Are you planning a home remodeling project and you don’t know how to go about choosing a contractor? How do you know they’ll complete the work? How do you know they won’t rip you off? Do you go with a licensed contractor or that’s not really important? Here are a few tips and a checklist for you to have handy at the time of selecting a professional.

1. Ask for recommendations

This is the best way to gauge someone’s reputation and work. If you have friends who have had work done in their house and you like the results, ask for the name of their contractor and let them tell you how their experience was with him. Ask your friends on social media for recommendations as well, you might not know it, but a lot of them might have a favorite contractor.

2. Licensed or not?

It’s illegal in certain states like California and Nevada to hire an unlicensed contractor. You can get in trouble even if you hire someone with an out of state license, so before choosing a contractor, check his license (and good standing with trade associations and the BBB).

3. Ask questions

Your friends gave you recommendations, now what? Have a list of question ready for when you talk over the phone or in person.

Questions to ask over the phone when choosing a contractor:

1. Are you licensed?
2. Are you insured? The contractor should have a general liability and an umbrella policy to cover any damages that may happen to your house while he’s working on it.
3. Do you guarantee your work? For how long? You want to have warranty on materials he uses, such as windows, light fixtures and other things that could get damaged due to low quality or poor installation.
4. Can you provide references? It’s good to have more than one person recommend you his work.
5. Do you have a portfolio of your past work for me to see?
6. Have you done this type of work before? Make sure that whatever project you need him to do, he’s done it before and ask for pictures, if possible.
7. How do you accept payments and how’s your schedule? Never pay cash, and never pay for half the work up front. 1/3 up front for materials is reasonable, and we advise that you create a payment schedule in writing to have a pay-as-you-go plan, or pay-per-project finished.

Questions to ask the contractor in person:

1. I.D. and license, and make a copy if you can.
2. Don’t sign anything until you’re confident of the terms.
3. The first time you see the contractor in person, he’ll probably do a run down of your house or room and give you an estimate. Don’t accept right away. Conduct other interviews. Choosing a contractor is also choosing a partner that you will let in your life for a while. Make sure you feel comfortable with what you see and what you hear.
4. Ask if the work you want will require a permit. There’s nothing more frustrating than having a loft built in your house only to know your city doesn’t allow lofts. Make sure the contractor checks for permits necessary for approval. It’s not a bad idea for you check with your city as well.
5. Will you be using subcontractors for this project? If so, they should have the corresponding insurances and licenses.

Other steps to take when choosing a contractor:

1. Keep records of everything: records of the contracts, change orders, any correspondence pertaining to your home improvement project and professionals, record of all payments and keep all receipts for tax purposes.
2. Don’t take the first bid or the lowest. You get what you pay for, so make sure that the person who gives you the lowest bid is also reputable, has experience on the kind of work you need done and has good recommendations. Also, make sure his employees are covered by Worker’s Compensation and that he has insurance. A low quote could mean something is wrong, but it can also mean nothing, so cover your bases.
3. Call your state’s licensing agency and the Better Business Bureau to verify there are no outstanding legal actions, complaints or disciplinary actions against the contractor you’re leaning towards to hire.
4. When you screen for legal problems, search the name of your contractor or his company name for any legal action pending or past, or at your county’s district court.
5. Get a written contract. For what items should be included in your contract check here.
6. Keep a log journal of all phone calls, conversations and activities. Take before, during, and after photos.
7. Don’t make the final payment or sign an affidavit until you’re 100% the work was done satisfactory.

Sign-off checklist:

All work meets standards described in the contract.
You have written warranties for material and labor.
You have proof that all subcontractors and suppliers have been paid.
There’s no excess material, tools or equipment left on the site and it looks in good and clean condition.
All work has been done to your satisfaction, you have inspected and approved it.

We hope this provides some help and gives you a little more peace of mind. Choosing a contractor is an important step in your remodeling project. It can be stressful at times but follow these tips and don’t be afraid to ask your potential contractor lots of questions! You will hire someone you need to trust understand your vision and will execute it honestly and professionally.

Your project deserves the Collom Construction quality.