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How do You Find a Contractor??

February 10, 2022

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We get this questions all the time–How do you find a contractor?? Finding a good contractor these days can be a bit like finding a needle in a haystack – at times, hopeless. All the good contractors are booked for month, if not the year, which can leave you feeling like it’s worth taking a chance on a contractor with a few reviews. Scary! First, check out these past posts we’ve done on hiring contractors.

Hiring Contractors Vs DIY: Breaking Down The Pros And Cons

How to Hire a Contractor (And When We Do)

In Idaho, we found a contractor to do the exterior of our home/dining room based on google reviews. It’s not the worst way to find a contractor these days, but it’s always possible that some of those positive reviews could have been incentivized. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t a terrible experience, but now that we have the contractor we have now, we can see some things that were lacking with past experiences.

So how do you even find a contractor? Well that’s a good question, and we’d love to hear what you have to say about finding your dream contractor (or dud) in the comments! We only have our own experiences, so we can only speak to that, but we HAVE learned that there’s nothing better than a recommendation.

Recommendations > Reviews

Always, always try to ask for recommendations! Reviews can be helpful, but sometimes there’s only a small sample to pull from. We’ve all seen the polarizing google reviews where there’s one person with an absolute horror story, and one person who left a 5 star raving review. What are you supposed to do with that information? Whose experience is the norm, and whose is the outlier?

When we announced our move to North Carolina, we had a follower recommend a contractor to us (Kennon Construction for those local to the Triangle area), and we explored it. We didn’t have any other leads and the recommendation was so sincere that we met for a consultation, saw a bunch of their past work (ALWAYS HELPFUL!) and they were so kind and communicative and reassuring!

While we still lived in Idaho, our contractor here demoed the floors, demoed the kitchen, installed new flooring… and they kept us in the loop with texts and phone calls and photos every day. We were so stunned and kept saying to each other, “I can’t believe how great our contractor is.” A clear communication line is definitely something that you should ask about before hiring anyone.

If you can’t get a personal recommendation from anyone, turn to your local Facebook group or something like the Nextdoor app! There’s a search feature that let’s you type in “painters” and you’ll see any posts about painters in the group. If there’s not many to go off of, definitely ask the question yourself: “Would love recommendations for great painters in the area.”

My sister, Andrea, recently did this in her neighborhood group looking for someone who can tear our the carpet in her living room and extend the vinyl flooring. It’s a great place to start, and now she’s getting estimates from a few people to compare costs.

Another tip I would give is to mention to the contractor “Oh, so and so recommended you to me.” I would say they’re more inclined to put their best foot forward when they’re representing someone you both know.

Other ways that we’ve heard of that we don’t have experience with is using Angi (used to be Angie’s List), Thumbtack, and the Handy app (although the trouble with the Handy app is you pre-pay and you don’t get to choose who you hire).

Ultimately, there’s plenty of ways to find contractors, but to me what makes a contractor great is one who communicates and is eager to turn YOUR vision into a reality.

How do you go about finding a good contractor??

What do you think?

  1. I agree that always bear in mind that not all storm-related roofing contractors in your area are reputable. Thank you for sharing this helpful knowledge with me!

  2. Angela says:

    I’m really surprised Angie’s List is on here since a business pays to be on their list!

    There are also FB groups and BNI groups that are compromised of different trades who only recommend each other to friends, family & clients. Regardless how awful the company is, they have a commitment and obligation to the committee to recommend each other.

    Real estate agents can also get a kick back for recommending a business as many companies know real estate agents recommend many services to their clients.

    When someone recommends a company, candidly ask “are you benefited in any way for recommending this company?” Also ask the recommended company when interviewing… “[Bob Smith] recommended you, do you provide any incentive to be recommended?”

  3. Laura says:

    Unlike others, I have had good results using Angie’s list, BUT, I read the reviews myself and contact contractors directly. I did not have a good experience with word of mouth, the GC I used for my kitchen renovation based on it was disappointing, some of his subs did sub par, in his defense he absorbed the costs of the redos and reduced my final costs. I would have rather not dealt with any of it and am now dreading finding GC to tackle our baths.

