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5 Things You Should Not Do and 10 Things You Should Do Before Hiring a Building Contractor

Rick Maselli

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Over the years I have worked with hundreds of clients. No matter if it was a new home, room addition or a remodeling project, I tried very hard to do the job right. With the reputation that contractors can have now days, it is very important for the homeowner to make the right decisions when hiring a contractor. With so many contractors out there all telling you that they will do the best job for you, it takes more then just having a good feeling about a contractor or even a good referral from a friend or relative.

So, after over 40 years of dealing with people, working with sub contractors and just knowing what are the right things to do to make the building experience the best it could possibly be for my clients, I have come up with two lists that the homeowner can use as a guideline in helping them to make the right choice when hiring a building contractor.

5 Things You Should Not Do Before Hiring a Contractor

1. Lowest Price - Don't choose your contractor just because he is the lowest priced. A legitimate contractor has many expenses to keep his company going. Contractor's need to carry liability insurance, worker's and health insurance for employees. They have several operating expenses and pay city, state and federal taxes. With all these expenses it will become apparent that they will have to charge enough to help cover their costs. Even though the contractor you hire may not be the lowest priced, you can rest assured you are getting a contractor that is doing things the right way and that is what you can expect out of the job they do for you.

2. Down Payment - Never give a contractor a large down payment! In most cases a down payment of 5% to 20% down, is all that is needed for a contractor to get the job started. If someone is asking for a third or half down, you better be cautious. Unless the contractor has ordered something special that you requested and the company require a large amount down, there should be no reason for you to have to give a down payment that large. If the contractor does ask for that much, make sure you get it in writing as to where the money is going.

3. Credit - Don't give a contractor all the money up front for the materials needed for the entire job. If a contractor does not have accounts set up with suppliers, there is usually a reason. One reason could be that he or she is just starting out and has not established credit yet, or another might be that the contractor has some credit problems and if he or she does, that could spell trouble for you.

4. Get It In Writing - Never hire a contractor unless you get a legible cost break down or estimate and a signed contract. I can not stress this enough. Make sure everything you want is spelled out exactly the way you agreed. A verbal agreement is not satisfactory. This will protect you and it will also protect the contractor. It is the only way you should do business with a contractor.

5. Recommendations - Don't hire a contractor just because the company was recommended by a friend or neighbor. Although this could be a good thing that someone you know has used the contractor and had good results, make sure you check with others who have used the company as well. Follow the guidelines in the last post, “Ten Things You Should Do Before Hiring a Contractor. "

10 Things You Should Do Before Hiring A Contractor

1. Licensing - Find out if the contractor is licensed and or bonded in the cities, counties or states in which it is required.

2. Insurance - Make sure the contractor carries liability insurance and make sure you see a copy of it.

3. Workers Comp. - Make sure your contractor carries Worker's Comp. Insurance and ask to see the certificate

4. Complaints - Check with the Better Business Bureau for unresolved complaints with the contractor

5. Client References - Ask for at least 5 or more current and past client references. Make sure you call them and ask questions.

6. Professional References - Ask for at least 5 or more material suppliers and sub contractor references. Again, make sure you call them and ask questions. If the contractor is not paying his bills in a timely matter, you need to be aware of that because chances are this could be a big problem for you down the road.

7. Permits - Make sure the contractor takes out the necessary building and zoning permits whenever it is required. Having your project inspected insures you that the job will get done in accordance with the city, county and state requirements.

8. Professional Organizations - If your Contractor is a member of The Home Builders Association - The National Association of the Remodeling Industry - The Better Business Bureau or any other professional organization, it means that time, effort and money went into joining and he or she is serious about their business. These types of organizations don't just let anyone join them. They do a thorough check up of each contractor that applies for membership before they accept them.

9. Sub-Contractors - Ask your contractor for the names of the sub contractors he or she is going to use and don't be afraid to check them out as well. As a rule, if a company is incorporated then that is a plus but this does not mean that you still should not check them out. You can make inquiries with your local building department and the Better Business Bureau.

10. Get Everything In Writing! - Get as much detail as possible. This should include an itemized signed and dated estimate or cost breakdown. Once you decided on who you are going to hire; “Make Sure You Sign A Contract!" The contract should specify the cost of the project, the down payment and payment schedule, the approximate completion time, the name and address of the contractor's liability insurance company, the companies guarantee or warranty, information as to the contractor and or sub contractor's being licensed and insured, and an acceptance clause and places for you and the contractor to sign and date. Do not be afraid to ask your contractor a copy of the company's contract to have your attorney look over before you sign. You can check with the BBB, NARI and the Home Builder's Association for information on contracts.

These two lists set the ideal standard. It may not be possible for the contractor you want to hire, to come up to this standard completely on every point, but if you follow these guidelines, hopefully you will feel better about the choice you make. Remember, depending on your project, you will have to deal with the person you hire for the entire length of your project, so why not try to make that as pleasant an experience as possible.

Rick Maselli, has been in the building business for more then 40 years. Over the years he has gathered and enormous amount information regarding home improvement products, ideas and information and has decided to share this with homeowners.

In 2007, he founded RTM Directories Inc. and as president of this company his goal is to help the do-it-yourself people out there to have a one stop home improvement resource and that resulted in his new website, is Your Ultimate Home Improvement Resource which is free to the public and reflects all the hard work that Rick has put into to being a building Pro.

You can also read his reviews on many new and innovative building and high tech products in his blog,


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