Before You Start Your Project
Here are some tips to consider before you begin your repair/remodel/rebuild project.
Become Your Own Quality Control Manager
Before you hire a contractor, there is some work you may want to do first.
- Determine exactly what you want to have done.
- As much as possible, select which materials/supplies you want. Write down the exact color, model number, manufacturer, specific sizes, grade, etc. and have all contractors give you an estimate using the products you have chosen.
- Contact your insurance agent and let them know your plans so they can advise you on insurance issues you may not know about.
Find a Reputable Contractor
Want to find a reputable contractor? There’s no 100% guarantee, but here are some things to consider:
- Look for a long-established company with a permanent business location and a listed phone number.
- Ask for referrals, but remember there is no guarantee the contractor will be honest this time.
- Contact local trade organizations, such as your local Home Builders Association, for a reputable contractor in your area.
- Be sure to find a contractor who specializes in the work you need/want done. You may not want to hire your painter to install your new swimming pool.
But always remember to vet anyone you are interested in hiring.
Vet Your Contractor Before Hiring
- Ask for five referrals for recent projects similar to yours. Most contractors are prepared for you to ask for three references, not five. This might catch a “fraudulent” contractor off guard. But remember, this is not foolproof; the references will always be good references and sometimes may be friends of the contractor. You might want to ask for references from the last 3-5 jobs so they cannot cherry pick.
- Get references from the contractor’s material supplier(s). If the contractor has been in business for 10 years, and his supplier has only worked with him for a few months, this may indicate a problem.
- Contact each reference and inspect the work if possible.
- Do some background checks before making a decision.
- Check with your local and surrounding states’ Better Business Bureau (BBB) for any complaints against the business. But remember, just because there are no complaints listed doesn’t mean a contractor is honest – just that they haven’t been caught yet.
- Also check with your county or city business license office and local building and zoning department to make sure the contractor’s business license is valid. It’s not uncommon for fraudulent contractors to give you another contractor’s license number assuming you won’t check.
- Search online for the contractor and their business name to check for complaints.
Using Pre-Screened Contractor Referral Resources
Although using a website or service that provides pre-screened contractors may minimize the risk of contractor fraud, it does not guarantee against it. Yet, many consumers can be lulled into a false sense of security by this type of “matchmaking” service, putting them at risk. Regardless of where you find a contractor, you should always vet them yourself.
Here are a few things to take into account before you hire a pre-screened contractor.
- There is no written guarantee that the contractor will perform as expected or how they performed in the past.
- There is no guarantee that the contractor’s licensing, insurance coverage or other credentials are in the same good standing as when they were listed.
- References offered at the time of membership may now be obsolete or no longer reflective of the contractor’s workmanship.
- Ultimately, the responsibility to research and select a qualified contractor rests on you and not the referral service. Protect yourself; it only makes good sense.