When considering a building or home improvement project, selecting the right contractor is one of the most important steps of the entire endeavor. This critical step can make or break the project. The following are some tips to help you select the right contractor to ensure you’re happy at the completion of your project instead of regretting the selection.
Licensing is an important issue but one that can be a bit tricky in certain situations. Depending on the state and type ofcontractor being hired, there may or may not be licensing necessary. For the most part, however, general contractors will, or should, have licenses. So this is something that you can check as an initial step. Simply ask the contractor for his/her license number and official business name. Depending the state you live in some government agencies will let you look up their license (e.g. in California you verify the contractor’s licenseonline)
Insurance is arguably as important or even more so than licensing. Virtually all contractors are insured. Ask the contractor about what kind of insurance policies they have and the level of coverage. They should carry at least two types of insurance: liability insurance and workers’ compensation insurance. Liability insurance will cover damage if the contractor has an accident or an error of their fault causes damage to your property or a neighbor’s property. Workers’ Comp is an insurance that will protect you in case a contractor’s employee is injured while on the job at your premises. In general, the more insurance and greater coverage the better the safety net will be for you. Again, you can ask to see proof of the contractor’s insurance or ask for a Certificate of Insurance. You can even call the insurance company to make sure that the contractor’s policy is still active.
There are some simple ways to inquire into the reputation of a contractor. First of all, you can ask him or her for references. They should be happy to give you a fairly extensive list of references to call and talk to directly. You can also check with the Better Business Bureau. Being a member of the BBB is in itself a good sign. If the contractor is a Better Business Bureau member, any complaints about the contractor will be available to those inquiring into his or her background.
Ask if the contractor is a member of any professional construction associations. While not absolutely necessary, this is another sign that the contractor practices his trade ethically and is well regarded. Also that he or she is knowledgeable about the latest techniques, since these organizations often offer continuing education and review courses of various sorts as well.
For Lower Priced Contractors
Though it’s not necessarily wrong to use less expensive contractors, you should find out why they are so cheap. Ask lower priced contractors the following questions to get a sense of the reasons they may offer lower prices:
• Why are you able to offer cheaper rates?
• Are their hired help legally employed?
• Do they cut costs on materials?
• How long have they been in business?
There is no foolproof method in picking the right contractor but you can reduce your chances of a negative outcome by using prudent methods and common sense. If they should too good to be true…may the buyer (that’s you) beware!