If you are planning on building a new home or remodeling a current residence, there are some things you will need to know before you hire a contractor.  Before I get into those items, let me first start off by emphasizing that IF you are taking on this project, you should absolutely HIRE A LICENSED CONTRACTOR to do so.  If you decide to do it on your own, or hire an “Un-licensed” Contractor, you are on your own.  BUYER BEWARE!

Based on the complexity of your project or how big it is, you can consider hiring a:

General contractor: this person is responsible for managing every aspect of the project that includes hiring & supervision of the subcontractors, obtaining building permits and the scheduling of inspections.
Specialty contractor: this person is responsible for installing certain products such as bathroom fixtures & cabinets.
Architect: this person is responsible for designing homes, additions & major renovations particularly those involving some structural changes.

CARRY OUT YOUR RESEARCH

Consult your friends, your fellow workers or neighbors who have hired a contractor (or reference the preferred list on the Building Services Page). If possible, have a look at the work they did and ask everything regarding their experience. Visit the sites that post ratings & reviews which you can trust. Check whether people have the same experiences whether good or bad. You can similarly research about the contractor’s reputation online by simply searching for those company names that have words such as scam or complaint. Get to know the time span that they have been in operation. You should look for established companies whose reputation & record can easily be checked out.

MAKE SURE YOUR CONTRACTOR IS LICENSED AND BONDED

Prior to hiring a contractor
• Obtain estimates After narrowing your options.
• Find some written estimates from various firms.
• Do not automatically select the lowest bidder.
• Enquire to know whether you will get the reason for the price difference.

Ask questions
• Are there similar projects to mine that you completed in the previous year?
• You can ask for a written list to check the firm’s experience with your project.
• Is there a need for a permit for my project?
• Many states will ask for permits for the building projects or some basic jobs such as decks.
• A good contractor is going to get all the necessary permits prior to working on your project.
• You might want to select a contractor that is familiar with the process of permitting in your region.
• Can I get a reference list?  A contractor must provide you with the names, phone numbers & addresses of a minimum of 3 clients that have projects that are similar to yours. Get to know from every client the period that their project took to be completed and whether they were satisfied. Ask whether there were any hidden costs. Ask whether the workers usually show up at the correct time and whether they do a clean up after completing their job. You can also request the contractor to visit the jobs that are already in progress.

WHAT ARE THE TYPES OF INSURANCE THE CONTRACTOR SHOULD HAVE?

Contractors must have:
• Workers compensation
• Coverage for property damage
• Personal liability

Request for insurance certificates copies and ensure they are up to date or you will be responsible for any damage or injury that may occur during the project. Are subcontractors going to be part of your project?

If this is true ensure that the subcontractors possess up to date insurance covers & licenses if need be.

PAYMENT OPTIONS

Try not to pay cash, however, some contractors may offer a deal with a cash payment. If you do decide to pay cash for a project, make sure your contract is solid and you are protected. For the small projects, you can utilize a credit card or a check. Several individuals plan for larger projects. Don’t limit the down payment. Some laws usually limit the money that a contractor can ask for as a down payment. Contact the relevant authorities to know the laws that are applicable in your region. Ensure to make payments during a project after completing a specific amount of work. In this manner in case the work is not proportional to the schedule, payment to your contractor is similarly delayed.
For More information on “Hiring a Contractor” See Part II