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Hiring a Contractor

It’s that time of year again. With the weather improving, it may be time to consider building or remodeling your home. If you are going to make this type of investment in your home, it is important to make sure you hire a good contractor.

I was reviewing web sites for help in understanding what to look for in a reputable contractor and came across the following which might be of help. Good luck with your project!

    1. Get a referral from someone you know. People love updating their homes so you should have no trouble coming up with a list of contractors to call.
    2. Hire a contractor who specializes in the type of work you need done. Someone you hire to install wood flooring or to build a deck should be a carpentry contractor, while someone you hire to install recessed lighting in your kitchen should be an electrician. There are many different trade certifications, so be sure to check the title on your contractor’s certification to make sure he or she is a specialist.
    3. Check licenses and insurance with your city’s Contractors Licensing Board. Ask the tradesman for copies of the following documents: Contractor’s Certification, Worker’s Compensation status and Liability Insurance certificate. A reputable contractor will have no problem providing copies of these documents.
    – Get at least three references for your contractor and call them. The contractor will likely give you references who had positive experiences, so be sure to ask them specific questions about workmanship that are important to you. You might be concerned about whether the contractor cleaned up his work area and kept to his time line or whether the final invoice matched the estimate.
    4. Check with the Better Business Bureau to find out if complaints have ever been filed or are outstanding against the contractor.
    5. Request a written estimate. Any contractor who does not provide you with a written estimate should be crossed off your list immediately. Get at least three estimates and then compare prices with what is included. Remember the lowest bidder is not always the best.
    6. Sign a written contract. The contract should clearly spell out all the steps the contractor will take from beginning to end of your job, what supplies are included, the payment schedule and the time line for the project.

Things you will need:

    • Referrals
    • Copies of Contractor’s Certification, Worker’s Compensation status, and Liability Insurance certificate
    • References
    • Written estimate
    • Contract

Tips & Warnings

    • Hire a contractor who shows up on time for the estimate and seems professional and knowledgeable.
    • Check with the building department about whether a permit is required for the work to be done. If a permit is required, the liability is on the owner of the property to procure the permit or authorize the contractor to pull the permit.
    • Make sure you hire someone with a large crew if time frame is important.
    • Deposit 30 to 50 percent of the total price to initiate your contract. It will cover the contractor’s large expenses like construction materials, flooring, fixtures and crew to start your project.
    • Check your local phone book government pages to find the County Licensing Board. They can educate you about licenses, permits and trades, as well as answer any questions you may have about your project or a contractor licensed in your county.
    • Don’t hire unlicensed contractors to do the job. If you do, you will have no recourse should you be unhappy with the job or should you have code or permit violations cited by your county.

Mike Sloter, CPCU
Director of Commercial Lines Underwriting

Call Toll-Free 1-800-322-0160