Hardwood floors can be quite a costly investment in your home, but one that many homeowners consider worthwhile as it can add considerable value. If you have decided to have hardwood floors installed in your home, you’ll want to pay particular care to make sure you hire the best possible flooring contractor.

The process of hiring a contractor is no different than hiring any other type of service provider. You’ll want to get several estimates and compare them carefully to see what each contractor brings to the table and which one offers the best package to cover your needs.

When considering those estimates it’s important to remember that you get what you pay for, so even though you might be inclined to go with a lower estimate to save money you may not get the best possible quality of work. Sometimes you need to pay a little more to ensure that you’re getting what you need.

Before you hire a contractor there are several points you’ll want to bear in mind so that you know what to expect.

1.  Licensing and Insurance – Most states require some type of licensing in order for contractors to operate legally. You should check to make sure that any contractor you consider hiring has met any and all legal requirements. Also, no matter how careful a contractor may be it is still possible for things to go wrong on a job so you’ll want to make sure that your contractor is fully insured.

2.  Workers Compensation – Again, since it is possible for things to wrong, you’ll also want to check and make sure that your contractor offers workers comp to all employees. That way if something happens while the workers are on your premises, you won’t be on the hook for their injuries or missed work time.

4.  Measuring and Recording of Moisture Content – Guidelines from the NWFA dictate that proper measurements should be taken of the moisture content of hardwood flooring and the relative humidity of the surrounding environment. If there are problems with the flooring, the manufacturer will require this information or they could void the warranty. In order to save yourself that potential cost, you’ll want to ensure that your contractor makes careful measurements and keeps good records.

5.  Warranty Offered – A good contractor should be willing to back up the quality of their work by providing a warranty. They know that hardwood floors are a costly investment for you and should be willing to offer you this common safeguard.

6.  References – Perhaps the most important way to ensure the quality of a contractor’s work is by getting input from other customers. Always ask a contractor to provide references and make sure they give you a good sampling of them. The more references you have, the easier it will be to determine the overall quality of a contractor’s work.

If they have a total of 15 or 20 reviews and only 4 are negative, that’s considered normal as compared to 7 total reviews with 4 negative. Also, pay attention to how they handle the negative reviews and whether they were addressed professionally.

Another good way to find a quality contractor is by checking when a family member or neighbor is having floors installed. You can ask if they’re satisfied with the contractor’s work and see the quality of the work for yourself. If it looks good, ask the contractor for a business card.

You may also want to do some research online, which can provide good input on the quality of an individual contractor’s work. Finally, the Better Business Bureau can also offer good input in terms of complaints received and how they were handled.

7.  Dust Control and Clean Up – The installation process can be a messy one, from cutting the boards to sanding and finishing, and you’ll want to pay particular attention to how a contractor handles the mess. There are many ways to contain the mess and you need to ask your contractor up front about the steps they plan to take. Will they set up their saw outside and use any special equipment to contain the dust?

Will they move any furniture or appliances or expect you to do that? Will they protect windows, lighting fixtures and other built-ins? You may be able to save yourself some money by moving as many things as possible yourself, but larger items may require the contractor’s help.

Also, don’t forget to ask how they’ll handle baseboards as they usually overlap flooring. Find out if the contractor will remove and re-install the baseboards or cut under the existing baseboards or will they simply butt up against them and cover with quarter-round trim. This is an important step as it will directly affect the finished look of the room.

Finally, you’ll want to ensure that they’ll also clean up after installation, which isn’t always guaranteed. Your home is important to you and you’ll want it returned to its original state when the job is done, so make sure your contractor knows this going in and is willing to do their part.

8.  Length of Job – Installing hardwood floors can be a time consuming job and you’ll want to know going in exactly how long it’s going to take. Such items as delivery of materials and acclimation can add to the overall length of the job. Also, you’ll want to know if the contractor intends to skip any days during the project, whether to allow for drying time or just because they don’t work on certain days.

Since flooring installation often requires you to be out of the room that’s worked on or even out of the house entirely, it’s important for you to have a good idea of the overall timeline so that you can make any necessary plans ahead of time.

9.    Acclimation – Because wood has a tendency to expand and contract depending on temperature and humidity level, it is vital that the materials be allowed to acclimate to the environment in your house before installing. This will allow the wood to settle and help to prevent buckling and warping.

You should always check to make sure that your contractor does not skip over this extremely important step in the installation process. Some contractors may skimp when it comes to acclimation in order to meet their client’s desired timeline, but this is a serious mistake that you want to avoid. For reference, check the manufacturer’s instructions for recommended acclimation times.

10. Payment – Since most contractors know that unforeseen problems may come up during the installation process, they will generally not expect full payment beforehand. Most contractors will require a deposit up front and then the balance of the payment after the job is complete. If a contractor is asking for the full payment up front, that’s a pretty good sign that they can’t be trusted to do quality work.

Remember that contractors will generally begin with a size estimate, taking complete measurements of the area where the installation will occur to determine the amount of materials required. Once they have a size estimate, they can then produce a price estimate. They may do this on site or need to go back to their office and then call you with the estimate.

Next will come delivery of materials and acclimation time, which should occur at least three days before the work begins. Finally, the installers will arrive, set up their equipment and begin the installation job. When the job is complete, they should clean up after themselves, ensuring that your home is left in good condition.

Knowing what to expect from your flooring contractor can save you a lot of headaches and a lot of money in the long run. You’re spending a substantial amount of money to add the beauty of natural hardwood to your home so you want to be sure that your job will be handled with the utmost care. Do your homework ahead of time and you’ll be able to breathe easy knowing you’ve got a contractor you can trust.