Need a new roof? How ’bout a bathroom remodel? What about getting some additional electrical outlets in that 1965 split-level?
You are looking for a contractor, aren’t you?
I just recently heard a Facebook tale of woe from a friend who had hired an electrician to do some work at her house. Upon completion, the work didn’t pass inspection, AND the electrician in question was reluctant to admit that there was a problem, AND he had a ‘smart’ attitude, too. Does this sound familiar? Very few of us have escaped this sort of encounter.
Angie’s List just had a useful article on hiring a contractor. I receive a print copy of the bi-monthly magazine and here are a few tips I found there, plus a couple of my own:
- Talk to friends and neighbors who have had similar work done. You can add or subtract potential contractors on your interview list just by finding out about other people’s experiences. Caveat #1: some people are negative in general, and will find fault with most any workers who come near. Is your consultant in this category? Caveat #2: Every contractor, even the best, has one job that just didn’t go well from the very beginning. You can’t make a judgment call based on only one customer’s opinion. Remember this when you read online reviews, too; frequently, only people who have a gripe bother to leave a review. Conversely, the business might have found a way to front-load the reviews with artificially positive comments.
- Ask if the business has ever done business under a different name. DBAs (doing business as) are easy to get, and if the business has a lot of DBAs in its past, it might mean the business has something to hide and is trying not to leave a trail.
- If the contractor you are interviewing is in a field that can be licensed, such as plumber or electrician, the contractor will gladly give you the license number. If you run into resistance at this point, best run the other way or do a lot more homework, either because the person is not licensed, or because the person has let the license lapse, or it has been revoked.
- Ask the contractor for contact information. You want a street address of some sort, because if the person is operating without a permanent address, it is too easy for them to disappear when there is a problem with the work down the line.
- Ask for a copy of the insurance policies that will cover workers’ compensation AND damage to your property. Make sure the policy looks adequate to cover whatever disaster happens- you don’t want to be the one liable for injury to the crew!
- Make sure the contractor specializes in the type of work you want done. For most jobs, you want someone who does that work all the time, not just every once in awhile when business is slow otherwise.
- Ask yourself how the contractor makes you feel when you are discussing all these points. If the person is reluctant, or glosses over answers, or denigrates you for asking the questions, 1) the person isn’t going to get easier to work with than when he/she is trying to impress a new customer and 2) the person probably has something to hide, or feels insecure about the number of complaints she/he has received in the past. Remember what your mom told you about ‘not making excuses’? Yeah, that. You don’t want to hear a bunch of excuses from a person your are considering hiring.
I have had terrible experiences with remodelers and other contractors and I have had wonderful experiences over and over again with other home maintenance and remodeling contractors. I can tell you that the previous suggestions are worth following.
I have one picky, perfectionist friend I rely on for great recommendations over and over again. I figure that if Stephanie is happy, then I will be, too. Who is your trusted picky-person?