Finding a Trustworthy Contractor
Stacker.com lists General Contractors as the #11 top LEAST trusted profession in America, and unfortunately, most homeowners don’t need an explanation why. Unscrupulous contractors without licenses, insurance, or experience have the potential to damage your property, perform remodels incorrectly that will not pass inspections, and in some circumstances even walk off the job pocketing your money.
We’ve put together this checklist as a quick, surefire way to make sure you’re doing your due diligence when hiring a contractor. Whether or not you choose Fine Home Contracting for your job, we feel as if we have a responsibility to educate homeowners about the dangers of untrustworthy contractors, and do everything we can to give them the power to make informed decisions for their homes.
1. Verify the Contractor’s License
- In Connecticut: Visit the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection website. Use their online tool to verify the contractor’s license. Ensure it’s valid and appropriate for the type of work you need.
- Outside Connecticut: Check your state’s licensing board website for similar verification tools.
2. Insurance Verification
- Liability Insurance: Confirms coverage for any damage caused during the project.
- Workers’ Compensation: Essential if the contractor has employees. This protects you from liability in case of injuries on your property.
3. Review Checks
- Better Business Bureau (BBB): Look for the contractor’s rating and any complaints.
- Google Reviews: Check for customer feedback and overall ratings.
- Yelp: Another platform for customer experiences and ratings.
- Angi (formerly Angie’s List): A specialized site for reviewing home service providers.
- Other sites that frequently include contractor reviews are Thumbtack, Houzz, YellowPages, and Social Networks that allow reviews, such as Facebook.
4. Social Media Presence
- Facebook: Check for customer interactions and recent project photos.
- Instagram: Useful for visual portfolios of their work.
- LinkedIn: Provides professional background and network connections.
- Twitter: Look for customer feedback and business responsiveness.
5. Ask for Past Customer Recommendations
- Request contact information for previous clients.
- Enquire about their overall experience, quality of work, and project timelines.
6. Request Project Photos
- Ask for a portfolio of past projects. (Use Google Reverse Image Search to make sure they’re real!)
- Check for varied types of work: If you’re remodeling a Bathroom and Kitchen, for example, make sure you see past projects of both rooms.
- Evaluate the quality and style of their work to see if it matches your expectations.
7. Detailed Contract Review
- Ensure all aspects of the project are clearly outlined.
- Look for detailed descriptions of the work, materials, timelines, and payment schedules.
- The more detailed the contract, the better. Make sure it acknowledges the following key points:
- How are cost overruns / budget issues handled? What is the process for Change Orders?
- Do you need to set aside contingency?
- Does the company use subcontractors? If so, are they covered by workmans comp insurance?
- Does the contractor give you a complete, transparent list of items they expect to purchase? Eg fixtures and materials
8. Payment Plan and Terms
- Never pay the full amount upfront. Legitimate contractors take payments in “Draws” throughout your project as it reaches key stages of completion.
- Agree on a reasonable payment schedule tied to project milestones.
9. Warranties and Guarantees
- Discuss any warranties or guarantees offered on the workmanship and materials.
- Make sure you know the exact scope of your warranty: E.g. Is your whole shower covered for leaks, or just the shower pan?
10. Local Permit Requirements
- Confirm that the contractor will obtain any necessary permits.
- Ensure they are familiar with local building codes and regulations. Ask about their relationship with local building departments and inspectors in your town.
- Ensure permits are properly displayed and visible from the road on your property. This is a sign of an experienced contractor.
Selecting the right contractor is about thorough research and asking the right questions. Use this checklist as your guide to ensure you hire a competent and legitimate professional. Remember, a reliable contractor will always be willing to provide the necessary information and documentation to earn your trust.