6 Tips to Help You Avoid Getting Screwed by a Contractor

Perhaps the scariest part of any home improvement is deciding whether to do it yourself or to hire a contractor. If you attempt to do the project yourself and can’t, you have wasted money on the materials and tools that you will just have to hire someone to fix or redo anyway. If you hire an untrustworthy contractor, you could end up with a lot of expenses for a job poorly done or unfinished. If you do manage to find a good contractor, though, the job can be done well—much better than if you attempted it with little experience—and done quickly. Follow these tips to ensure that the contractor you pick is the right one for the job.

1. Research a ton. Check out your prospective contractor online, ask friends and family about their experiences, and see what is written about them on Angie’s List < http://www.angieslist.com/angieslist/>. If you don’t have a personal contact that has used them before, try to talk to their former customers. Ask them if they were satisfied with the work and if they would hire the contractor again. Then ask the contractor about their experience and work schedule and whether or

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2. Get estimates. Don’t pick a contractor until you have gotten at least three estimates. Because prices are really subjective and depend entirely on the contractor’s opinion, shopping around can produce dramatically different prices. Keep in mind, the most expensive contractor won’t necessarily produce the highest-quality work, and the cheapest price doesn’t mean you will save money. If you pick a well-regarded contractor there will be less chance you will have to spend more money fixing or replacing a shoddy tiling or other home improvement project. Go through the entire job with the contractor and price everything by item to be sure that you aren’t getting scammed on any one part of it.

3. Check the contractor’s credentials. Do they have liability insurance in case they damage your home while working on it? They also need to have workman’s compensation insurance to protect their workers in case someone is injured while working on your home. Also, and perhaps most important, make sure they are licensed in your state < http://www.contractors-license.org/>.

4. Get everything in writing. Get any estimates, warranties, and any projected charges in writing before you start. Go over it all with the contractor to ensure that he or she is clear on what you want done and how much it will cost. Draw up a contract with all of this information, including

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a timetable showing how long exactly the job should take.

5. Double-check everything. Be sure to go over every detail of the contract, if not with a lawyer then check your state’s laws. Be sure to check out the payment schedule and any right-to-cancel clauses. A lawyer is a good choice for any particularly large project.

Break a sweat when you are choosing a contractor, so you won’t have to break one when the job begins and ends. If you choose right, the results will be well worth it.

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