Homeowners rarely need an excuse to remodel their homes, but doing so can mean wading into a world both alien and expensive. Hiring the right contractor makes all the difference to the success and affordability of your project.
Most contractors are professionals who do their best. So, the key is to avoid the few who can turn your home renovation dream into a nightmare.
Follow these steps to separate the pros from the bad eggs, avoid misunderstandings and expensive missteps, and get the most for your money:
1. Get recommendations
The best way to find a competent contractor is to ask friends, colleagues and family for the names of pros with whom they’ve had a great experience. Send your network an email. Or, phone friends and ask acquaintances for recommendations.
Assemble a list of the most promising names you’ve received. Chat a bit more with those who made the recommendations to find out:
- Why they recommend the contractor
- What kind of work they had done
- Whether the contractor finished on time and on budget
- Whether there were any problems
2. Verify licenses
When you have narrowed your list to two or three contractors, ask to see their business licenses. Make photocopies and verify they are current by contacting the board or agency that licenses contractors in your state.
Home Advisor provides this handy site to look up your state’s licensing requirements and check out individual contractors. The licensing agency in each state is also the first place to look to find out if a contractor has been the subject of complaints or government disciplinary actions.
3. Screen for legal problems
Look for lawsuits involving a contractor:
- Check at your county’s district court office for lawsuits naming the contractor or business you are considering using.
- Search online for mentions of the contractor’s name and the business’ name.
4. Verify insurance coverage
According to Angie’s List, contractors need two types of insurance:
- Liability coverage: Covers any property damage or injured parties related to the project
- Workers’ compensation insurance: Provides payment to workers injured at the job site
Ask each contractor you are considering for a copy of evidence of his or her liability insurance, including the phone number of the agent who sold the policy.
Call the insurance agent to confirm that the contractor’s premiums are paid up and the policy is in force.