Can You Give Me a List?
Here are five essential steps: 1. Talk to friends and relatives. Keep a list of contractors who have completed jobs for people you know.
Ask how satisfied they were with the work, and make a note of any specific problems or areas of disagreement.
2. Look at the work. Once you have the names of several highly recommended companies or contractors, inspect the projects they completed.
You’ll get a good idea of the quality and style of their work.
3. Make sure the prospective contractor is licensed and insured. In most places, home improvement contractors have to have a license.
Although a license is no guarantee of quality, it does assure you at least a basic level of professionalism.
It also assures you that city or county officials will be able to take action against the contractor on your behalf if any problems come up.
You should also make sure the contractor has liability insurance. You don’t want to be responsible if a worker is hurt on your property.
4. Get everything in writing. Many consumers talk at length with a contractor about the job, and assume they have an agreement about everything from the work to be performed, quality of materials that will be used and final cost.
But unless those details are spelled out in a written contract, conflicts are likely to arise as the job progresses.
5. Never pay too much in advance. If you pay for a job in full before the work is finished, you lose all your leverage with the contractor.
If you pay 50 percent in advance, you lose half your ability to negotiate. While it is true that contractors need some money in advance to purchase materials, try to make a minimal deposit.
Never pay more than a third of the cost in advance. Tie the payments to the progress of the job: Pay 50 percent when the job is half finished and 100 percent only after all the work is complete.