Let’s face it, this has been a tough winter, and most of us have seen way too much of the inside of our homes. Every little wart, blemish or shortcoming of our home is amplified.
After being cooped up in the house all winter, our thoughts turn to spring and what a great time it is to plan new projects. We visit home shows and look through magazines to get ideas to freshen up our abodes. We look with great joy and anticipation to getting the home improvement ball rolling.
But if you are thinking of calling a home improvement contractor, take a deep breath and consider these tips about choosing one before you sign on the dotted line:
•Make sure you are dealing with an honest company. According to statistics, the home improvement industry ranks in the top five sources of complaints year after year, and fraud costs consumers over $100 million annually. The first step in selecting a contractor is to make sure the companies you are considering are real and reputable. Talk with your coworkers, friends and family about firms with which they have had good experiences. Did the companies they recommend come in at budget? Did the work match what was promised? On time? Give the BBB a call to see if there are any “red flags” you need to be concerned about. Also, ask for at least three recent references, and then do your homework and make follow-up inquiries to references provided. Finally, take a look at their work to make sure you are satisfied with their workmanship.
•Don’t fall for the knock on your door, “I was just over on the next street doing work for your neighbor” ploy. As amazing as it sounds, many trusting consumers fall for this con every year.
•Get written bids. It is amazing the wide range of pricing quotes for the same job. Base your comparison on an apples-to-apples basis, making sure of warranty, project time frame, specifications and labor.
•Check their licensing, insurance and who will actually be doing the work. Licensing requires the contractor to have knowledge of codes and building processes. Verify the company is insured to protect you against any damages. If the company uses subcontactors to do any of the work, such as plumbing, drywall, electrical, etc., on the project, make sure those subs are licensed and insured as well. You will also gain some peace of mind knowing just who is going to be showing up at your home.
•A detailed contract is a must! Never allow work to begin without a signed, written contract that includes details such as exact costs, specifications and scope of work to be done, warranty information and start and completion dates. Even the brands of items used are often spelled out and agreed on in the contract. Agreeing to those things in advance not only protects both parties but helps to avoid nasty surprises later.
•With deposits and payments, never pay more than a 25 to 30 percent deposit of the total job cost. Withhold your final payment until the job is completed. Make your payments only by check or credit card, never by cash.
By following these tips you can not only look forward to the joys of your new home improvement, but also look back to the peace of mind of choosing the right contractor to do the job.
Cheryl Parson is the president of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio. The BBB may be found on the Internet at www.lima.bbb.org