Contractors are hired to provide materials and labor to complete home improvements and repairs. Some contractors focus on a specific type of project, like plumbing or roofing, while others will work on any type of project. For larger projects, a general contractor may also serve as a project manager working with other vendors to get all the work done.
Hiring the right contractor is key to a successful home improvement or repair project.
Consider these tips when hiring a contractor:
Research and gather information: You can search for a contractor’s business profile at BBB.org to get free information on their history of complaints, read verified customer reviews, and see if they are a BBB Accredited Business. BBB Accredited Businesses make a commitment to uphold BBB’s accreditation standards: to build trust, advertise honestly, tell the truth, be transparent, honor their promises, be responsive to their customers, safeguard privacy and embody integrity.
Also search for the name of the company online along with “complaint,” “review” or “scam” to find different results. Ask the company if employees and subcontractors are trained and certified, if they undergo a background check and what identification they will show when they come to your home.
Ask for references: Ask the contractor for a list of recent local references you may contact. Ask the references about the services performed and their overall experience with the contractor and the quality of the work.
Ask for multiple quotes: You should always shop around and get at least three quotes. Make sure all bids consider the same set of criteria and do not assume the lowest is the best.
Get it in writing: Always get estimates in writing and never let any work begin without a written and signed contract. Do not be pressured to act quickly and make sure you read and understand everything before signing. Ask questions if you do not understand any part of the contract. Never sign an incomplete or partially blank contract.
Verify license and insurance: Be sure that the company you decide to work with has the necessary licenses, bonding and insurance for the work in your area. Ask for proof and confirm appropriate coverage for worker’s compensation, property damage and personal liability in case of accidents.
Confirm building permits: Your contractor must have the correct permits before starting your project. Request that all final inspections be completed by the local building official prior to final payment.
Inquire about a lien waiver: A lien waiver is a statement from your contractor that says all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work.
Confirm warranties: Make sure you are aware of your warranty coverage and how to deal with service issues.
Payment: Never pay in full up front. Stagger your payments so your final payment is not due until the work is complete and you have fully inspected it.
Do not pay cash. Make sure your check is written to a company, not an individual, or that you use a credit card. Request a receipt for each payment. When the job is complete and your final payment is made, request a receipt marked “Paid in Full.”
Keep your contract: Hold on to your contract for future reference or if any questions arise after the work is complete.
Say no: Do not agree to cash-only deals, high-pressure sales tactics, high upfront payments and handshake deals without a contract. Not all “storm chasers” are con artists, but enough are that you should be cautious any time a home contractor contacts you first, especially after a natural disaster.
Marybeth Stevens has been the president of BBB Paso del Norte since December 2016. She is a graduate of Leadership Texas 2015.