“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” may seem cliche, but it is especially appropriate in the home repair/home improvement industry. With a little investigation and some prior thought, your experience with your contractor stands a much better chance to be positive. Failure to take a few preventive steps could end up with substandard work, further repairs, and customer dissatisfaction.
Where to find your contractor? Recommendations from family, friends and neighbors are always a good idea. Home improvement shows are another. A trusted realtor is another. Depending on the type of repair job needed, there are a number of national associations that can provide you a list. For instance, for roofing contractors, there is the National Roofing Contractors Association (www.nrca.net). For electrical work, there is the National Electrical Contractors Association (www.necanet.org). For things basement repairs, there is the National Association for Waterproofing and Structural Repair Contractors. (http://www.nawsrc.org). Each should be able to provide you a list of local members. Contact a local homeowners association for suggestions or a list of contractors. There are of course, the yellow pages and internet advertising. Most importantly, compile a list of several contractors, not merely one.
Now that you have a list of contractors, make a few phone calls. First, if your locality requires licensing of contractors (not all do), check with your locality to ensure each contractor on your list is licensed, and that the license is up to date. Remove the unlicensed contractors from your list and replenish it with other names. Next, contact the Better Business Bureau to determine whether any have unresolved complaints. In addition, contact your state’s Attorney General’s Office, Department of Consumer Affairs or Consumer Protection to determine whether there are unresolved complaints.
When soliciting bids, be as specific as you can with the work you expect to be completed. Make sure the contractor has experience in the specific area, especially if the work is custom. For instance, many contractors can pour a concrete patio, but not all are experience with dying colors into the concrete or performing acid staining.
Ask each contractor for references. Contact those references. Were they satisfied? Was the work completed timely? Was there a problem with communication? If possible, ask to see their previous work. If it was done on your home, would this work meet your approval? Whether it is a big job or a small job, a little diligence on your part can save a great deal of disappointment and money in the future.