Most Americans spend a fortune on renovating and construction each year. While the economy recovers, most homeowners feel that improving their present dwelling with an updated kitchen and bath, new windows or a new roof seems to be a more prudent investment than purchasing a new residence. However, adding a room or updating a kitchen can cost more than a new car and consumers should take some time and care in planning a costly home improvement project. Unfortunately, most consumers spend less time choosing a contractor than they do choosing a car.
Here is a checklist of what are the most essential Do’s and Don’ts for choosing the right contractor before starting any major construction project:
• Do plan your project carefully.
• Do shop around before hiring a contractor.
• Do get at least three written bids on your project.
• Do provide all contractors with accurate plans or drawings that will enable them to determine the scope and cost of work when requesting bids.
• Do check with the Contractors State License Board to make sure the contractor is properly licensed, and to check the status and disciplinary history of the license.
• Do check out contractors with your local building department, trade associations or unions, consumer protection agency, and the Better Business Bureau.
• Do check the contractor’s references.
• Do ask your contractor to furnish a completion or contract bond.
• Do consult with more than one lending institution regarding the type of loan to obtain.
• Do ask your lender to recommend a funding-control company.
• Do make sure your contract provides for a “retention,” a percentage of each payment or of the total job, ordinarily 10 percent, which you retain until the job is completed.
• Do make sure everything you and your contractor have agreed to is included in your contract, and don’t sign anything until you understand and agree with ALL the terms.
• Do ask your contractor about inconveniences and cost overruns that may occur and plan accordingly.
• Do keep a job file.
• Do make sure you receive unconditional lien releases from subcontractors and material suppliers.
• Do make frequent inspections of the work, including a final walk-through.
• Do consult an attorney if a mechanics’ lien is filed against your property.
• Do negotiate with the contractor first if problems or disagreements occur.
• Don’t hire an unlicensed contractor.
• Don’t hire a contractor without first shopping around.
• Don’t be fooled or pressured by a smooth-talking salesperson. Take the time and effort to make sure that the person or business doing your home improvement is going to perform in a professional manner.
• Don’t act as an owner/builder, unless you are very experienced in construction.
• Don’t sign anything until you completely understand it and agree to the terms.
• Don’t make agreements with subcontractors or workers without consulting the prime contractor.
• Don’t pay cash without a proper receipt.
• Don’t make a down payment that exceeds the legal limit, usually ten percent.
• Don’t let your payments get ahead of the contractor’s completed work.
• Don’t hesitate to ask questions of the contractor.
• Don’t make final payment until you are satisfied with the job.
This is not a “be-all end-all” list, but rest assured…it’s a good place to start.