Tips on choosing contractors well

By Cheryl Parson - Guest columnist

It’s spring! Time for sprucing things up with remodeling and repair projects. Maybe you’re thinking about a new driveway, or possibly the dream kitchen or bathroom you’ve always wanted. Most likely, these are the kind of things you can’t, or don’t want to do yourself, so you’re going to hire a contractor. We’ve come up with a checklist of things you should do when hiring one to make sure you have a good experience.

Choosing the contractor

• Consider choosing a local, licensed contractor. Local contractors are easier to deal with, know the local codes and regulations and are easier to get in touch with should problems arise. Check with your local municipality, county or township regarding contractor licensing or regulations.

• Don’t hire someone that solicits door to door. Usually what happens is the homeowner gives the person a cash deposit and the contractor and the money disappear forever.

• Get recommendations from family, friends and neighbors. If you know someone that has had work done, ask how satisfied they are with that contractor. You can be sure they will tell you if they had problems.

• Don’t hire any contractor you feel uncomfortable with in any way. You will be allowing them into and around your home and family. As one expert says, “You have to trust the contractor 100 percent, not 95 percent.”

• Check references and reputation. Contact the Better Business Bureau or the Attorney General’s office to see if there are any outstanding complaints, suits or liens against the contractor.

• Make sure the contractor is insured and bonded. Ask for a certificate of insurance (COI). Do not do business with those that do not carry appropriate coverage. If the contractor is uninsured you could be liable for accidents.

What’s in the contract

There’s a commercial on TV right now in which a contractor is talking with a couple and explains, “This here is a load-bearing wall. We’ll go ahead and rip that out, cause a lot of problems.” Unfortunately, contractors that are underhanded or unreliable aren’t going to be that forthcoming, so be sure to protect yourself with a contract.

• Get a complete description and cost of the work to be done. This means a fixed price rather than an estimate. Define the quality of materials used. Contractors should furnish you with a list of their subcontractors and suppliers.

• Establish a timeline for the project. It should allow for unforeseen circumstances, such as weather. Delays happen. Be realistic.

• Establish the payment schedule. Contractors may explain they need 30 percent to 50 percent up front for materials and subcontractors. Don’t be swayed. Suppliers will normally provide materials on credit to good, reliable contractors. A good payment schedule could be 10 percent down, one third when work is partially completed and the balance due upon completion of the project.

• Require written approval for any changes. This includes any unforeseen construction issues or things you, as owner, may want changed. Both the contractor and owner should sign.

• Guarantees and Warranties. Get the manufacturers warranties in writing for items such as heating and cooling equipment, windows, siding, roofing materials, etc.

• Lien waivers. Homeowners should require the general contractor to provide lien waivers from all suppliers and subcontractors before making the last payment. This not only guarantees that everyone gets their money but they cannot file a future lien against your property.

Choose your contractor carefully! If you have to pay a little extra to hire the right person, you won’t regret it. Select a contractor you feel will work with you to find the best solutions.

By Cheryl Parson

Guest columnist

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio Branch.

Cheryl Parson is president of the Better Business Bureau serving West Central Ohio Branch.