  4. Katie says:

    Realtor here … we hire contractors all. the. time. in preparing listings for sale and also refer them to new homeowners constantly. In this market, smaller jobs aren’t a priority for most contractors but the people I work with know that if they blow off or screw over one of my clients, they loose all of them. Highly recommend asking for recommendations from your Realtor, designers, or other professionals who work with contractors frequently, and dropping their name.

  5. Amy D. says:

    I flipped houses in IL for 9 years. I grew up there and my family was in real estate and rentals so I had a tried and true team. When I first started flipping houses I would ask for contractor recommendations at my local home improvement store. We have Menards in the Midwest and they have local contractors they recommend in every department. I found a great tile installer that way. We recently moved to IN and we purposely found a realtor who dealt with Investors and who has some experience with flips. Our realtor is a wealth of knowledge with contractors. Recently, while looking at a potential flip we had a window company out to give us a quote. We started talking to him (our realtor, my husband and my self) and he gave us several recommendations for finish contractors, handymen and more. I have found in the past that I’ve mett the BEST contractors from other contractors. Another way I’ve found them is searching what ever I need “near me” and check out reviews, call and meet with them, get quotes. But I will stick with getting recommendations from other contractors is one of the best ways I’ve found to find good quality and fair priced workers. I also tend to use small local business owners. They seem to have “skin in the game” and seem to take pride in their work and give fair prices.

  6. Sandra says:

    Wow, really surprised to see Angi/Angie’s List included here as good. It has been absolutely horrific in my experience. Make a call to get a quote and don’t deal directly with the contractor, get harassed by the Angie’s List company for MONTHS even if you say the job is done. The contractors listed on their site pay through the nose to be included, and also pay per “lead” so when you call about say flooring they will give your number to roofing companies and charge them for it. It’s a scam all around!!

    • Honestly I’ve not had any experience with them. But when we put out the question, a lot of people suggested it so I included it here

    • Sara says:

      I have not used Angi in recent years, but back when it was Angi’s List my mom had a paid subscription and I had wonderful experiences finding folks. I’m still using the same plumber a decade later. I don’t know if it has changed with its business model.

  7. Ashley says:

    Only a word of caution on Facebook – I realized AFTER hiring painter’s we chose from Facebook recommendations that the vast majority of recommendations were made by the employees or family members of the owner/employees and not actual customers. We ended up pleased with their work, but I kind of felt duped.

    I always search the Facebook groups for two local areas to see past recommendations and read all the comments. I take note of the handful of companies that are recommended often and start there.

  8. Amy says:

    We have had terrible experiences hiring people on Angi (Angie’s List) — “professional” painters who painted on light fixtures, didn’t remove switch plates, etc. I don’t recommend using Angi at all!

  9. Lucy says:

    Personally, Angie’s List was AWFUL for me in Ohio. ALL the listed contractors were unavailable, no shows, or no follow up after the first quote. I was able to find subcontractors through recommendations but I have to manage them closely and make a lot of decisions myself.

  10. Starr says:

    I coach people on home remodels and my recommendations is to go to the places where the contractor you need would get his supplies. So for a plumber, get recommendations from your local plumbing supply store *when you purchase your plumbing needs from them*. For a tile installer, I recommend shopping at a tile supply store that sells either Schluter or Wedi waterproofing (you can find out who sells them in your area on the manufactures website). Ask who buys their product. You are much more likely to get a good quality tile installer that knows how to correctly waterproof your shower. Hope this helps! Remodel Starr

  11. Karissa says:

    Once you’ve found one type of contractor that has caught your vision and executed a fantastic job as them for the other contractor specialties that you may need. Our painter was incredible, so we asked him who to hire for tile, etc. These independent subs work with each on jobs all the time and know who is best.

  12. Emma Scott says:

    We got one contractor from our realtor (and someone I worked with happened to be using him and validated he was a great choice). Note I began discussions with him about 4 months ahead of starting the work to book our slot (this was prepandemic!).

