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The Ultimate Guide to Hiring a Contractor

Sharon Monticello

Sharon Monticello is native to one of California's most picturesque areas— Petaluma, nestled in the heart of wine country, has been home to Sharon's...

Sharon Monticello is native to one of California's most picturesque areas— Petaluma, nestled in the heart of wine country, has been home to Sharon's...

Aug 29 5 minutes read

If you’re looking to do some minor repairs, touch-ups, or renovations to your home, or add an ADU (Accessory Dwelling Unit) to it, hiring a professional contractor is essential to help you get the job done right and efficiently. Not only will doing so save you time and money, but it will also ensure that your projects AND home are up to code so you can remain safe, healthy, and comfortable for years to come.

Nevertheless, finding the right contractor for the job can be quite intimidating. Most, if not all, homeowners fear being charged too much and dread the possibility of work being done incorrectly, as it would certainly put their families at risk.

So, what does one look for when hiring a contractor? Here’s the ultimate guide to help you hire the right professional contractor and get started on your next home repair, renovation, or home addition project.

Start Getting Multiple Estimates 

It’s easier to choose and compare when you’ve got a pool of contractors to consider. Talk to several contractors and get written estimates from at least three. Compare apples to apples and look at their building materials, work methods, timelines, and other factors that vary per contractor. Be cautious about estimates that are too high or unrealistically low.

Consider Hiring Local, Licensed Contractors 

If you can, consider hiring a contractor within the area. Local contractors are easier to contact if problems develop with the work in the future. They will also most likely be familiar with the building codes in your area. Also, don’t forget to ask the contractor for their local physical address. Be wary of anyone who goes door-to-door or refuses to leave a contract overnight.

Review Past Work 

Don’t be afraid to ask questions and look into their past work. Check references about the quality of their builds, their workmanship, and their customer service. Ask about their professional reputation and years in business with the Better Business Bureau. Look for a contractor with more than five years of experience.

Check Insurance and Bonding 

Is your preferred contractor properly insured and bonded? Ask them for a certificate of insurance, as this will provide you with the name of the insurance company, policy number, and policy limits the contractor carries. Be sure to directly verify the said coverage with your contractor’s insurance company and that the policy is still in effect. Don’t consider a contractor who doesn’t have the appropriate insurance coverage. Or else, you’ll be held liable for accidents that will occur on your property.

Take Your Time in Choosing

Don’t be pressured into making an immediate decision regarding your contractor, and feel free to get multiple bids before signing a contract. Also, be cautious about contractors asking to pay a large deposit upfront. Read the fine print on all estimates and contracts carefully. In case of emergency repairs, ask neighbors, family, or friends to see if they have had a good experience with an emergency services contractor.

Don’t Forget to Get Everything in Writing  

Always secure a comprehensive contract before any work begins. Get everything in writing and make sure the contract is well-written. You can also consider having a lawyer review the proposed contract for you before you sign in, especially if it involves substantial costs. All the changes to the signed contract should be acknowledged by all parties. You must also ask for confirmation from your contractor that he has obtained all the necessary building permits before the project.

If you decide to cancel, you should follow the contract’s cancellation clause. Written notification of the cancellation should be sent by registered mail to ensure proof of the cancellation.

Don’t Pay Up-Front 

It’s never a good idea to pay for the entire project before completion. Make sure you make checks payable to a company and not an individual– and don’t pay in cash. Doing so will retain your cashed check as a receipt.

Anticipate Delays 

Delays are inevitable, and your contractor is not always at fault when it happens. While the timeline outlined in your contract should be acknowledged, circumstances such as weather may prevent the work from remaining on schedule. Be realistic and prepare for any adjustments to your plans accordingly.

Know Your Right to Cancel 

Did you know that federal law requires a “cooling off” period in which you can cancel the contract without any penalty? Check with the Federal Trade Commission and the laws of your state to understand your rights. Be sure to follow all applicable rules during the cooling-off period. Should you decide to cancel, consider sending the notice of cancellation by registered mail to ensure you have proof of cancellation.

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