Chuck Solomon, a life-long handyman and consultant, gives us some tips about hiring a professional contractor.

I spent over a decade operating my home improvement business.  One thing I’ve observed from my years in this industry is that most people didn’t spend much time ‘checking me out’ prior to hiring me.  In over ten years only three clients asked to see my business license.  Four clients asked to see my insurance certificate to verify coverage and only one client ran a background check on me. Now I was involved with a few thousand projects and am still amazed at how infrequently homeowners did any vetting!  I can’t explain this. When it comes to my own home I am always careful to verify credentials and perform quality assurance prior to hiring anyone.

Doing a little research beforehand doesn’t have to take much time and many home improvement contractors make this process easy and accessible.  Before you hire a business to perform work on your property, please do your due diligence.  Caveat emptor. The legitimate, honest, and hard-working contractors will not have a problem with whichever vetting information you utilize. Ideally they should discuss this topic before you start asking questions.  One residential general contractor I know carries a three-ring binder with all his pertinent documents to show homeowners during their first meeting.  Here are five things a homeowner should do before hiring a home improvement contractor.

License:  Request to see a copy of the license that qualifies them to perform the intended work.  Moreover, call the licensing body within your state or municipality and verify that the license is current and if there are any past or pending complaints.

Insurance:  Request to see a copy of both the company’s General Liability policy as well as their Worker’s Compensation policy (if required).  To further verify that these policies are in effect, contact their respective insurance carriers.  It is also a good idea to have a certificate of insurance issued in your name to cover your home and property.

References:  Ask the company to provide at least three recent references (within the past 12 month period) that had work similar to the work you are planning to have done.  Pick up the phone and call each of them, or better yet, ask if you can go visit them at their home to see firsthand the completed project.  Your local Better Business Bureau is also an excellent place to view past complaints on a business and see their current rating.

Written Agreement:  After discussing your project with the prospective contractor, but before actually hiring, you will want to document the scope of work in writing.  That way there will be no confusion as to the work to be performed.

Lien Waiver:  Before hiring ask the contractor if a lien release or lien waiver is provided on their work.  Be certain to collect a lien release or lien waiver for the work on your home when it is finished, and you have paid the contractor in-full.  This ensures that all materials and subcontractors have been paid as part of your project and lien with not be placed on your property.

In summary, take the time to review and cross check anyone that you intend to hire and work on your home.  That extra time researching your potential contractor can alleviate confusion during the construction process and will give you piece of mind.

Chuck Solomon HomeSpotHQ headshot

About the author: Chuck Solomon, sold his home improvement business and now consults with other home contractors.  He also serves as Marketing Director for a place homeowners can manage, remind, plan, organize and store all things related to their home for free online.