    At our current town/house we had to have some exterior drainage plans done and the landscape architect doing them highly recommended someone. Honestly so much so it seemed too good to be true but has totally worked out (he even brings donuts for our kids!)

  13. Meredith says:

    We’ve had great experiences with recommendations from next door. The plumber, electrician, and house cleaner we found there are all really great, do high quality work, and have fair prices. They clearly have well established businesses though because sometimes it can take a while to get on their books for non-emergency work. The drywall folks we found through thumbtack were just starting out in business and did an ok job, not great, but were inexpensive and easy to schedule with.

    • Mari says:

      I had a not so great recommendation from Nextdoor. There’s no way to who is making the referral. Was in a hurry, didn’t check well enough, lesson learned.

  14. Jennifer says:

    In our recent experience, Facebook marketplace has been the best at finding contractors & people who want to actually work.

  15. Jennifer says:

    We had a hallway bathroom renovated, and now a full kitchen renovation. Both times we found our contractors through our plumbers! Different plumbers each time – people will surprise you by retirement when 5 years goes by. Our contractor for the kitchen (just finished last month) was great on communication, did excellent work, and his subcontractors were superb. It probably helps that the referring plumber has an excellent reputation.

  16. S says:

    On the online boards (Facebook, NextDoor), I look at how often different places are recommended and also how enthusiastically they are recommended! You also want to pay attention to what they are recommended for – the best plumber to fix a clog ASAP is probably a different plumber than who you want to use when you’re adding a whole new bathroom.

  17. Corinne says:

    I had read about a service called Sweeten, which is free and a pretty good concept if you’re not a DIYer. We want to renovate our 20+year old kitchen and had no idea where to begin so I thought, why not try Sweeten? I posted my project and got a shortlist of vetted contractors; you connect with the companies you choose for bids (they recommend at least 3 bids). Sweeten offers a bid-leveling service to help evaluate the estimates. Once you choose a contractor you pay the deposit through Sweeten and Sweeten offers “Renovation Financial Protection” up to $50k.

    I found 3 contractors and got 2 bids that were fairly close, while the 3rd was right at the top of my budget. I live in Northern Virginia and thought it shouldn’t be so difficult to find a number of contractors to choose from. I don’t know if Sweeten just hasn’t recruited enough contractors in my area or my budget was considered too low. It’s a townhouse galley kitchen and not a down to the studs reno, just removing and replacing. Our budget target is $25,000, which I think is reasonable but probably discouraged contractors who think it’s too small.

  18. Sarah Smith says:

    I am an architect and my biggest tip (if you are doing this without the help of an architect/designer) is to first educate yourself on what needs to be done with the project you are trying to complete. If it is cosmetic work this is easier, but ask the prospective contractor about their subcontractors who are doing the work and their experience/perhaps references. If it work that requires a building permit (structural, plumbing, electrical) you need to make sure the contractor is smart enough to understand all components and how things ACTUALLY work. Educate yourself, know your home & the know correct answers to questions you ask. See if they can answer the questions in a thoughtful/intelligent manner and see if they ask you questions in return. They need to be critically thinking about the project and be aware of any issue they might run into (because there are almost always issues!). While reviews/recommendations are always helpful, you should also personally assess them based on the project you are working on.

    • Sarah Smith says:

      Adding on: We recently had a load bearing wall taken down and honestly (unfortunately) picked the only contractor that would even respond to us!(everyone is so busy) It was a complicated project but question at times whether our contractor understood the concept of gravity. I knew what he was supposed to be doing so I kept a close eye on his work and it was extremely stressful. I am convinced if I didn’t know what he should have been doing and wasn’t keeping an eye on things that our house would have had serious structural damage. So once again, educate yourself and keep an eye on things regardless of who you get to do the work!!!

      • semra says:

        I cannot agree more! We went with a contractor who was recommended by our friend. We did see other works of him. He could do most of the work, but when it came to structural or plumbing he either didn’t have expertise or his sub contractors couldn’t follow our architects expectation. We ended up relying more on our architect more and keeping a close eye on the project. We learnt a ton, but it was stressful.

