Farmers Cares, by Paul Quinn

How to Choose a Contractor

Whether it’s repairing your home after a disaster or making improvements, choosing a contractor can be overwhelming.

First, do some research. Look up articles on the internet and go to home improvement stores and get a sense for the type and cost of materials that will be needed to have the job done. For example, if you need a new roof, see what types of shingles are available and their cost. Also become familiar with the project’s terminology and the installation process so you can communicate better with a contractor.

Next, determine how many trades may be required. Will you need a carpenter and a plumber? If you need multiple trades to complete your project then you might want to look for a general contractor.

You might say, “There are so many contractors in the phone book. Which do I choose?” Look to friends who have had work done recently or you may obtain information from internet sites.

When you interview contractors, make sure you give them all the same job specifics so bids can be compared to one another. Ask each what their plans would entail and if they have references or a portfolio.

Try to compare at least three different bids and ask the contractors if they have the following:

License – Some unlicensed contractors will give you a business license but you need to verify that it is a contractor’s license. You may also want to check to see if your state requires a contractor to have a specific license. You may look this up at http://www.contractors-license.org/.

Contractors Bond – A bond is a financial assurance that a contractor will complete a job to satisfaction. If a contractor fails to complete a job as expected, the agency which issued the bond will provide a payout to compensate. Bonds are typically required in the same states that mandate contractor licensing. Check your state to see what is required.

General Liability Insurance – This may provide coverage if there are any accidents on your property that the contractor is responsible for – a contractor’s crane falls on your roof, electrical wiring shorts out and causes a fire, etc. It will not provide coverage for poor workmanship.

Workers Compensation – Most states have laws which require employers (including contractors with a certain number of employees) to carry workers compensation insurance to cover employees in the event they are hurt on the job.

If a contractor takes a long time just to get you a quote, then that may be an indication he/she is too busy or not interested in your particular job.

Once you have all the bids side-by-side, review them, looking closely at the materials and labor being quoted, and make sure each contractor has indicated an estimated completion date. Be sure to follow up and check the references of any contractor you are considering.

Be careful of payments requested up front. Most states have laws which govern how much a contractor can collect up front. Verify with your state.

Before signing a contract read it carefully and make sure you understand what you are signing. If not, consult an attorney.

Warning signs that you may not want to  work with a particular contractor:

  • Uses scare tactics
  • Hasty quote on a big job
  • No identification
  • Refusal to provide referrals
  • Pressure tactics
  • Upfront payments
  • Under the table deals for cash
  • Refusal to provide a written warranty

If you do have a dispute with a contractor that cannot be settled, you may want to contact the state license board and file a complaint with them.

Be as informed as much as possible about what your project will require and know what to look for when selecting a contractor. It may save you money in the long run.

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