Educational Consumer Tips

General Contractors

Author: Better Business Bureau
Category: Home Improvement

Hiring a contractor is a big commitment. It is important to choose the business that will be dependable and have the skills to do the job correctly. Consumers should carefully research all of their prospective contracting candidates before signing any contracts. Use these helpful tips when searching for a reliable building contractor.

Tips for Choosing a Contractor:

Ask For Recommendations.  Contact friends, family members, and neighbors for recommendations of reputable general contractors in your area. Visit for a listing of accredited general contractors, to read BBB Business Reviews and Customer Reviews from previous customers.  Make sure the business does not have any unanswered/unresolved complaints.  Contact and get written estimates from at least 3 companies.

Check the Credentials. Make sure that the contractor you hire is registered with their local registration and licensing board (requirements vary from county to county in Indiana). Request a copy of the building contractor’s insurance certificate in case of an emergency on the job. Make sure any subcontractors working on the job have their proper licenses. Have the contactor check if there are necessary permits required for the job. If so, the building contractor should be able to obtain the permits for you before starting the job.  Check to see if the contractor is a member of any professional associations that have standards for members such as the Builders Association of Indianapolis (BAGI).

Ask for References. Ask for references to make sure they were satisfied with the job that was performed. Ask if the job was completed according to schedule and if there were unforeseen fees along the way. Question whether or not the contractor was easy to reach and responded promptly to questions and concerns. Finally, ask if the references would hire the building contractor in the future for another job.

Discuss Payment.  Align the payment schedule so the contractor is paid accordingly with the amount of work completed. Avoid doing business with contractors that ask for a large payment upfront; BBB recommends no more than a 33% down payment. Never pay for the job in cash and make sure all added costs must be approved by you first. Checks should be made out to the company, not an individual. 

Get Everything in Writing.  The contract should state all of the contractor’s basic information (address, phone number, license number. The contract should also include: the estimated start and completion date, payment schedule, building materials, what items are covered under warranty, and who is responsible for the cleanup once the project is completed. All verbal promises should be included in the contract. Make sure there is a written statement that allows you to cancel the contract within three business days. Never sign a contract without all the blanks filled in. If there are any changes to the work to be performed, have the company complete a change order for both parties to sign.

Possible Scam Scenarios:

-Being approached by a contractor out of the blue that you need immediate work done to an area of your home and get rushed into signing a contract.  An honest contractor should not high pressure you to make an immediate decision.
-Having a recent storm in your area, you are approached by contractors from another state giving estimates and asking for down payments and may not be around to finish the job or do warranty work.
-Insistence by a contractor that payment be made in cash or a check written to an individual rather than the company and then the money never makes it to the company.
-Answering a knock on your door and after speaking with the contractor, they ask to come in to use the restroom or to do a broad inspection of the house.  This can be a setup for theft.

Having home improvements done can be a stressful event.  From having new kitchen cabinets installed, to getting a new roof, consumers have the responsibility to do their homework before hiring the contractor to help ensure the work done is something both you and the contractor can be proud of.