How to find a good contractor?

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I want to build a kitchen addition to my house. Excavation, foundation and possible floor framing I want to leave to a contractor. Rest of the work I will be doing myself. How do I find a good reputable contractor in central NJ? I asked several friends of mine, no one built additions so they cannot give me any referrals. I had previously very little and bad experience with contractors. So this time I want to be very careful. I don't want just to open YellowPages and start calling all building contractors by alphabet.
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Does your state make complaints public info? If so, any agency that deals in the building trades or licensing, or consumer protection, may have info you can use to at least avoid the ones they have complaints on already. Also, court records are public but not always convenient to search if not online. You can find out from your state's secretary of state office, usually, what other names or corporation names a contractor has gone by, to see if there's a pattern of dissolving corporations to get out of paying judgments or debts. Asking past customers of a developer is easier because you can go by property records and ask customers you choose to ask, not just hand-selected "references." With a remodeler, that's not likely to work. But, if the records are public, see if the contractor you're considering has filed any mechanic's liens, (or if his suppliers have had to), and then try to find those homeowenrs and ask them their side of the story. Oftentimes they paid the contractor, but the contractor didn't pay his supplier. Or, they stopped paying a contractor when he didn't perform, and he placed the lien himself, even if not valid. It happens. Like the other suggestions said, ask peole who know, like suppliers, lawyers, etc, but unfortunately there's no guarantees.
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agency that

protection, may

complaints
that just screens out the lowest level of scum bags on the bottom... not much of an advantage... but better than nothing... I suggest calling around and asking who is the best and most reasonable etc.
Also, court records are public but not always convenient

secretary
names a

dissolving
past
property
hand-selected
But, if the

has filed

then try

story.
didn't pay his

didn't perform,

happens. Like

suppliers,
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I like that advise. Obviously there are bad customers out there, but if you talk to enough customers with liens, you should be able to detect patterns to help you determine if the contractor is consistently at fault.
snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com wrote in message
Does your state make complaints public info? If so, any agency that deals in the building trades or licensing, or consumer protection, may have info you can use to at least avoid the ones they have complaints on already. Also, court records are public but not always convenient to search if not online. You can find out from your state's secretary of state office, usually, what other names or corporation names a contractor has gone by, to see if there's a pattern of dissolving corporations to get out of paying judgments or debts. Asking past customers of a developer is easier because you can go by property records and ask customers you choose to ask, not just hand-selected "references." With a remodeler, that's not likely to work. But, if the records are public, see if the contractor you're considering has filed any mechanic's liens, (or if his suppliers have had to), and then try to find those homeowenrs and ask them their side of the story. Oftentimes they paid the contractor, but the contractor didn't pay his supplier. Or, they stopped paying a contractor when he didn't perform, and he placed the lien himself, even if not valid. It happens. Like the other suggestions said, ask peole who know, like suppliers, lawyers, etc, but unfortunately there's no guarantees.
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You might ask for referals through your local lumber yard.

with
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Call an attorney who specializes in construction litigation and ask him the name of a builder he hasn't sued yet. :>)

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We have several consumer groups where I live, one is called Diamond certified. I don't know if you have equivalent there. In Ca a contractor is required to have a license for work over $500, I don't know if NJ has an equivalent system. Better Business bureau is another source: http://www.bbb.org Ron

and
I
central
cannot
with
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Yes, check the BBB but don't assume that a "good" report means anything. I found out from our BBB that they don't make complaints public. If they decide to change a company's rating based on number of complaints, that can take years. In the meantime if you go too seriously by a "good" BBB report you can be misled. Astonishing, but many state agencies are not forthcoming about consumer's complaints either. You should ask if they make complaints public, as well as asking if they HAVE complaints.
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The good ones will probably be busy. Ask if you can come and see them at whatever site they are working on at present.
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In addition, ask for references and follow up on them. A good contractor won't balk at this request. Ron

