Mike Holmes on How to Find the Right Contractor

Ready to start a home renovation? Mike Holmes, host of Holmes on Homes and Holmes Makes It Right, offers some sound advice on one of the most important decisions in the process: selecting and hiring a contractor.
DIY_Mike-Holmes-130121-9349-ret_s3x4

DIY_Mike-Holmes-130121-9349-ret_s3x4

Home improvement expert Mike Holmes

Home improvement expert Mike Holmes

Related To:

It amazes me, after doing my television show all these years, that I’m still seeing homeowners making the same knucklehead mistakes over and over. The big one — the one that starts a chain of events ending in disappointment and frustration — is the notion that they want the renovation done “fast” and they want it done “cheap." And let’s face it:, in the renovation game, fast and cheap add up to just one thing — crap.

Before you start flipping through the Yellow Pages and calling every contractor in the book, let’s get your expectations on the right planet. You should expect that in this day and age, skilled contractors are in high demand: good contractors are very, very busy.

This means when you do start phoning contractors, don’t be surprised that they don’t immediately answer their phones — they are probably standing on a ladder somewhere with their hands full when you call. Don’t take it personally or assume they're not interested in talking to you, but contractors won’t answer their cell phones every time it rings. Constant interruptions slow down a jobsite. For this reason alone, most contractors wait until they are away from the jobsite before they return your calls.

Depending on the volume of messages they get, it can take at least a few days to get back to you because your average licensed tradesperson is in business as an owner-operator. This means that they do all the work themselves and also do their own bookings. A slow response time is not necessarily a bad sign: it shows that they are in demand and it is a pretty good indicator that they are going to be well worth the wait.

It's also important to understand that good contractors are booked at least two to four months in advance. If you feel you can’t wait, remember this: Bad contractors are always available right away — because they are not in demand, or worse, because they are more than willing to bump their current renovation in progress to get started on yours. Odds are, that situation will come back to haunt you when, halfway into your renovation, the same contractor will bump you in favor of his latest customer.

If a contractor says he will "try to fit you in as soon as he can" and to "please be patient," take that as a sign that he isn't going to take shortcuts on his current project just to get to yours that much sooner. High-quality work takes time. You also don’t want that same contractor to turn around and rush your job just to get to his next one.

Let’s talk about the other part of the consumer equation: cheap. No one wants to spend more than he has to on a renovation, but as the saying goes, “You get what you pay for."

How much is the right amount? That requires some work on your part, because it means getting as many quotes as possible. In the end, you may get a few extremely high quotes and a few extremely low quotes, and most likely you will get the majority of quotes that fall around the same price. Chances are, one of those middle quotes will be the right price.

The higher quotes sometimes reflect the skill level of the contractor or the price that the market demands for certain contractors who have a reputation for outstanding-quality work. Extremely low quotes often mean that the contractor doesn’t have the experience to properly quote the job, let alone know what it will take to do the job properly, or that he knows how to take shortcuts with your home in order to undercut the legitimate competitors.

So as you start planning your project, be prepared to wait for the right contractor and understand that there are ways to find the right price for the renovation you want.

Keep Reading

Next Up

Advice From a Contractor: Get it in Writing

Take it from someone who knows the ropes. Home improvement expert Mike Holmes offers some straight talk on why it's so important to get a written contract from your contractor.

Josh Temple's Top 10 DIY Skills

Josh Temple, licensed contractor and host of DIY Network's House Crashers and Disaster House, tells the 10 basic skills every do-it-yourselfer should know.

How to Hire a Kitchen Contractor

A little legwork is required to find the best contractor for your kitchen remodel. Here's what you should do before making the hire.

Josh Temple's 10 Remodeling Dos and Don'ts

Josh Temple, licensed contractor and host of DIY Network's House Crashers and Disaster House, has advice on how to properly prepare for a remodel.

Choosing a Contractor for a Bathroom Remodel

A little legwork is required to find the best contractor for your bathroom remodeling project. Here are some ideas for making that effort pay off.

DIY Network Pros Talk About The Tools They Can't Live Without

Peek into the experts' toolboxes and see what tools they use most often.

How to Solve Contractor Conflict

Don't let an argument delay your remodel. Get tips for managing problems on the job site before they snowball out of control.

7 Things to Do Before Calling a Professional

After evaluating your budget, scope and needs, you'll be prepared to discuss realistic remodeling goals with a contractor.

Not Doing It Yourself

For all of us, there are tasks for which we need professional help to complete a home improvement project. Whatever help you require, here are some guidelines for hiring professionals.

Framing Devices: Introduction

Learn about the framing process and the devices used to accomplish that process.

On TV

On TV

Get Social With Us

We love to DIY. You love to DIY. Let's get together.

Consult Our A-Z Guide

Everything You Need to Know

Browse a full list of topics found on the site, from accessories to mudrooms to wreaths.  

How-To Advice and Videos

Get video instructions about kitchens, bathrooms, remodeling, flooring, painting and more.

Watch DIY Downloads Now

Watch DIY Network LIVE

Don't miss your favorite shows in real time online.