that now's the time to tackle that home improvement
project and you finally have the money set aside to
do so. There's only one thing you're missing: the right
contractor for the job. But this is one of the most
significant pieces of the puzzle, and if you don't choose
wisely, your home and your finances could end up taking
"Having your home remodeled is one
of the most intrusive, intimate things that you'll ever
experience," says Paul Winans, chairman of the
board for the National
Association of the Remodeling Industry. "The
contractor and his people will have a more intimate
view of your life than even your best friends."
Aside from the privacy factor, you want
to make sure the contractor will do a good job on the
project you hired him to do and won't rip you off, leaving
you with shoddy
work and an empty wallet. By taking a few precautions
before choosing a contractor you can increase your odds
of getting the work done by a seasoned professional,
rather than a scam artist.
Once you figure out what you want done,
come up with prospective contractors. Even if you like
the first one you meet, interview at least three.
The best way to find prospects is by word
of mouth -- satisfied customers make the best references.
If you don't know anyone who can recommend a contractor,
try contacting a trade association such as the National
Association of the Remodeling Industry or the National
Roofing Contractors Association.
If you're truly stumped, try calling a
matching service. These organizations prescreen contractors,
so when you contact one of these services and let them
know where you live and what you're looking for, they
can send you the names of multiple sources that you
can then interview yourself.
When prescreening contractors, look for
a company that has strict guidelines.
"We require state-required licensing,
that they have insurance, and we check to make sure
they don't have any significant civil or legal judgments
entered against them," says Elaine Schoch, a spokeswoman
for the prescreening company ServiceMagic.
"Then we also provide past customer ratings and
reviews." The service is free for consumers, and
since contractors benefit by being referred to customers,
they have greater incentive to do a good job.
Narrow your list
The next step is interviewing your prospects.
"You should prepare a list of questions
beforehand and put down your concerns," says Winans.
"Say, 'I am concerned about this. Tell me why working
with you would assure me I will not experience something
I'm concerned about.'"
Among other things, you'll need to know
how the price will be determined and what products or
services won't be included in the estimated price. You'll
also want to know who will do the work and what days
and times they will be working. The payment schedule
should be discussed, and make sure you agree with all
of the stipulations.
Your local or state housing authority
will be able to tell you what licensing and bonding
criteria contractors in your area must meet. If your
prospective contractor does not meet them, cross him
off the list. You also want to make sure your contractor
has workers' compensation and general liability insurance.
Call the contractor's insurance company to make sure
the coverage is up-to-date. These will protect you if
any of the workers get hurt on the job or if they cause
damage to your home.
Posted: April 12, 2006