Hiring a contractor can be a process fraught with anxiety. Take a few precautionary steps to ensure that you're getting a trustworthy contractor who does high-quality work.
1. Ask for Referrals
Reputable contractors do not knock on doors to solicit work. The best source of recommendations is talking to people who have had similar jobs done. This can be as simple as asking friends and neighbors if they can recommend someone.
2. Do a Background Check
Search the names of the contractor and the company online, and do searches adding words like scam and problems. Check sites like the local Better Business Bureau and Rip Off Report for complaints. Most states also have a website allowing you to check if a business is properly registered or if a person has a required license.
3. Get Estimates
Take the time to get several bids on the project. Watch out for red flags such as arriving late, appearing disorganized or dirty, and making a bid without looking closely at what the job involves. Take a pass on any contractor who cannot provide references, or who claims to have references but cannot provide contact information.
Be careful of bids that are a lot lower than the other bids; this is often a contractor who either plans to use substandard materials or who lacks the experience to fully understand what the job involves. Extreme low-ball contractors are also likely to attempt to add on expenses mid-project either because they planned a bait and switch or aren't making as much as they thought they would because they underestimated the costs.
4. Get a Contract
For all but the most simple jobs, the contractor should be willing to draw up a contract. The contract should state the scope of the job, the type of materials to be used and the payment schedule: including upfront deposit, interim payments for stages of work completed, and final payments. Be wary if the contractor pressures you to sign immediately; they should be willing to wait 24 hours for you to review the contract in detail, particularly for complex jobs.
5. Don't Pay Everything Up Front
Once the contract is signed, the main leverage that the customer has is the outstanding balance due to the contractor. A deposit before work begins is usual, but should not be more than 10 to 20 percent of the total fee. More may be required for custom orders as the contractor may have to pay for specially ordered materials, but commonly used materials and tools that can be used for other jobs are normally carried on the contractor's own account.
6. Check Their Work Before Final Payment
Make sure that the job is finished to complete satisfaction before handing over the final payment. Once the contractor has all the money in hand, there is less incentive for him to return and fix things.