Reviewing and Selecting Bids

Shandy Heil, Skinner, Patricia

Comparing costs before making a financial commitment toward any repair or improvement project is extremely important. Begin by soliciting two or three bids from prospective contractors, based on the same building specifications, materials and labor needed to complete the project. Each bid should include a write-up and specifications that describe all of the work to be done, the approximate time it will take to complete, and the cost of the project. It is important that the contractors specify which type, brand and/or grade of materials they will be using so that you pay for the quality requested. The write-up should include cost ceilings, not just estimates (cost ceilings limit the total cost the contractor may charge you). Finally, it is important that a bid also include the amount of time that the house or portions thereof may be uninhabitable.

REMEMBER: Cost isn’t everything when selecting a contractor.

Choosing Contractors
Choosing the right contractors -- and knowing how to work with them -- can mean the difference between excellent work and shoddy work. Informed homeowners can save time and headaches and get the best value for their money. Here’s how:

Collect Recommendations
Ask friends and co-workers for names. Listen to their advice. Be on the lookout for workers and contractors’ trucks in your neighborhood and ask the homeowners about them.

  • Were they pleased with the workmanship?
  • Was the job finished on time?
  • Did the workers clean up satisfactorily?
  • Were the contractor and crew easy to work with?
  • Additional sources of recommendations include architects, interior designers, a builder’s association, building supply managers and hardware store managers.

Check Credentials
Make sure your builder is licensed. All building professionals listed on the Professional Rebuilding Registry are screened for the appropriate licenses/certifications. If you are using a contractor that you found through a source other than the registry, you can search for and verify Louisiana licensed contractors at, the web site of the Louisiana State Licensing Board for Contractors.

  • Unreliable or dishonest contractors are seldom long-term “joiners.” Find out whether the contractors belong to groups such as the National Home Improvement Council, a builder’s association, the National Remodelers Association, the chamber of commerce or local civic organizations. Ask about length of membership terms and look for membership certificates, seals or plaques in their offices. Also construction-related associations require that their members comply with a set of standards and ethics. Don’t automatically rule out non-joiners. Some may be so outstanding that their reputations are the only credentials they need.
  • Remember also to check a contractor’s insurance coverage by requesting copies of their liability insurance and worker’s compensation.

Call Contractors’ Clients
Ask the contractors for a list of customer references. Keep in mind that they will understandably give you their best references. Still, call a few names and listen carefully to what they say, and especially to how they say it. Are they enthusiastic or hesitant? If the owner is willing, take a look at the contractor’s work firsthand. This will give you a better feeling for the owner’s real attitude.

Weigh the bid amount against the other information gathered. A high bid does not necessarily mean high quality workmanship. It might mean only that the contractor is so busy that he or she will do the job only for an inflated price. Likewise, a very low bid may not necessarily mean inferior work. It may mean business is slow and the contractor wants to cover overhead expenses.

Whether you are hiring a general contractor for a large project or looking for a good plumber to repair several leaks you should follow the same guidelines.

1/3/2007 9:33:54 AM
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