work
to
alphabet.
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Better yet, ask for references for work which the contractor hasn't completed yet or work which hasn't even started yet. Talk to those customers after the work has been completed. That way, the contractor can't cherrypick by just give you the names of extremely satisfied customers. For exterior work and additions, you should be able to stop by once or twice and observe the work in progress.
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hasn't completed

customers after the

cherrypick by just

exterior work and

observe the work in

References of course are a good thing..however Ive seen in this area a very high percentage of utterly ill informed and often nasty customers what whine to me about what a loser his last contractor was....and since I know most of these guys I can say in many cases the complaints are bogus. No job is perfect.
Many good contractors are trashed to the max on almost totally irrelevant or unavoidable minor issues.
So when getting refferences Id also ask if the person could detail any problems..... if they start off with '''ya ... and their men parked RIGHT IN MY DRIVWAY to unload the material... etc."
You have your first clue... that customer was nutz. I tell Id be glad to do thier work but am booked up until 2008,
there is no shortage of those in some areas. and they do it to chizzle the bills also.
Many customers in this area seem to think they have hired you 8 am to 5 pm daily until the job is finished.. they have no clue that the work is simple contracted to meet a completion schedule even after you point that out ,,,
Some will say... 'ya and he showed up at 10 am some days and was gone by 2 ... some days he didnt show up at all...'... so it pays to ask for the details.
also ask about the price too... many customers will shop a $30,000 job until they find someone that will do it for 15,000 dollars on a part time as available schedule... or beat the price down to 10,000 then complain when they didnt get the materials specified in the higher priced contracts.
A very good percentage of the general public has no clue... and many are abusive or terminally impatient and unrealistic a about construction logistics and mess etc.
Ive had some demand a thousand dollars worth of dust prevention, fans, sealed doors, floors and walls etc... be placed in order to shield a 20 second saw cut in dry wall on a job quoted at $200.
Myself I interview the customer before the job starts we chat about thier experience with other tradesman, and if they whine a lot I decline to quote them. Others fool me... I quote them.. then if they can find a fingerprint on the wall somewhere they want to deduct 600 dollars from a 1200 bill to cover repainting the entire room.or they will 'sue'...or call the mafia..
Im sure there are bad contractors around, Ive ruin into more than a few. Most are fair to OK though and the abuse they get from customers is not warranted.
I asked one pissing and moaning home owner why they called me if their last contractor was so good...
The customer said.... ' he way too high, he rip us off'...'you recommended by my friend, he say you the best one in whole area'.
Then after the work starts he complains about me...
the complaint with me exact quote "You soww up 9 okwok!!! You NOT sow up at 8 okwok..I pay I pay I pay... you not sow up.. den you LEEEBE at 2 okwok.. .. I no pay .... I no pay... you charge me $1.98 for calking...I buy $1.92...1.92 . 1.92.... YOU *CHEAT ME.. 6 cent... 6 cent....you not finish... you not finish...I call police, I call police.."
So much for being the best in the whole area I guess.
My last commercial restaurant customer was whining about 15 minutes travel time even though I gave him the drive back in traffic (45 minutes free)... I handed him a 50 dollar bill .. he was still whining ...it was an integrity thing he said..
He didnt want to pay for all of my work time since I had to park so far away from his store in downtown San Francisco... (no parking during rush hour).., alley parking they tow first, then ticket,,, cost 300 dollars or more.... he felt that ran up the bill... he wanted me to deduct some of the time to get the bill down to what thinks is fair. and was a well meaning guy too... he was sincere in his remarks
he sells 8 dollar sandwiches... two slices of bread, some sprouts and a turkey slice. Not bad. A good sandwich.
No reference from those guys though....damn.
I do industrial controls mostly now :) I tell the other customers that I do the best I can, and thats usually very good but seldom perfect in every detail as that costs more than a job warrants in many cases.. and that they are to watch me closely, and the first instant that they see the work is not going according to their expectations they are to fire me and I will leave and collect my hourly rate and materials to date.
That tactic has stopped most of the complaining..
Phil Scott www.philscott.net