        Choosing a general contractor is like choosing a partner for big projects. You will be spending a lot of time with them. Please check if they can do all the types of work or knows really good sub contractors and knows what to expect out of them. It will save you money and possibly the relationship with your spouse too

  19. Jill says:

    We go as local as possible.

  20. JC says:

    I am a professional interior designer at an architectural firm, and we recommend general contractors we know and trust all the time to our clients. If you are working with a designer or architect, I highly recommend asking them first! They can give thoughts on fair pricing, contractor communication style and realistic timelines based on real experience working with the contractor. My experience is that medium to large size contractors tend to be better with communication, since they often have a project manager or supervisor who isn’t in the field every day and has office time for communication and record keeping. Smaller firms may not have that, so the person swinging the hammer is also your primary contact. Sometimes communication can suffer, but there are also fewer people to pass information through. Generally I’ve found GC’s to be better with communication than subs, so if you are GCing your own project, know that there will be sooooo much more communication required and decisions to make. There is a reason why GCs have a line for overhead and markup!

  21. A says:

    Totally can relate to Kourtney re: contractors changing their style over time. As businesses grow, I think even good contractors can get in over their heads. Also, experiences can vary depending on what other jobs the contractor has going on. We built about five years ago, and while we love our home, we did not receive the level of service we expected based on our friends’ and neighbor’s experiences. Our builder’s unofficial project manager was his wife, and she wasn’t involved in our build because she was tied up working on a 10,000 sq ft house that had 3 times the budget as ours. We were able to hire a designer part way through the build, but it was too late to make some changes that I think would have been caught under different circumstances.

  22. Alex says:

    I found it helps to cross reference reviews across platforms for the same company, like looking at reviews on Houzz, google and Yelp for the same contractor for consistency in what is said.

  23. C Petry says:

    On the flip side, we’ve unfortunately been the ones before to recommend someone who did excellent work for us and then the person we gave the recommendation to experienced something completely different! And we’ve tried working with contractors that friends have used and recommended and found them to be different than what we had expected based on our friends’ experiences. So just a good rule to keep in mind: people change. Businesses grow and often that can alter the way that company is run. Or people just change as they go through life which often affects their career! So it’s important to keep in mind that consistency over a long period of time can be a really hard thing to find when hiring services from anyone in any field.

  24. Sara says:

    After years of doing renovations I will say this: the more knowledgable you are about what you want to do, the easier it is to find someone reputable. If the changes you want to make are pretty basic or straightforward, and a contractor you interview gives you all kinds of pushback about that, you can weed out the bad ones from the good ones pretty quickly. Do your homework before you even pick up the phone. Have on hand ideas, photos, a basic understanding of the cost of materials, wait time on resources, etc.

  25. Christine Schermerhorn says:

    We have needed contractors many times over the years.we have renovated our homes and rental properties and have also built 2 homes. We have had the best results with recommendations from people that we trust and also by viewing actual projects completed by a contractor. My husband is an architect and really understands the entire process. He has been the manager many of our projects. We ran into some snags on the last home we built 8 years ago. We decided to take a break and let someone else manage the building of our home. Our contractor was wonderful, however, some of the subs that he hired did a subpar job. After firing some of the subs, work had to be redone to the standard required. Unfortunately, the contractor had to absorb these extra costs of time and money. If we ever do a project like this again, we will probably be on the job site for a bit each day to make sure things are getting done correctly. It is prudent to educate yourself about these things even if you have a great contractor. And don’t be afraid to voice your opinion and ask questions. My husband designs for commercial properties and he always says a sign of a good contractor is to check and see how tidy the job site is at the end of each work day. If it is cleaned up that shows a respect for the job and the work in progress.

  26. Darcie says:

    I was just mulling over this this morning after having a contractor in our home for a small job yesterday. We also have a painter who’s been here painting for 6 weeks. Found the painter thru FB neighborhood group recs, but the contractor we found thru Home Depot. The contractor gave us a weird vibe but we were crunched for time. What I’ve learned: pay attention to the vibes you get off the person during that first meeting. Get the quote in writing (if they don’t put it in writing, text them what you agreed to and confirm before they start). Skills are only half the job: if they show up late and/or raise their price after the fact because they didn’t quote accurately, their word isn’t worth much. Your word is what gets you repeat clients and referrals, which is why recommendations are indeed better than reviews!

