We cannot specifically help you select a local contractor for a few reasons. However, here’s a few common sense practices that you can follow when selecting any contractor to work with:
Your best bet is a “reality check” with any contractor you might use. This means call some of the past customers they’ve dealt with and go by a few of the jobs and visually check them out.
Get estimates from a few contractors and don’t automatically go with the lowest bid but instead ask about why theirs differs with other bids – you might find out one isn’t telling you everything but instead is going to use the items omitted as a costly add-on after the job is started. Interview each contractor you’re considering.
Here are some questions to ask.
- How long have you been in business?
- It’s pretty easy these days to go to your local licensing agency (usually a State Agency) and see if there’s any outstanding/unresolved complaints on the contractor.
- Are you licensed and registered with the state?
- While most states license electrical and plumbing contractors, only 36 states have some type of licensing and registration statutes affecting contractors, remodelers, and/or specialty contractors. The licensing can range from simple registration to a detailed qualification process. Also, the licensing requirements in one locality may be different from the requirements in the rest of the state. Check with your local building department about licensing requirements in your area. If your state has licensing laws, ask to see the contractor’s license. Make sure it’s current.
- How many projects like mine have you completed in the last year?
- Ask for a list. This will help you determine how familiar the contractor is with your type of project.
- May I have a list of references?
- The contractor should be able to give you the names, addresses, and phone numbers of at least three clients who have projects similar to yours. Ask each how long ago the project was completed and if you can see it.
- What types of insurance do you carry? Contractors should have personal liability, worker’s compensation, and property damage coverage. Ask for copies of insurance certificates, and make sure they’re current. Avoid doing business with contractors who don’t carry the appropriate insurance. Otherwise, you’ll be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project.
Talk with some of the contractor’s former customers. They can help you decide if a particular contractor is right for you. You may want to ask:
- Can I visit your home to see the completed job?
- Were you satisfied with the project? Was it completed on time?
- Did the contractor keep you informed about the status of the project, and any problems along the way?
- Were there unexpected costs? If so, what were they?
- Did workers show up on time? Did they clean up after finishing the job?
- Would you recommend the contractor?
- Would you use the contractor again?
Getting a Written Contract
Contract requirements vary by state. Even if your state does not require a written agreement, ask for one. A contract spells out the who, what, where, when and cost of your project. The agreement should be clear, concise and complete. Before you sign a contract, make sure it contains:
- The contractor’s name, address, phone, and license number, if required.
- The payment schedule for the contractor.
- An estimated start and completion date.
- A detailed list of all materials including color, model, size, brand name, and product that you will be providing for the job—this would be on your invoice that you got from us.
- Warranties covering materials and workmanship. The names and addresses of the parties honoring the warranties — contractor, distributor or manufacturer — must be identified. The length of the warranty period and any limitations also should be spelled out.
- What the contractor will and will not do. For example, is site clean-up and trash hauling included in the price? Ask for a “broom clause.” It makes the contractor responsible for all clean-up work, including spills and stains.
- Oral promises also should be added to the written contract.
Completing the Job: A Checklist
Before you sign off and make the final payment, use this checklist to make sure the job is complete. Check that:
- All work meets the standards spelled out in the contract.
- The job site has been cleaned up and cleared of excess materials, tools and equipment.
- You have inspected and approved the completed work.