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Precious! A delightful read!
You should print up some cards, Phil, with this response on the back.
And, I should plagiarize it, giving you author-credit of course.
Jim

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How do I find a good reputable contractor in central NJ?
Start with the local chapter of the Master Builder's Association, or the local Remodelor's Council of the National Association of Home Builders.
Best of luck, and let us know how it comes out!
--
Lyle B. Harwood, President
Phoenix Homes, Inc.
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message

foundation and

of the work I

contractor in central

so they cannot

experience with

want just to

by alphabet.
There is no easy way...but there are some workable tactics...
try this... you want a general contractor? Call 10 local *electrical contractors ....and ask them to recommend a general.. then do the same with a dozen *plumbing contractors, ask them to recommend a general contractor... one or two names will float to the surface...those will be the best in the area for sure.
Other checks can miss the point.
Then shop the job between the top 3 or 4 general contractors..give them all the same set of plans to bid..and see what they say or recommend... you will get a feel for who you wish to deal with.
Be respectful..if you are not, or take these guys for granted... the good ones will graciously decline your project. In this area the generals are all booked.... there is a waiting list.
If you want to really save money on a project... first choose the contractor.. then tell him you want his help and advice in how to save money on the job...he will be glad to show you cheaper ways of doing the job...he makes the same regardless... and most wont mind if you do a lot of the work if you are up front about it.
Some will do the job as fill in work, if you have the time, that can save you 10 or even 20%.
The way not to save money on the job is to chizzle the contractor...I am a contractor... trust me...we are pro's at handling chizzlers... we are not about to do a job for less than cost and a reasonable profit... or we go broke. Not workable you see.
so the chizzling just runs up our costs, and the customers costs... ask instead how to cut costs on the job legitimately through design, equipment, materials or schedule changes etc.
For instance, if a job is a one month job and you insist on compressing it to a week.. be prepaired to pay double or triple the money. ... will the contractor tell you that? No... he doesnt want to loose the job because of some spin on his remarks.
Be nice to your contractor, try to be an informed customer.. have a clue... dont expect the impossible.....nice customers are valued and while they will pay for the work for sure..its the nasty ones that get screwed to the wall or declined entirely.
Phil Scott

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This way you will either get list THE MOST expansive GC (cause they pay the most to subs), or GCs relatives of subs.
1) Ask people who done those projects for references 2) Call county inspectors ( they not always allowed to give references, so just be smart: ask questions about your project, inspections and they will give away good GCs / subs 3) Ask phonebook GCs for references, and do call those people. Mention the names of GCs/subs you selected to the county inspector(s), see they reaction. 4) Know what you want. 5) Do you really need GCs?????
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You say that because you dont understand the business and didnt pay attention to my advice to call 20 people in total... thats a broad enough spread that any special interest will be eliminated.
how do I know...Ive been in the business 40 years longer many people have been born and graduated from college... one learns a thing or two in time.
But yes if you ask just one or two contractors you could easily get special interest answers or even out right frauds recommended.
The rest of your advice isnt bad.
Phil Scott

subs
people.
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Maybe look around your neighborhood and find a couple of homes that have had work done and knock on the door.
--
Joseph Meehan

26 + 6 = 1 It's Irish Math
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- Joseph Meehan -

that have

- Nehmo - Except that homeowners are ill-prepared to evaluate a contractor's work. If they like a guy they once employed, chances are they liked his or her method of doing business, personality, image or something. But maybe that's what homeowners want: a pleasant experience dealing with a contractor. The actual job and its quality are secondary.
However, speaking with people who had experience with a contractor will give you better info than you could get from most other sources, such as ads.
--
*********************
* Nehmo Sergheyev *
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