Anytime that a homeowner contracts out work, the possibility of success is a coin-flip at best – that is unless they put considerable thought into the process before taking action. If you consider the endeavor in depth, you will soon realize that you are in essence entrusting your most valuable possession to a total stranger in many instances, with no real knowledge of their honor or skill. While no one relishes the role of playing the difficult consumer, it is imperative that a homeowner be cautious of those contractors that may be less than stellar in their field. With a little preparation and detective work, it is possible to find out everything you need to know concerning a given contractor, and significantly increase the chances of a mutually beneficial project.
The best manner in which to protect yourself against crooked contractors is to utilize one that has been employed in the past by a close friend or family member. From their specific experience, you can learn a great deal about the quality, price and professionalism of a given contractor. If this cannot be accomplished, begin your own search, and only consider using contractors that are licensed and insured in your local area. Insist on references and contact them until you are satisfied that the contractor is legitimate and capable. Check trade associations and with the Better Business Bureau for past complaints and the professional standing of the contractor in question.
When you finally settle on a contractor that you think will be acceptable, sit down with them and have a frank discussion of what is expected. Cover prices, payment and the time frame in which the work will be completed in very specific detail. Request a “punch-list” of what work will be completed, in what order, and how it fits within the scope of the project as a whole. When the discussion has concluded, get it all in writing in a contract form, assuming nothing and take the contract to an attorney prior to signing. While this may add a few hundred dollar to your project budget, it is well worth the investment to get legal assistance.
Be wary of any contractor that requests a large payment up front. While it is customary to give an upfront payment, this is usually to accommodate smaller contractors who need to purchase materials and pay employees before the job is finished. Likewise, steer clear of contractor that engage in “double-talk” or those that side-step your questions or those that do not answer them specifically