Making the decision to spend money on a home improvement or repair project is not always easy. Often the question of whether or not the job can be a do-it-yourself project or one that must be completed by a professional is seemingly the toughest aspect of that decision. Additionally, hiring a professional contractor can be an exceptionally daunting task – especially if you don’t know exactly what to look for or what questions to ask.
The following list of common misconceptions and question should help guide you in choosing the right contractor.
Avoid Common Misconceptions
1. If the Better Business Bureau does not list any complaints against the contractor, he must be qualified. This is a common and often costly misconception. To ensure that the company is reputable, use the BBB as a starting place to gather information, not the only place.
2. Going with the lowest price saves money. In most cases, if one estimate is significantly lower than another, there is a reason. It is important to consider what might have been left out or what shortcuts were factored in.
3. Doing it yourself saves money. Small projects like painting, routine repairs, etc. can be undertaken by someone with limited experience, but larger projects should be left up to professionals. Substandard work could end up costing much more than a professional contractor from the start.
4. If a person claims to have many years of experience, they must do quality work. The number of years in the business does not directly translate into superior craftsmanship. Investigate to ensure the contractor is a qualified professional.
Questions to Ask
1. Do you carry general liability insurance? Make sure any contractor hired carries general liability insurance. This type of insurance protects your property in case of damaged caused by the contractor and/or his employees. Ask for a copy of the certificate of insurance.
2. Do you carry workers’ compensation insurance? This type of insurance will protect you from any liability if a worker is injured while on your property.
3. Will you provide me with a written lien waiver? This is a legal document that claims you, the homeowner, have paid the contractor in full for the services rendered.
4. Are you a paying member of NARI or NAHB? National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI) and the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) most often attract conscientious contractors interested in bettering the industry.
5. Will you pull all the required building permits? It is imperative that the contractor pull all the required building permits. A reputable contractor will permit ever job where a permit is required.
6. Do you guarantee your work? A contractor should guarantee his work for a minimum of one year from the date of completion.
7. Who will be in charge of the job? The contractor, or his foreman, must be on site whenever work performed.
8. Will you provide me with written references? A contractor should be well-established and able to supply references from projects within the last 6-12 months.
9. What percentage of your business is repeat or referral business? If a significant amount of a contractor’s business is derived from repeat or referral business that generally indicates that his clients are pleased with the work they have received.
10. How do you handle “dirty work?” Make sure the contractor will make an honest effort to keep the dust and dirt contained, or notify you when the heavy dust generating operations will take place so you can protect your furniture and other sensitive belongings.