket expense, choose a company with presence and have some peace of mind that a fly by night didn’t fly off with your deposit.
- Search professionals on contractor or business sites like Thumbtack, Yelp, BBB, Houzz, Google+, Angie’s List, Home Advisor, etc. Many of the specialized services charge fees for the search or for the business listing, so don’t automatically discard a professional if they don’t show up on them all.
- Search online for business owners’ names as well. Unfortunately, some home services have no problem with declaring bankruptcy and starting up again in the same location under a new name. Customers wronged leave reviews, which usually include names, all the names.
- And that leads us perfectly into – all contractors should have positive reviews. The old adage that you can’t make everyone happy is true, but any complaints should be addressed and rectified by the business. Sites like BBB will show proof that any complaints are addressed and even interview the customer again to insure their complaint has been settled to customer’s satisfaction.
- Find the contractor’s online portfolio or pictures posted by happy customers. Contractors often post their finished projects on websites and professional contractor sites. A quick search will also turn up user photos tagging the contractor on sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
So Now it’s Time to Pick up the Phone – to actually dial this time.
After narrowing down your choices in flooring professionals, pick up the phone to schedule some in-home consultations. Initial consultations with independent contractors should always be free. Home service consultations are an interview, why should you pay for that?
Keep a notebook with any questions that you can think of before the appointment. And don’t be afraid to ask questions, lots of questions. Professional contractors WANT to answer all your questions. You will want to know the makeup of all of the woods your contractor will bring for you to sample and anything you are interested in. If you are concerned about chemicals in your home, ask about CARB compliance and clean air certifications. If you hate to clean, ask about special upkeep. If you have pets, ask about durability.
Pay attention to the meeting: is the professional, well, professional? Home service providers do work in a variety of conditions and usually in the heat, so while they may where shorts, jeans or T-shirts, they should look professional no matter what they have on. Make sure they arrive on time or call to adjust times if their schedule is running behind. They should bring the proper tools to measure your project, take down measurements and any information they receive from you regarding your preferences and concerns.
Flooring professionals should bring samples to your home. Just like the dreaded department store dressing room where fluorescent lights make everyone look like zombies, large store lighting isn’t close to what you have at home. So be sure and request samples in your preferred styles and colors to compare in your home with your paint and lighting. Interested in solid wood, ask for 1st quality wood, not cabin grade or off issue goods. We like to bring a couple of wild card samples as well and our clients are really surprised to find they love them. Gray wash, anyone?
Before your consultation is over, ask the contractor when you can expect an estimate for the work you need. If there are time constraints, they should relay that information then and be able to give you a range of time to expect an accurate estimate, not a ballpark. You should receive a detailed, all-inclusive estimate from every contractor you invite in your home.
What to Expect from Your New Houseguests
- Contractors are not movers, painters, plumbers or electricians, nor are they insured or bonded for this work. It’s best to hire professionals for these aspects of the job.
- Do NOT allow any demolition or installation to start without masking or taping plastic on fixtures and items left in the home: including blinds, cabinets, book shelves, fans and chandeliers.
- Your home will be a construction site, it will get dirty and dusty during construction, but this dirt and dust should be cleaned at completion of the job.
- Let the flooring contractor focus on what they do best for a successful job.
- If you have any concerns or questions during installation, ask. We want you to be happy and confident with your renovation and the finished product.
Have questions about choosing your flooring professional, please visit www.woodfloorsofdallas.com or call 972-525-0026.