Contractors 101: Before You Hire

The decision to hire a contractor can be difficult. A good contractor can make a renovation flow smoothly, keep the budget on track, and finish the project in a timely manner. However, if you hire an unqualified or unprofessional contractor it can potentially cost you time, money, and become a major inconvenience. Here are our tips to finding the best contractor for your project.



Talk with your friends, family, and neighbors to see if they have used a contractor.

Ask them about their experience and take a look at any work they’ve had done. This can often be a great starting point and source of information.

Look at trusted review sites.

Is the overall rating of the contractor good? It is also helpful to look at the reviews that were low or very displeased to see what may have gone wrong in the project.

Google the Contractor

Search the company or contractor’s name along with “reputation,” “rip-off,” “scam,” or “complaint.” Find out how long they have been in business and see what types of articles or posts are published about them. You should be looking for a contractor that has a reputation you can verify.

Determine what qualifications are necessary for performing the job

Determining what qualifications are required and what type of license you should be looking for in any potential contractor is extremely important before you hire any contractor. You can find out what type of license is required by visiting this website:

Many municipalities will have their own regulations in addition to any state laws. Research your community’s website and determine what licenses or professional regulations they have in addition to any state laws.


Ask Questions

Request an estimate

After you have narrowed your search down to a few contractors request written estimates from each. You shouldn’t automatically choose the lowest bidder. Ask for explanations on any differences to see if there is a reason.

Required paperwork

After you have done some research into your local regulations ask your contractor what will be required for your project. A competent contractor should be able to tell you what he or she will need to complete the process and will be familiar with what needs to be done in order to obtain these permits.

Will you be using subcontractors?

It is important to verify that any subcontractors that will be used have the appropriate licensing and insurance coverage.

Ask for references

A contractor should be able to provide a list of at least three clients that have projects similar to yours. Contact the past clients to ask questions such as:

  • How long ago was your project?
  • Was your project completed on time?
  • Were you satisfied?
  • Was the estimate accurate?
  • Were the workers on time and did they clean up after themselves?

Check for qualifications

In many states contractors are required to be licensed or bonded. If a contractor is bonded they have purchased a surety bond, which will serve as a form of insurance to protect the customer if he or she fails to complete the job properly or fails to pay for permits or other financial obligations. Many states will require a contractor to be bonded in order to obtain a license. If a contractor is licensed they will have a trade license number- this is separate from the business or occupational license number.

Any contractor you are considering hiring should be insured. A contractor should at least have liability insurance, which will cover property damage, and injuries that are caused by the contractors work and worker’s compensation insurance, which will cover payments to injured workers regardless of who was at fault. These will protect you from having to pay out of pocket for accidents that may happen. Many states will also require a contractor to have insurance as part of the licensing or registering process



Verify the information

Once you have gathered information on the required licensing you should verify the information with your state. Many states have an online database or hotline you can call to make sure that the license is valid and current. The state will also be able to tell you if the contractor has ever been disciplined.

Keep all paperwork

Make sure that once you have settled on a contractor you keep all information relevant to the project in one place. This should include: proof of licensing, proof of bonding, proof of insurance, the signed contract, any invoices, proof of any payments made, and correspondence between you and the contractor. It can also be helpful to take photos of the job as it progresses to keep with the other paperwork.



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