So you need to hire contractors to handle your home improvement work? Be sure to do your homework first. I read a blog this morning that referred to a restoration contractor as “the Don Quixote of the construction industry…tilting at windmills while everybody laughs behind their hands.” Of course, the same can be said about the “green” contractor these days. Home repair fraud is common and can cost homeowners ungodly amounts of money, especially if a second contractor has to be hired to finish the work.
Here’s how to avoid some of the pain:
1. Chose a contractor. Not all contractors are created equally, so ask friends and neighbors for references, check local listings, research on the internet, etc. Choose at least three contractors to research and ask for estimates.
2. Do your homework.
• Check the business address to make sure there is a real business at this location.
• Research the past jobs of contractors, even if your friend or neighbor raved about him/her.
• Ask the contractor for references from homeowners who have had similar projects done.
• Check for city licenses to be sure that all licenses are up to date. Depending on where you live, different kind of repair work requires different licenses (brick work, home repair, plumbing, electrical, etc.). Contact your local building department and ask what is required for the work you want done. The contractor should be able to provide copies for you.
• The Better Business Bureau (BBB) can also tell you if any complaints have been filed and how they’ve been resolved.
• Ask to see a current insurance certificate. Call the insurance provider to see if the contractor is bonded and insured. Seriously.
3. Get an estimate. It should be detailed and include all the specifics of the job from each contractor. Estimates should have a starting and finishing date and costs for labor and materials. Materials should include an itemized description with brand names. The contractor’s license number should appear on the estimate. Be aware that some estimates may be honored for a limited amount of time.
4. Sign the contract. Again, be sure it is detailed. It should also have a written payment schedule and list whether any sub-contractors will be hired as part of the project. The contractor’s license number must appear on the contract, and the contract should identify who obtains the permits and who cleans the site. It should also specify who pays for the permits and any architectural drawings that may be required.
5. Get building permits. Depending on the scope of work and your town or city, permits may be required. If a permit is required, be sure to post it in a conspicuous place until the work is completed. Do not allow work to begin until these permits are posted. Ultimately, the homeowner is responsible for obtaining permits because the permits protect the homeowner. You may be required to have inspections before permits are issued.
6. Monitor the work. Be sure to monitor the work being done throughout the duration of the project. Ask the contractor to provide updates and be sure that key project points are met before payments are made. You should have your project manager’s contact info for emergencies. Let them know that you are involved with the project! If change orders are required, be sure to get a written change order with your signature that details all of the work and materials needed. If you’re unhappy with the work being done, stop the work until you can agree on what will be done.
This Old House: How to Spot a Crooked Contractor http://tiny.cc/YqQIH
KINDLING: Adventures in Old House Restoration http://tiny.cc/weNiL
Planet Green: Find the Perfect Green Contractor http://tiny.cc/8NbT9