Paying a contractor for a construction job is never the least expensive route, but doing it yourself can cost you additional money in the long run if you don't know what you're doing. In some cases, you may end up hiring a contractor to finish a job that you started on your own. Determining how much you are willing to pay a contractor should depend upon several factors.
Research the construction industry to determine the range of pay. This will save you valuable time when dealing with contractors because you will already have a good idea of what they are paid. Start with the Occupational Employment Statistics provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The bureau indicates that contractors received a wide range of pay in 2010 that ranged from $24.16 to $72.24 per hour.
Examine the pay for the specific type of contractor you are looking to hire. For instance, the bureau indicates that residential building construction contractors made $43.95 per hour in 2010. Those in the non-residential building construction field averaged $45.27, while foundations, exterior and structure contractors were paid $44.23 per hour. Specialty trade contractors made $44.05 per hour.
Get estimates from multiple contractors on the type of work you wish to have done. Have each contractor break down its bid into materials and labor costs. Contractors that do not give an estimated time frame for the labor should be asked to do so. You may not be able to hold them to an exact time frame, but knowing how long they intend to take to finish a job will give you an idea of the hourly rate of pay they are requesting.
Eliminate all contractors from contention who will not allow you to purchase the materials on your own. These individuals will likely make more profit on the materials than on the labor.
Research the costs of building materials that you will need. This will help you to determine if the contractor is asking a fair price for the materials. If a contractor's cost estimates appear to be consistent with industry standards and it is asking a fair price for the labor, then contact him about the job.
Negotiate with the contractor for a lower price. Indicate that you have several bids on the job, including his. Use the lowest labor and material bid as a negotiating tool, even if you are not willing to work with that contractor. Propose to give the contractor the job if he will match the lowest bidder. If he won't do this, then see if he will meet you somewhere in between. If not, you may need to go with a different contractor.