  27. Jillian says:

    Referrals 100% with one caveat – don’t always trust a referral from someone in the industry. They might not have the same expectations a client does. We just experienced a nightmare, drawn out renovation from a referral like this.

  28. Gina says:

    We live in a small, mostly rural area so word of mouth is everything. Fortunately we’ve had great contractors through the years. My husband’s coworker recommended our homebuilder thirty years ago. Then my husband kept the financial books for a friend’s son in law who is a contractor for several years. Super handy!! He did several small jobs and a renovation for us. He combined his business with another contractor who is our neighbor so now we call him. When we need a sub contractor, etc. we call him for recommendations.

  29. Kristen says:

    Both our architect and real estate agent recommended contractors to us. We met with a few and then asked for references from our top two. Even that, however, is fraught because of course they will only provide good references.

    Depending on how large your city is, the building department may be able to give you some inside scoop. In our small town that was totally a thing but maybe not in a large city.

  30. CB says:

    Ask a friend who’s a real estate agent, especially one who specializes in homes like yours (historical, new builds, etc.). They see contractors work and the cost daily!

  31. Sarah Sinitean says:

    In addition to the tips you provided, I have had luck in following several of my area’s designers and/or home influencers. Often these people will tag their sources; I tend to trust those tags as much as I do recommendations from people I know especially since designers/influencers often have long term relationships with the tradesmen they use (meaning they must do a good job!).

    Also, look at signs in your neighborhood – a lot of contractors that don’t need to spend the effort promoting their business online still use those yard signs. It’s always helpful to see who is already doing work in your neighborhood!

  32. Hannah says:

    Great post! We wanted to do a large addition a few years ago on our historic craftsman bungalow, so, like you we started by polling some friends who had large-scale renovations in our neighborhood. We got 4 quotes – one from a contractor friend (which I’m glad didn’t work out, for the sake of our friendship), two from contractors who had done work in the neighborhood, and one from a friend of a friend’s recommendation. Two were ruled out for price, and for the remaining two, we were able to view their completed work. That made the final choice pretty easy 😳 because one had excellent finish carpentry and an unincentivized great review, and the other was… not so great. All the while, we were paying attention to communication styles and general vibes. We ended up having a pretty good experience, and we’re very happy with the results! But we’re also not *obsessed* with him. We might use him in the future (i.e. for our kitchen remodel), but we also might shop around again.

  33. Meghan says:

    My dad is a GC and does no advertising. He gets business strictly through word of mouth and stays incredibly busy. One thing we’ve found is a lot of people find out about him through our local hardware store. We live in a small mountain town in western NC so no big box stores here – but the hardware store has been a great resource to our community when they need a confident referral for home repairs/construction of any kind/commercial jobs – everything from tile work to roofers – you name it, your local hardware store is probably a trusted resource for helping find a solid worker! :)

    • Betsy says:

      Yes to this. Also, the local paint store has been helpful for me in the past. Found several people to do jobs around my house from the paint store.

    • Meaghan S says:

      Hey Meghan, just curious since you’re in WNC, we’re looking for GCs, but having trouble getting anyone to come out to small Mars Hill… Does your Dad do any work in Madison County?

  34. Meg says:

    We’ve now gone through two renovations; one in Brooklyn and one in LA. Our first contractor was recommended to us by our architect and we had an incredible experience. Our architect was very honest and told us this contractor had fair pricing (not the lowest or highest), did great work, but would probably not finish on time. He was correct on all accounts, and for us, sacrificing the timeline was 100% worth it. This contractor also brought us to several of his past jobs, with the clients home, and ghat was immensely helpful!

    Our second renovation, we didn’t require an architect, although we quickly realized all the small decisions architects make that the typical homeowner has no idea about! In any event, we got a recommendation from our real estate agent whom sold us our house. We love and trust our agent so it made sense. There have been more challenges with this project, however, our contractor is a wonderful person and we fully trust him. Communication isn’t his strong suit and without an architect in the mix, I’ve taken on the job of project manager, coordinating some subs and checking in multiple times a day.

