Hiring a residential contractor is scary, I know. And there are so many horror stories. I don’t want you to be one of them.
I renovated homes for years and saw lots of good contractors and lots of creeps. So, anytime you need to hire for home work, ask these questions and you’ll send the creeps running.
*Note: Anyone who either will not answer these questions or is nervous about it is a creep. Walk away.
1. What is your license number?
Any specialized residential contractor should have a license through your state (except for handymen in some states). If they are licensed, but not in your state, beware.
Their number should be posted on their truck, but either way you should ask for it. If they hesitate at all, excuse them from your yard.
Then, run their number through your state’s contractor license database to make sure it is active and in good standing. I live in Florida, and ours is housed on the Department of Business & Professional Regulation website. Your state should have something similar.
Check it out. You can even see if there have been complaints filed.
2. What are your insurance coverages?
Especially liability insurance and workers’ compensation. But not just that. Make sure they are covered sufficiently to pay for your house should the worst happen. That’s right, if your house burns completely down because of them, they should have enough insurance to cover it.
I was only a handyman and did minor renovations when I was in business, but I had $1 million of liability coverage. I kept a copy of the policy in my truck in case a potential customer asked for it. Sadly, almost none did. Do not be that person.
Your contractor may not have the policy on hand, but they had better be able to produce it before you give them money or any work commences.
Btw, Florida has a site that details the required insurances for different industries. Yours should have one too.
3. May I have a few references?
In my 10 years of business, I never had anyone ask me this. Existing customers referred me unasked, but no new prospect asked to speak with a previous customer to see what kind of work I did.
With Facebook and Google reviews so available these days, it is certainly much easier to do research on a prospective contractor. However, nothing beats a conversation with someone. They will tell you the good and the bad. And this is a fantastic filter for weeding out the losers. If they can’t give you at least three solid references (who aren’t relatives), they don’t deserve you. Move on.
Stay frosty, my friends
These questions won’t guarantee that you will never get screwed over. But they will go a long way, trust me. If you have questions, feel free to ask them in the comments or message me through my HomeDabbler Facebook page.