You’ve been planning all winter for the home improvements you want to make this spring, and you’re itching to get outside and take advantage of warmer temperatures. You’ve already figured out what you’re going to do, how you’re going to do it, and how to pay for the renovations, and you can’t wait to get started. Unless you have a contractor who you’ve worked with before, you’re going to want to use some caution and not pick the first one listed in the phone book. Too many stories abound telling of price gouging, false low quotes, contractors who don’t finish the jobs they start, and others who spend weeks prolonging simple jobs. There are several rules of thumb you need to pay attention to when choosing a new contractor.
Never hire an itinerant contractor who comes knocking at your door soliciting business or one who demands cash up front. No legitimate professional works that way. Instead, you need to look for someone who has been in business in your neighborhood long enough to have established a reputation. If you have to hire someone you know nothing about, do some checking on him before signing on the dotted line. Look for a contractor who specializes in the type of work you want done. For instance, if you want to have a gazebo built, don’t hire a plumber. Naturally, this only makes sense.
A contractor’s credentials can be checked online to make sure that he is operating with enough of a cash cushion to be able to buy the materials he will need to do your project. These sites will also provide you with other information, such as business address, license, bonding and insurance information, and the length of time the business has been in operation. A credit review will tell you if he has had any financial problems in past business dealings.
As in any profession, there are unscrupulous people working in home contracting jobs. The Federal Trade Commission warns homeowners to avoid any dealings that don’t seem quite right to you. For instance, don’t trust a door-to-door salesman who claims he will give you a discount if you allow him to use materials he had left over from a previous job. Another red flag would be if he fails to give you an address and telephone number. And don’t allow any contractor to put you to work. If he says it will be your responsibility to get the necessary permits or expects you to recommend him to your friends, show him the door immediately.