    In any event, both contractors have been people we enjoyed working with and I think an architect or a real estate agent are great places to look for recommendations!

  35. kim weigand says:

    Have you actually met the follower who recommended the contractor in person? Just curious…amazing how all of that worked out. I am so enjoying this home’s transformation; I can feel your love for it!! Keep going!!

  36. Wendy says:

    You gave some great tips. It is difficult finding a good reliable contractor. I used to work for a general contractor who did residential remodeling. A tip that I can give those looking for a contractor is not to base your choice on price alone. Find someone you can work with and who communicates well.

  37. Rachel says:

    In my experience, Facebook is NOT a good way. The only way that has worked for us is a personal recommendation. Someone that has actually had work done by them and I lay eyes on that work myself. Then we try to see as much of their work in person as we can! And ask for
    references. We have found several great contractors this way, and been
    saved from hiring a dud. We also had to suffer through a nightmare bathroom renovation before we learned this! ALWAYS speak to several of their customers, ask a ton of questions, see as much of their work as you can yourself and just be careful. You’ll have this person in your home for possibly weeks or months so be super picky! If anything feels off, or they don’t communicate well like Julia mentioned, just don’t do it. I know from experience that having someone bad can be absolutely miserable. I’d rather wait a year for someone good than hire someone questionable! It’s your home and money on the line, but much more importantly- your peace!
    Remember, some people will post names/recommendations on Facebook if someone is asking just of someone they know, or a friend, but may not have actually worked with that person.

  38. Kourtney P. says:

    5 years ago or so, we had a car hit our house. Thankfully the car didn’t come through the wall, but there was structural damage that needed to be repaired. A good friend at church who does cabinets recommended a contractor.
    Owned by 2 brothers but not really any reviews, we had 3 come out.
    First was a big name, didn’t take us seriously. He also complained about coming so early which was unprofessional. We were looking at roughly $30k in repairs for a small 1000sqft home. He said to find some caulk and contact him if we do a “real reno with kitchen or bathrooms”
    He also said he just fired someone because they had bad communication and told us he’d still give us a quote but asked first what we were quoted once we told him it was in fact structural. We of course did not tell him how much our private adjuster said.
    Another company came, bad at communication and we said how important that was to us, that even if you can’t get the quote out by Thursday, to just let us know that.

    Then this company came, they were considerate, professional, and offered to replace more than any other company. Yet he quoted the least, giving us the most. It was an easy decision. We started the process, and they were great. Their subcontractors also amazing.

    These 5 years we have recommended them and have sung their praises to 50 or so people.
    So now 5 years later, when we want to do a huge renovation, it was no question.
    But 5 years is a long time. He’s changed. He isn’t communicating. He isn’t reading my emails because I am very specific on something and he doesn’t reply but his subcontractor is asking me about something that contradicts said email.
    He came out in November, said he needed to wait until beginning of January, January comes and goes. We call the office, text him, call the office again- not in a harassing or angry way. Just communicating that we are waiting to hear back and ready to begin but haven’t heard anything.
    I’m weary of finding someone else. I know his standards when he finally comes. His subcontractors are great, even replacements. I have slate herringbone tile going in the kitchen so it’s crucial they are level. My neighbor just hired someone out and she had self leveling spacers, the tile guy stopped using them 1/3rd of the way through.
    This story is far from over but ends with having another contractor with 0 reviews come out who was recommended to us. Unfortunately, the 3 places we know he is about to renovate, havn’t started the process yet, so no real experience in dealings.
    Sorry for the novel :)
    But word of mouth is so helpful!

  39. Cindy says:

    We’re on our 2nd contractor for building a new home and we’re unhappy with him even though we asked for references and I called the references. We have had 2 instances where he did not pay the subcontractors and those subcontractors wanted to put liens against our property. I would go with a contractor who has over 10 years of experience, ask for references and go see his work. We’re asking to see copies of all the paid invoices. There are a lot of shady contractors out there.

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