Advice & Tips on Using a Contractor

1.) Make sure every bid you get includes important information such as the brand of materials and complete descriptions of the scope of work.

2.) The contract should have the contractor’s name, street address (not just a P.O. Box) and phone number.

3.) Don’t automatically pick the low bidder. You’re not saving money at all if you get a sub-par job or substandard materials, or if the contractor installs shingles in a way that will void the manufacturer’s warranty.

4. ) Check all bidders out with the Better Business Bureau. Insist that the contractor  give you a list of references and make sure it contains customers who had work done recently and up to five or six years ago to make sure the work was completed. The more recent jobs will help you to make sure the company is still completing jobs in a timely, professional way. It’s important to call the people listed as references and it will also validate that the company hadn’t made a phony list.

5.) Ask for business or supplier references. A contractor who’s having trouble paying bills could have trouble finishing your job.

6.) Verify that the company has current liability insurance and worker’s compensation insurance. Ask to see the certificates then check with the insurer. You can check worker’s compensation coverage by calling the State Bureau of Worker’s Compensation at 1-800-664-6292.

7.) Your local building department probably requires contractors to register and post a bond. Make sure any contractor you plan to hire is registered with your city.

8.) Do not let a contractor start work unless he has applied for the required permits from the building department in his name, not yours. Permits are required to be posted at your job site, so if you don’t see one, ask.

9.) Never pay a contractor in full in advance. If you absolutely must pay a deposit, keep it at half or less owing of the total price. If possible, arrange to pay for the job on completion.

10.) Never hire someone who shows up at your door offering you a bargain because he’s already working in the neighborhood or has left over materials from another job.

11.) You have three business days (Saturday counts) to cancel a home-improvement contract under both federal and state law.

12.) Get copies of any warranties and a statement that all suppliers have been paid in full before you write the final check.

13.) Learn a little about roofing or other work being performed before you get bids. Check your local library. If you can tune out the sales pitches, some construction materials manufacturers have useful information and advice for consumers posted on their websites, including building terminology and warranty terms and tips on installation.

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