When it’s time to replace your fence, finding the right contractor is key. There are many important considerations when deciding which company to choose. Here are 6 checks that every homeowner should complete when deciding which fence contractor is best for the job.
Asking “are you licensed?” is the wrong question. Contractors are regulated via the State License Board but many businesses use a different trade name than their corporate name. Instead, ask “what’s your license number?” Verified contractors on Yelp will have a “blue shield icon” beside the business name. Click on the icon to check their license details. License information is also visible on HomeAdvisor and Thumbtack. You can easily look up the contractor license number on the State License Board website.
It’s essential that the contractor you hire has the correct and up-to-date license for your state or you will bear the cost of any damages. Fence repair or installation is complex and can lead to busted gas lines and extensive property damage if someone unqualified is doing the work. Any resulting property damage from a project done by an unlicensed contractor or handyman will be up to you to pay. You can read more about the importance of having a licensed contractor here.
Review sites like Yelp can be a great tool to help you find the right contractor. Yelp is designed to protect consumers, and it will hide reviews believed to be inauthentic. However, be sure you’re using a critical eye when assessing the reviews.
If a contractor appears on the first page of Yelp with a high aggregate score and lots of reviews they must be the best and most reputable, right? Not necessarily.
Many generalist contractors (contractors that do a variety of work) will accumulate a lot of reviews. Whereas a specialist fence contractor may have few reviews, but those reviews will instantly reflect what your experience working with them will be like. In that sense, quality reviews can be more important than quantity.
Yelp reviews are forever. Reviews that are 2, 3, or 4 years old aren’t the best indicators of the current service provided. Whether it be changes in management, new hires or different suppliers, all these things can change the entire experience working with them.
One way to help this is to sort the reviews by ‘newest first’ (which is not the default) so you can see the most recent reviews.
Here’s an example of how Yelp aggregate scores can be misleading. The company above shows an average rating of 4 out of 5 stars, not too bad, right? However, if you click ‘details’ you can pull up charts which show their ratings over time. This company had steady positive reviews for a few years, but then there is a noticeable change. In 2019, the average score fluctuates drastically and in 2020 the average score is a 3/5.
Determining that your potential contractor has a transparent pricing model will ensure you aren’t taken advantage of during your home improvement project or paying more than a fair price. You should always get the itemized quote before any work is started and it’s a good idea to get a few different quotes to compare. It can be a red flag if you’re not able to get a price range from a contractor without providing your physical address. Contractors should be able to provide an estimated price per foot based on style, height, length, and materials.
Policies for payment schedules also differ from contractor to contractor. Ask if the contractor requires a deposit up front, and if you will have the chance to inspect the finished project before rendering payment-in-full. Some companies even offer payment plans to help you with your home improvement project.
A picture is worth a thousand words. A good fence company will take pride in its craftsmanship and want to showcase their past work. Ask the contractor for photos or see if there are examples on their website or public review sites like Yelp and Google Local. Make sure the contractor offers the specific style you’re interested in and that you like how their past projects in this style turned out.
You’re busy- you want to have your project completed in a timely and efficient manner. A common grievance when working with contractors is the long delays between responses. If it has been a couple days since your initial inquiry and you haven’t heard back from your potential contractor, it may be time to move on to your next option. Being responsive shows respect for your time on the part of the contractor.
That being said, be wary of contractors who try to pressure you into immediate decisions or payments - eagerness for your business is different than being pushy and overbearing. The contractor should demonstrate that he or she is knowledgeable about fence projects, but not talk down to you or pester you with excessive sales tactics. A good contractor will want to give you the best service possible and treat you with dignity and fairness.
At the end of the day, it’s your home. You need to be able to trust the contractor you’re working with and feel confident that they will deliver good value for the money. A trustworthy company will happily answer any questions you have. Some variation of a satisfaction guarantee from the contractor can add peace of mind for your project, so make sure to ask if that’s offered. Remember that the price point alone should not be the reason you choose one company over another; you have to consider overall value (good reputation, quote transparency, responsiveness, good service, etc).