Hiring a General Contractor: How to Find a Reputable Home Improvement Contractor

Find a good contractor
Michelle Tether
Written by Michelle Tether

Following on from inspecting your home – what do you do if you find a problem? Before tackling their next home improvement project, homeowners need to do their homework to find a good contractor to complete the work and this isn’t easy, good reviews online don’t mean a great deal in case by case situations. Knowing what to look for will give homeowners a way to find a contractor they can feel comfortable hiring for years to come, I still use the same set of contractors when I am house flipping from nearly 8 years ago.

Builders are one of two things, reliable or unreliable and it’s not a switch that flicks on and off – you might get lucky occasionally with a bad one who holds it together for a job, but more often that not you’ll pay dearly for poor selection. I am going to help you in this article determine some important factors that would make me look deeper. The builder of this house would be really worth hiring, how beautiful a finish is this.

Flipping country houses with quality building contractors

Flipping country houses with quality building contractors

Finding Local Contractors

There are several places homeowners can look when compiling a list of potential contractors. One of the very best places to start is with their friends and family. By asking for recommendations and referrals, homeowners can be sure they will have at least a few names on their list before making those first calls and then once recommendations are in, a couple of further quotes to ensure pricing is reasonable. If I had to sum up the best policy in a paragraph, it was that one but contractor availability, and not knowing anyone can make the plan change.

Generally, past customers of any contractor are more than willing to share their experiences. In fact, homeowners are more likely to share bad customer service experiences than they do the good ones. Asking friends, neighbours and family members to share their experiences should result in several contractors to check with that are credible. I asked a sash window double glazing contractor once about his reviews that he had online. He was in business for fifteen years to this point and he only had two reviews online. Both negative, it seems like we are bitter nasty people? Come on be honest. When did you post a good review for someone when you should have? I think he felt like this!? 😀

Contractor upset with no reviews

Contractor upset with no reviews

Well, I wanted to hire him and I asked him about this – don’t be scared to ask difficult questions, this is how you get good results – nothings easy in life. He said, generally ‘it’s my opinion people are users, they get the service they want and forget it, they paid and they think they’ve squared up which is fair enough’, then he wen’t on to say ‘you go to the bank or to the solicitors – how many times did you leave a positive review?’ – I was thinking is this guy a genius salesman or just a truth speaker. Turns out he’s a truth speaker – we still work together nearly ten years later.

Well, however rude his point was – because it affected me directly (I am guilty of not leaving a good review I should of to help other people) how am I going to argue with his point when he gave me a list of 50 + people he had done work for, asked me to pick three or four randomly and he contacted them to get me a review. All of these reviews were positive when I phoned. I was instantly sold and if you encounter a similar situation I would think you are justified to be as well. It doesn’t matter how small the project or how large. It could be painting your sash windows or just finding a good professional to do some caulking. It could even just be a guy to paint your wooden fencing with varnish. These rules apply to all.

decorating wooden fences with varnish and treatment

Decorating wooden fences with varnish and treatment

How to spot a chancer contractor

If the homeowners have hired an architect or interior designer for the design of their refurbishment project, these professionals will usually have a list of reputable contractors in their area. Asking them for a recommendation is a great way to narrow the list of contractors to the very best. Designers and architects will not generally recommend someone they have not worked with personally and with good results, be warned, I had this situation and the architect was in bed with the builder and this all went wrong for me once. Learn from my experience and vet the contractor as I did earlier in this article.

Another place to look is the internet. Using a search engine to find contractors in the local area will allow the homeowners to find those contractors with websites. A nicely designed website is generally a sign of a solid business. Although this is not always the case, those contractors who have been in business for awhile, and are serious about growing their companies, will offer an online portfolio of past projects, client testimonials and more. Be warned on how to spot a fake. Look at this local listings. The top result ranks first for the search and has 8 this makes sense. One under has two and one good one bad. Then randomly one with 59. Looks fishy to me although because of the sheer quantity of their positive reviews they should be researched. You could miss a gem. I would never automatically write this contractor off no way.


How to spot a fishy contractor

Looking closely at the next image my thought lends me to think they are burying bad reviews, but don’t worry we still shouldn’t write them off we can check easily . When you see mainly 1s and 5s. This is almost always manipulation but it could just be one of those random variations that happen. Random variations this positive shouldn’t be binned, they should be investigated thoroughly to ensure you are not missing a brilliant outfit.

Bad contractor found mortice and green sash window repairs

Looks fishy to me.

Now, before you write them off there’s a really easy way to find out if your assumptions were right. Simply ask them to provide the names and addresses randomly of four of those positive reviews for you to call. If you don’t hear from them again assume the worst, but then if you do, you know that these fishy signs were just bad luck and you should absolutely proceed with them because it’s the same problem I had ten years ago with my contractor that turned out to be a hidden gem.

The local phone book can also be helpful in locating general contractors. Although not all contractors will have a listing in the phone book, many of them buy ads to attract new customers.

How to Determine the Reliability of a Contractor

Although it is nearly impossible to be 100% sure about any contractor hired for a project, homeowners can take several steps to make sure their contractor will do the best job at the best price. The most important step homeowners can take is checking the licensure of the contractors they are considering. My sash window contractor had to be FENSA registered to install my sash windows. The outfit above are FENSA registered which is a good start for using them.

Image inside mortice and green workshop

Image inside mortice and green workshop

Often, contractors will list their state license numbers on their websites, business cards, ads and signage. Homeowners should check with their state licensing board to determine whether the contractor is properly licensed, and if those licenses are up to date. An unlicensed contractor is a sure sign of trouble, and a homeowner should never hire a contractor who does not carry the proper license. Also, looking at the picture above their workshop looks beautiful. Ask to take a walk around it, if you’re spending tens of thousands of pounds on new joinery they’ll be more than happy to have you in and secure a deal as quickly as possible. Remember they are a business paying staff, that feed families, this is perfect normal and acceptable.

Face to face, man to man (or woman) 😀

Meeting with potential contractors is a sure way to determine the comfort level a homeowner has with him or her. A contractor will be in their home for an extended period of time, and it is very important for the homeowners to be at ease with him. Any feelings of uneasiness should not be disregarded; often their gut instincts prove to be correct. Ask them to show you a few pictures of work they’ve done and talk through them. Here’s a picture I looked at with a kitchen fitter man.

Beautiful kitchen design

Beautiful kitchen design

When meeting with contractors, homeowners should not be shy about asking them about their contracts, bidding process, pricing structure and other business details. These details are very important, as homeowners need to be aware of their own liabilities and responsibilities.
As a part of this process, homeowners should also ask about the contractors’ insurance policy. All contractors should be insured against liability and damage that could occur to a customer’s home and property, as well as injuries that could occur on the job site. Uninsured contractors should not be hired under any circumstance, as the homeowners could be held liable for any damage or injuries that occur on their property.


Although no process is foolproof, homeowners need to be diligent and aware when finding a contractor to hire for their home improvement projects. There are some great contractors out there, as well as poor ones. Using these tips should help them find the very best contractor to hire. To find out of a local contractor is licensed in their state, homeowners can search the Contractor’s License Reference Site.

About the author

Michelle Tether

Michelle Tether

I love everything home. I write as a passion for non profit about the things I love.

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