How To Hire A Basement Contractor

What To Look For When Hiring A Basement Contractor

Hiring a contractor to finish or remodel a basement can be a scary and overwhelming process. Hiring any contractor for that matter can cause stress and anxiety for a homeowner. There are too many stories out there regarding contractors as untrustworthy and scandalous. Maybe you’ve fallen victim to someone who did work in your home and the quality wasn’t what you expected. Or maybe they started the job, then stopped showing up and didn’t communicate what was going on. It’s even possible that you might have had someone accept the deposit for a project and then never get started, basically stealing from you. The unfortunate reality is that these are not uncommon situations in the world of contracting and is something to consider before making any hiring decisions when it comes to a contractor for your next project – be it a basement or anything else.


I can’t say that I’ve ever directly gotten the question from a client, “how do I hire a basement contractor?” However, I’ve met enough people, heard enough stories, and have worked in the industry long enough to understand the process of what it takes to properly hire a contractor to do work on your home. My goal is to share with you the 3 top things to consider and look out for that should help make the contractor selection process a bit easier for you and put your mind at ease before hiring someone for your next project.


Make Sure The Basement Contractor is Legitimate.

One of the first things someone should know before hiring a contractor is whether or not they have an established and legitimate business. Seems to be common sense that a contractor would have a registered business with the state but in many cases they may not. It’s quite easy to print business cards, letter a vehicle and have branded t-shirts but that doesn’t necessarily mean an entity actually exists. If the contractor is a corporation or LLC, here in Illinois you can check to see if they are registered with the state and in good standing. Click HERE for the link to the Secretary of State’s website and simply do a search to verify. If in fact they are a registered corporation or LLC, then they should show up.

Another thing you could also check on is whether or not the contracting company is registered with the municipality you live in. It’s fairly easy. Just look up the contact information for the building department, give them a call and ask if the contractor you’re talking to is registered. One thing to know about living in Illinois, however, is that each municipality has its own registration requirements for general contractors. In many cases, a GC may not necessarily be registered yet with the municipality. This isn’t a cause for concern but should be addressed before hiring the contractor to do the work, especially if permits are involved (click HERE to read a previous blog article covering a few things regarding permits). All the contracting company has to do is file the correct paperwork with the municipality and pay the registration fee.

Regarding contractor registration with a municipality, in most cases they are going to require the contractor to have proper insurances before licensing is given. This is also something you need to be keenly aware of before hiring someone to do work in or on your home. Heaven forbids something catastrophic happen while people are working on your property – Be it a personal injury or property damage during the course of construction. This is probably one of the most important things to make sure your contractor has.

The two main types of insurance your contractor needs to have are General Liability Insurance and Workers Compensation. These two types of insurance should cover most of anything that might happen on a job. Not that anyone would ever want something bad to happen but that’s why insurance exists. Some companies might also opt to have an umbrella policy – this is added insurance coverage that increases the limits for the policy. If your contractor has these 3 types of insurances, they’re pretty well covered. So, in terms of figuring out whether a contracting company is legitimate, simply ask if they are a registered business (look them up if they say yes) and request a certificate of their insurance. Any respectable company should easily be able to provide the documentation proving that they are in fact a business and not some fly by night contractor.



General Contractor’s Company Profile

Being registered with the state or municipality and having proper insurances is just one aspect of the hiring process. It’s not insanely hard to fill out registration paperwork and purchase business insurance. So, you will also want to do some additional research on the company you are thinking about hiring. Do a Google search and see what pops up. In today’s modern times, as we live in a digital world, there’s a ton of information at our fingertips. My judgement is that most business have some kind of online presence. That could be a website, accounts on various social media platforms, or various advertisements with online listing agencies. Whatever the case, the internet can be a good source to in additional information.


If you’re like me and you’re considering hiring someone to do work, or even something as simple as trying out a new restaurant, consider what the public is saying about the company via reviews. I’m sure you’re already doing this but it’s a great way to get feedback on how a business is performing. Take the time to read the reviews (and also give one if you decide to hire the contractor and they complete the project). Also, take a look at what they are posting. Pictures, articles, updates, etc. It’s good to know how active they are in keeping the public up to date with their business and it’s more information for you to look at and consider.

