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Educational Consumer Tips

Hiring a Contractor

Author: Better Business Bureau
Published:

A contractor manages all aspects of the project. He/she obtains building permits (if required), schedules inspections and may also hire and supervise subcontractors.

Hiring a reliable contractor is the most important step when beginning a home improvement project. Consumers should research all potential options and carefully examine the contractor's previous projects.

Tips for Hiring a Contractor:

  • Before making a financial commitment, solicit at least two to three bids from prospective contractors based on the same building specifications, materials, labor, and time needed to complete the project.
  • Ask for references and call them and, if possible, visit previous jobs to see first-hand the quality of work performed. Find out if the job was completed as specified, on time and on budget. Ask if they would hire the contractor again.
  • Remember that the contractor with the lowest bid may not be the best suited for the job. If an estimate is significantly lower than others, the contractor may plan to cut expenses by using inferior products, hiring unskilled workers, failing to have proper insurance funding - or he or she may not fully understand your work requirements.
  • Find out if the contractor is affiliated with any professional organizations and/or associations and, if so, verify the company has a good reputation with them.
  • Request proof that the company has insurance covering workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability in the event of accidents and ask for a copy of the insurance certificate for your records.
  • Check to make sure they are licensed with appropriate city and state agencies.
  • Make sure the written contract includes contact information, payment schedule, estimated completion date, materials used and their cost, warranties and any specific promises. Be sure to include that the contractor is accountable for clean up during and after 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.
  • Don't pay for the entire job in advance or pay cash to a salesperson or contractor. Many contractors do, however, require a third or even half of the estimate as a down payment. Make sure you get a receipt and that the contract properly accounts for the amount you've already paid.
  • Request a receipt marked "Paid in Full" when the job is completed.
Avoid Contractors Who:
  • Sell door to door or have extra material from their last job
  • Ask for payments in cash or want the full payment upfront
  • Pressure homeowners to sign a contract quickly
  • Tell customers to borrow money from the contractor’s lender
  • Ask customers to get the building permit