Who doesn't have a home improvement horror story about a contractor who failed to show up, finish the job, or worse? Surely, you cannot guarantee that you'll always be satisfied with your installer, contractor or remodeling expert. After all, in the state of California alone, there are 310,000 licensed contractors in the state. There are plenty of others around the United States, some licensed, some not, looking for work and advertising their contracting services. How can you distinguish one contractor from another? One remodeling firm from the next?
In the state of Virginia, trade licenses are required for contractors performing electrical, plumbing, HVAC, gas fitting, asbestos abatement and lead abatement work. Other remodeling pros in this state, among others, don't need a license. How can you gauge contractor quality and expertise? How do you know who to trust with your money, home and family?
Sure, the number of contractors and remodeling firms alone is enough to make you dizzy. Reports of poor quality just about makes you want to give up. But, you can do some things in advance of a home improvement project that will help ensure contractor quality and reliability. Where to start? Here are some easy steps to take before you hire a contractor to do work on your home:
Get referrals. Get out your address book. Get online. Talk to friends, colleagues, neighbors and family members for referrals and recommendations. By networking your group, you can leverage the information to make good decisions about which home improvement pro will do the job best for you.
Get estimates. Not one. Not two. But, three estimates are better than one and will give you an idea of the going rate for time and materials. Estimates also help you better understand the component parts of your remodeling work so that you and your family know what to expect down the line.
Seek references. Don't be afraid to ask the contractor for a few references to measure customer satisfaction. By talking to others, you can figure out if a contractor or remodeling expert is a good fit for you and your family.
Check for licenses and other certifications. If you're paying top rate for an installation, repair or remodeling work, it pays to check out a contractor's licenses, certifications and insurance policies. Browse the NARI website or those of the building industry to find out what these certifications mean and how they relate to the work you have in mind. Be sure to check for things like workers compensation and general liability insurance.
Do your research. Call the Better Business Bureau in your area. Check with suppliers to make sure the contractor is reputable and timely with his billing practices. Consult the regulatory and consumer protection offices, agencies and departments in your local community to see if the builder or contractor has a good reputation or a pile of complaints against him/her. Doing your research in advance of the project can save you time and money in the end.
National Association of the Remodeling Industry
Associated General Contractors of America
National Electrical Contractors Association
Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Contractors Association
National Roofing Contractors Association
National Tile Contractors Association
Building Trades and Construction Department
Top 3 Things to Do Before Signing Off on Your Home Improvement Project
By M. G. Hardiman for Associated Content