Educational Consumer Tips
Better Business Bureau
BBB offers the following advice to homeowners interested in making renovations:
- Use BBB.org to find trustworthy businesses. Start your search with BBB Member Pages to find BBB accredited contractors in your area. If you are referred to a business through friends, family or an advertisement, verify the business is in good standing at bbb.org before contacting them.
- Compare costs. Get at least three bids from prospective contractors based on the same specifications, materials, labor and time needed to complete the project. BBB's Request-a-Quote service is free to use and will allow BBB Accredited Businesses to send you quotes via email. Understand variations in price may be associated with higher quality of materials.
- Call for references. Ask all contractors to provide local references and find out if those customers were satisfied with the work performed. If possible, visit a completed project to inspect the quality of the workmanship. Look at more than what the contractor supplies. Ask the previous customers if the job was completed to their specifications and if it was completed on schedule. Ask why they would recommend that particular contractor and if they would use their business again. It is also important to find out if the original estimate was close to what they paid or if the contractor charged unforeseen costs along the way.
- Check licensing. The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation requires a license for plumbers, HVAC technicians and electricians, however, other contractors may require registration or licensing to do work in specific counties or cities. Beware of high upfront fees. Contractors may require a down payment before work begins, but it should not be a significant portion of the total cost. Instead, make payments that align with the progress of the work completed. Make sure you are satisfied with the work before making a final payment.
- Review your contract thoroughly. Make sure it includes all the materials needed to complete the job, an itemized list of all costs involved, any subcontracted labor and a warranty for all work performed.
- Verify insurance coverage. Find out if the company is insured against claims covering worker's compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents. Verify coverage directly with the business' insurance company if possible.
- Be wary of paying upfront. Try to arrange a low down-payment and only pay the contractor according to how much work has been completed. Do not make the final payment until the job is completed and the final project meets your standards. Always pay with either a credit card or check, never cash.
- Get everything in writing. Ask the contractor for a written agreement that clearly includes all of the project details. The contract should consist of: contact information, payment schedule, estimated completion date, materials being used and their cost, warranties, and any specific promises. Make sure to include that the contractor is accountable for cleaning-up the area after completion of the project. Never sign a blank contract or any contract without reading it thoroughly. Keep a copy of the contract after the job is completed in case there is an issue.