Let’s review your search for a contractor checklist:
- You figured out what kind of a contractor you need (general or specific trade)
- You’ve checked with family and friends for referrals
- You liked the look of an advertisement or website;
- The guy who knocked on your door or the telemarketer seemed knowledgeable and friendly
Or through some other means, you came up with a short list of contractors you’re thinking of calling to get a quote. You’re now ready to move to the next step in hiring a contractor – determining if they are sufficiently qualified to do the work you want done to your satisfaction.
An important note of caution here – many consumers assume that price is part of the qualifying process. It is, but not yet. We’ll be reviewing steps to insure you’re getting the best value and a fair price as we move through the process, but every legitimate consumer protection agency agrees that you should only consider quotes from qualified sources. Having a price before you do the qualifying tends to influence the consumer one direction or another with many consumers using it to rationalize or justify a rejection or selection. Contractors use this knowledge to their advantage as we’ll see in some of the examples coming up. A little bit of patience combined with some simple qualifying steps before discussing price and you’ll actually end up reducing costs and headaches.
There are hundreds of contractors who could satisfactorily do the work you want done, but let’s assume you’ve already cut it down to a short list. The next obstacle is to get that number done to only those who will be asked to provide you with a proposal. If you follow each of the steps we’ve outlined (including filtering through the CSLB website), there’s a good chance you will have eliminated several from consideration. The Contractors’ State License Board is of some help here, but their focus is on licensing and advice for other steps is pretty basic. For example, they publish a short list called “Ten Tips for Making Sure Your Contractor Measures Up”. Here it is; copied word for word:
Ten Tips for Making Sure Your Contractor Measures Up
- Hire only state-licensed contractors
- Check a contractor’s license number online at www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling 800.321.CSLB (2752)
- Get at least three bids
- Get three references from each bidder and review past work in person
- Make sure all project expectations are in writing and only sign the contract if you completely understand the terms
- Confirm that the contractor has worker’s compensation insurance for their employees
- Never pay more than 10% down or $1,000; whichever is less. Don’t pay in cash.
- Don’t let payments get ahead of the work.
- Keep a job file of all papers relating to your project; including all payments.
- Don’t make the final payment until you’re satisfied with the work.
Throughout these consumer awareness Series, we’ll be going into quite a bit of depth on each of the “Tips” plus several of my own.