In addition to the online presence, ask the contractor for references. Now it’s understandable that the references they give you will be of their best customers they’ve worked with and that’s not a bad thing. But any decent contractor should be able to provide you with a list. My recommendation is to call a few of them and ask about their experience. What worked well, what could be improved, how it all turned out and if they would hire the contractor again to do work.



Also, apart from customer references, ask for their trade partner references or vendor references. These are other companies that a general contractor works with and should be able to give you some additional information regarding what it's like working with them. Ultimately, calling on references is an opportunity that should not be passed up. Lastly, ask the contractor about their experience and expertise. How long have they been in business? How many years have they done this kind of work? What’s their backstory and what drove them to start a business in the first place? It’s good to get to know who you’re hiring and asking lots of questions will help you figure out whether or not they are going to be a good fit for your project.


General Contractor’s Building Process & Price

One of things that can make a contractor stand out and help run their business more efficiently is having a process in place. A process that looks at what happens in the pre-construction/planning stages as well as a process for the actual construction. Having a step-by-step process is important when entering into a contractor/homeowner relationship. It helps keep everyone on the same page and informs everyone as to what comes first, second, third, etc. If a contractor does not have a written process or at minimum can’t explain the sequence of events, that might be cause for concern. Being organized is one of the key factors in running a good business. Part of what should be included in a contractor’s sales process is the pricing structure. Pricing is one of the main concerns I address when working with my clients and I know the importance of being able to explain how all the numbers come together on a job. It’s important to ask how the contractor is pricing he project. Are they pricing it based on time and material or a cost + situation? Do they have a base price with varying allowances for items that could change. Or are they working off of a firm price model?


My best advice with this is to look for contractors who offer a firm price and can specify everything that you’re getting and NOT getting for that price. Too often homeowners enter into a contract of “allowances”. The problem is that allowances are variables that change depending on what gets selected by the homeowner. For example, maybe the contractor had a flooring allowance for $3,000 but after signing the contract and beginning the project, when you went to pick out the flooring it ended up costing $5,000. That will typically kick off a change order and the overall price will increase by $2,000. This is a slippery slope pricing model. It’s almost impossible to say exactly how much the project will cost because of the inevitable changes that will occur. So, a contractor who offers a firm price is the way to go and should help offer a peace of mind that the price given doesn’t change unless you change something with the scope of work.

Lastly, it’s important that the contractor is able to explain the sequence of events that will happen once your project gets started. This includes various tasks and time allocations for things like demolition, mechanical work, framing, insulation, drywall, flooring, tile work, millwork, painting, clean up, etc. Granted, if it’s early in the conversation and the contractor doesn’t have the full scope of work yet, it’s going to be hard to say exactly how long things will take. But any experienced contractor should be able to give rough timelines on the construction schedule. Ultimately, a respectable remodeling contractor should be able to articulate their various processes they have in lace as well as how pricing gets put together for any type of project. If they don’t have the processes and aren’t able to explain how things work, that could be a telling sign of how your project might go. And I suspect that most homeowners don’t want their remodeling project to run unorganized and inefficient – let alone having the price change several times throughout the duration of the project.


What to do now that you know how to hire a basement contractor?

As you can see, there are many things to consider regarding a basement finishing project and what to do when hiring a contractor to do the work. Unless you work in the construction industry, the process may be confusing and scary. However, here at Red Cloud Contracting, we have a process that helps solve this problem of not knowing what to do or how to move forward. It’s called the 3D Experience, and it’s something to get excited about.


The 3D Experience stands for Dream, Design, Deliver. Each step intentionally walks you through the process – considering your dream for the space, your budget, all the considerations mentioned above, and more. The main goal is to make it easy for you and lays out a path to move forward. Being that we offer a firm price for our projects, we realize that this pricing model requires a lot of planning and design work, and we do charge a pre-construction fee. Based on your overall needs for planning and designing the project, there’s 3 different options ranging from $500 – $8,000. Take a look at our Bookings page for more information. First call is always free. We’d love to help walk you through your next basement project! So, how do I hire a basement contractor? The answer is: Do your homework & ask questions! Here at Red Cloud, we are committed to walking you through the process so that you can be sure you’re hiring the right contractor, discover the best ways to get the most value for your budget, and make your dream become a reality.