Hire the Right Contractor

Hiring a contractor can be stressful, especially if you’re planning a major renovation or repair. For most homeowners, the hardest part of any home project is finding a competent and reliable contractor to do the job. Choosing the right contractor can make the difference between a successful home project and a disaster. Use the following guidelines to help you choose a professional contractor for your next home project. These tips also apply if you’re hiring a tradesperson or service professional to tackle any project around the home.


Get referrals

Many people will immediately go on the Internet and search for contractors, but it’s better to start your search by asking family, friends and neighbors (people they trust) for the names of contractors or trades professionals they’ve used. Only after you have fully utilized this resource for getting referrals should you turn to the Internet. We work with reputable contractors and other professionals in our local area so give us a call for a referral.

Another option is to contact your local Chamber of Commerce or Building Trade Association and ask for their recommendations.


Research your list of companies

Once you have your list of at least 3 companies, do a background check. Check with the Better Business Bureau. They give businesses letter-grade ratings and offers reviews that include background, licensing, consumer experience, and other information. Some businesses are accredited by the BBB, which means that they meet the bureau’s standards. Check in with your state attorney general’s office as well to see if there are any complaints against the contractor. Check online consumer review sites. Verify that all companies under consideration are licensed and check for any past judgments against them from prior jobs. Be aware that if you use an unlicensed contractor, you may be responsible for any work that is not to code or injuries your worker incurs on the job.


Meet the contractors in person

Meeting face to face not only allows you to ask more questions, it can also provide insight into their character and attention to detail in the way they present themselves and their company. 

Since you’ll be working closely with the contractor and team, you’ll want to make sure you TRUST them.


Questions to ask a Contractor:

  • How long have you been in business?
  • Have you worked on projects similar to mine?
  • Do you have a reference list that you can share with me?
  • Is your company licensed and insured? (If they say no, don’t hire them)
  • Does your company carry workers’ compensation and liability insurance? (If a contractor doesn't have insurance and a worker gets hurt on your project, you could be liable)
  • Who will supervise the project on-site?
  • Who will be my point of contact for job progress, changes or other issues?
  • What work will your employees do? What will you subcontract?
  • What efforts do you take to ensure the site is clean and safe for children and prevent dust and dirt from entering the living areas (if applicable)?

Ask for proper documentation and paperwork. For example:

  • A copy of their contractor’s license.
  • Certificate of insurance for both general liability and workers’ compensation coverage.
  • A written warranty for the work they do.
  • A list of references from people who had similar projects done.
  • A detailed quote that itemizes material and labor.
  • A contract detailing the cost, work to be done, time schedules, guarantees, payment schedules and other expectations. (Keep this contract for future reference or if any questions arise after the job is complete).
  • A receipt. Make sure to get a receipt that is marked “paid in full” when a job is completed and you make the final payment.

Review details before work begins


If your project is large, you may pay up to 30 percent upon signing the contract, followed by disbursements of payments over the duration of the project with final balance due upon completion of the project. Use the disbursements of payments as a time to review the project’s status and ensure your expectations and the contract standards are being met.


If you’d like the work to be done during a particular window of time or have other requests, discuss them with the contractor ahead of time.


Understand what the contractor expects from you. For example, do you need to clear an area before work begins?


Get everything in writing

The contract should include a payment schedule, proof of insurance (liability and workers’ compensation).

The contract should also include:

  • A detailed description of the project, explaining the materials to be used and what is being subcontracted. Keep in mind, the description will not cover any unexpected work uncovered during the renovation.
  • All building permits that will be obtained by the contractor and reassurance that the work will be compliant with current building codes.
  • A statement of warranties, including what is covered and for how long.
  • A statement of contractor’s liability and property damage insurance.
  • Price and terms of payment.



Beware of doing business with contractors who do the following:

  • Give you a quote before seeing the job.
  • Demand a large deposit upfront to purchase materials. Most contractors will have a charge account with suppliers.
  • Insist you sign a contract on the first visit. Once you’ve discussed the project with a contractor, they’ll likely come back with a plan or drawings and a written estimate of the project.
  • Are not locally based. 

Hire local Contractors

Local area contractors who have been in business for a long time are usually reliable and dependable. Companies that are involved in the community, members of their local Chamber, active in community organizations are probably local. If there is a problem later and or if you need service, a local contractor is going to be more responsive and help take care of you.

Something to keep in mind: 

A common mistake is "wanting" projects completed quickly and for the lowest cost. This typically leads up to one thing; disappointment and frustration. Skilled and reliable contractors are in high demand. Good contractors are busy and might have a longer lead time for scheduled jobs. It's important to understand that good contractors are scheduled out at least 2 to 6 months in advance. If you absolutely need it done quick, remember that contractors that are always available right away are not in demand. Good contractors don't take shortcuts and high-quality work takes time. 

(Don't let price be the deciding factor. The lowest price contractor may be cutting corners and taking short cuts.)

Learn more:

27 Questions For Home Owners


Can You Find a Good Contractor Online?


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