If a home repair or remodeling project is beyond your abilities and you need to hire a contractor, be cautious.
Remodeling and home repair are areas that are ripe for cons and scams, so take appropriate steps to ensure that your project comes out the way you hoped. Before you start, know what you want and what your budget will be.
To start the hunt for a contractor, get referrals from friends and family.
Conduct phone interviews of each potential contractor and ask if he or she has worked on projects the size of yours and whether he or she will give you a list of current and previous clients.
Gather written estimates from three or four of your potential contractors. Know what you want in your project but be willing to listen to ideas. Estimates should include full materials lists (as well as where the items will be purchased) and the cost of labor. Have the potential contractor include a proposed payment schedule, and read it carefully.
Any contractor who wants half the money up front might have financial problems or will abscond with the money without doing any work. Aim for no more than 10 percent up front, with other payments made at points of completion through the project, with approximately 20 percent held until the project is finished and approved.
Toss out any estimates that are extremely low.
Contact the local Better Business Bureau to ask about any complaints on the contractors on your list. Also, call the consumer-protection agency for your state.
Contact the clients on the lists you were provided and ask if they were happy with the work. Ask if you can see the projects. Drive by current projects and see how they look.
Once you’ve chosen a contractor, put your deal in writing, including drawings you’ve made, which the contractor should sign; a copy of the workman’s compensation policy and liability insurance; a schedule and a lien statement. The last is important, because you could be stuck with the bill if the contractor doesn’t pay off subcontractors and materials suppliers.
If you think that all these steps aren’t necessary, the BBB has issued a report listing the top 10 categories of consumer issues it was called about in 2012. Roofing contractors, general contractors, plumbers, heating and air conditioning, and construction and remodeling services are all in the top 10.