When looking for a contractor to complete any home improvement project there a few simple guidelines one can follow that will save you time and money in the long run. With a little homework and due diligence on your part, you can save yourself a lot of hassle, heartache, and frustration. We have compiled a few tips to help you in your search.
- Make sure your contractor is licensed and in good standing in the state, city or other jurisdiction they are performing services in. This can be as simple as performing a search online at your state or local licensing board website.
- Do not automatically accept the lowest bid, and make sure you’re comparing bids based on identical plans, specifications, products, and scope of work. In fact, you should beware of any bid that is substantially lower than the others. It probably indicates that the contractor made a mistake or is not including all the work quoted by his or her competitors. You may be headed for a dispute with your contractor if you accept an abnormally low bid. It also is possible that a low-bidding contractor may cut corners, use inferior products, or do substandard work to make a profit.
- Verify the contractor’s workers’ compensation and commercial general liability insurance coverage. Ask to see a current copy of the Certificate of Insurance, or ask for the name of the contractor’s insurance carrier and agency to verify that the contractor has insurance. If the contractor does not have these insurances current while working on a project, it could leave the homeowner exposed to the liability should something happen.
- Ask for recommendations. Friends and family recently may have had similar projects completed. If they are satisfied with the results, chances are you will be, too. Local customers, material suppliers, subcontractors, and financial institutions are good reference sources to check whether the contractor is financially responsible. If you are still unsure, you also may wish to check the contractor out with your local building department, trade association or union, consumer protection agency, consumer fraud unit, and the Better Business Bureau.
- Use a written contract. Contractors who are legitimate will provide their customers with a written contract and estimate. As a homeowner you are entitled to obtain a copy of this contract for your records.