How to hire a radiant floor heating contractor
Deciding on installing a radiant floor heating system is a big step towards warmer, greener, and more economical home. For most home owners, radiant heating is technology that they aren’t familiar with and finding a proper radiant heating contractor can be a challenge. The following tips on hiring a contractor can be useful in making the right choice.
1. Do Your Own Research
Before you start looking for a right contractor for your radiant floor heating project, you should educate yourself about radiant heating as much as possible. Aspects that are worth looking into include, but are not limited to: functionality of the overall system, energy costs, installation requirements, local and state codes, optimal flooring material and costs for similar projects.
2. Find a Contractor
Check if any of your friends or relatives had a radiant floor heating installed and ask them for a referral (assuming that they are happy with the installation). If you can’t obtain a referral from personal contacts, the next step would be to check your local yellow pages listings or internet for a radiant heating contractor in your area. In many cases, home owners chose at least 3 different contractors/companies to provide an estimate.
3.Pre-screen a Contractor
Today’s technology and easy access to all types of data makes the contractor pre-screening process easier than ever. The first step in screening a contractor is to make sure that he is properly licensed and insured. Once that is confirmed, it is recommended to check with Better Business Bureau and well as online review sites to get overall feedback from previous customers and learn if there are any complaints.
When reading online reviews and feedbacks, it should be taken into account that not all reviewers are always honest and fair.
4.Setup an Estimate
Once you find and pre-screen a few contractors, its time to setup estimates. Since every radiant heat floor installation is customized and is based on home size, heat loss, desired temperature, floor covering, etc, the contractor will likely not be able to provide a quote over the phone. Instead, the contractor will setup and appointment to see the premises, take all necessary measurements and ask a number of questions in order to put together details specifications of the project and provide an estimate for price and time required for completion.
When setting up appointments, it should be considered that many contractors (especially good ones) have busy schedules and may not be available to come immediately at home owners request.
Providing a proper estimate (including travel time, explaining and discussing all options with the home owner and, drawing up floor design plan, as well as all calculations) may take at least few hours. Therefore, while many provide free estimates, some contractors may require a flat fee even for an estimate. In many cases the fee is deducted from final price, if the contractor gets the job.
In order to avoid awkward situations for contractors and home owners, multiple estimates should be setup without overlapping.
5.During an Estimate
When a contractor is at the house to give an estimate, it’s important to ask any questions that might arise. These include questions about materials, installation process and contractor experience and qualifications.
Upon request, a contractor should be able to provide photos of previous similar jobs, as well as a list of references – past clients whom a home owner may call and ask questions about contractor’s quality of work and business practices.
While vast majority of contractors are professionals, there are those that may use high pressure sales techniques and insist on signing the contract immediately. Such sales method may not be in the best interest of the home owner.
6.Selecting a Contractor
After all contractors submit their estimates, it is time to analyze each contractor’s price, experience, references and professionalism and select one that suits them the most. Selecting a contractor based just on the lowest bid, while tempting, is not always the best option as low price may mean lack of experience or use of cheaper and inferior materials.
Upon signing a contract to install a floor radiant heating system, the home owner should ensure that it covers the specifics of work, price, start and completion dates, and payment schedule. Generally, home owner should avoid paying a large deposit payment, and instead schedule payments that would correspond with work progress.