If dealing with contractors is part of your home improvement project, you would be wise to do your homework first to minimize any chance of major disappointment. While most contractors are skilled professionals, like any other industry, there are those who are not. Worse, there are contractors who aren’t even licensed who prey upon homeowners and then perform shoddy work, or no work at all. In the meantime, the homeowner is out a lot of money and may have to start the hiring process all over again. In the following paragraphs, we’ll examine some things you can do to ensure you have a productive relationship with any contractor you hire.
Check Licenses and References
If you are hiring a licensed contractor, verify that his or her license is, in fact, valid and up to date. You can easily check this online; most states have a website that will allow you to check the licenses of many types of professionals, including contractors. In fact, many contractors make this easy for you by displaying their license number on their website. However, even if you don’t have the contractor’s license number, you can still check by name.
Any contractor worth his salt will be glad to offer references and show off previous jobs he has completed. Don’t be shy about asking for references as reputable contractors understand the need to be sure you are working with a reputable individual or company.
Get it in Writing
Don’t hire a contractor who won’t sign a contract with you. You need to have the job spelled out in writing, how much it will cost, and all other terms and conditions, such as when the job will be complete and who will purchase the materials needed for the job. While it is true that people sign contracts every day that they don’t read, many of these same people either wind up in court or kick themselves later for not reading the fine print. Don’t be rushed or pressured into signing a contract that you haven’t read yet. It’s your money; take your time to protect it.
Don’t Pay Upfront
One of the most common mistakes homeowners make when hiring contractors is paying for all the work upfront and then not being satisfied when the work is actually completed. For this reason and others, avoid paying the entire bill upfront. Many contractors will require a deposit, although you can often negotiate this amount. After the deposit is paid, you should then pay for the work in increments, according to most experts.
You should still put this in writing, though, however you work it out. Whether you pay for half of the work after it is completed to your satisfaction and then pay the balance upon full completion of the project or decide on another incremental payment system, do add it to the contract. This protects both you and the contractor and ensures the fair treatment of both parties.