HomeownersHome ImprovementIncentivesHappeningsBuying A HomeMaintenance

Choosing a Reputable Contractor

Learn to separate the wheat from the chaff.

There are laws in place to protect you. Every city, municipality and state has minimum building standard laws for all construction, remodeling, additions, alterations, and repairs. This law requires all new homes and remodeling work to be completed to local codes and provides for third-party inspections. All builders and contractors must follow the same rules and meet the same standards. These measures protect you from poor construction methods and provide you with assurances that your home will be remodeled to scientifically-tested standards.

Sounds nice, doesn't it? Don't relax just yet. You're entrusting someone with what is probably your largest asset , and their only required guidance is a code that provides a minimum standard. Want to rest easy that you've got a good professional contractor? Here's the homework assignment:

  • Call your local builders association for a list of its members.
  • Solicit two or three bids for the work you need; do not automatically accept the lowest.
  • Beware of an unusually low bid or low advertised price. No matter what he signs, the contractor has to be able to afford to pay for labor, materials and overhead or you're both in trouble.
  • Make sure all bids are based on the same set of plans and specifications.
  • Discuss the bids in detail with the contractor to make sure you understand the reasons for any variations in price.
  • Ask each contractor these 10...er...16 questions.
  • Ask for an insurance certificate to verify current workers' compensation, general liability insurance, and property damage, and personal liability in case of accidents.
  • Make sure the contractor has a permanent business location and a good reputation with local banks and suppliers.
  • Call the Better Business Bureau to find out how long the company has been in business and whether there are any unresolved complaints against the firm registered with either.
  • Check to see if the contractor has a good reputation with suppliers and building officials.
  • Incorporate any warranties, guarantees or other promises in your written contract.
  • Always insist on a written contract, written change orders, and a building permit .
  • Select a contractor you are comfortable with--one who understands your tastes and needs and with whom you can communicate easily.

Ask your contractor about the quality of their work. Do they build to code? When do they build beyond code? "Beyond code" will ensure the durability and energy efficiency you want in your home. Ask the contractor if he or she has attended any code training. If he or she uses subcontractors, do they build to code? Is your contractor as interested in green housing technology as you are?

Take your time. Most problems occur when consumers fail to investigate contractors carefully before hiring them.

When you're ready to look for a remodeler, start here.

Content updated on 11/21/2007

Home | Search | ToolBase | Contact Us | Privacy Policy

Text-Only Version