Choosing a home improvement contractor

Wednesday, January 31st, 2018 by Maria Sotire

It is essential to gather information to help you determine the reliability, reputation, and experience of your contractor.  Ask family and friends who have had home improvement work before to see if they have any recommendations.  By interviewing more than one contractor, you'll have an opportunity to compare and contrast experience, materials, price and other factors.  Allow yourself at least an hour for each interview.  Don't be shy about asking questions.  A top-notch, professional contractor will be happy to answer any questions.

1.  Make sure you get the company's information: Full name, address, website and phone number

2.  Does the company carry all necessary insurance?  General liability insurance protects YOU if the contractor causes damage to your home or property during the project.  Without liability coverage, you may be responsible for any repairs and damage.  Worker's Compensation insurance protects YOU if a contractor is injured while working on your property.  Without it, you or your homeowner's insurance may be responsible for the injured worker's medical bills.  Don't be confused if a contractor makes general assurances about coverage.  Ask specifically for proof of general liability and worker's compensation insurance.

Keep in mind that contractors who carry insurance and follow safety guidelines may cost more because they usually have higher job overhead costs.  The difference you see in bids could be the price variation between contractors who follow the standard versus those who ignore them.

3.  Is the company licensed in your state or county?  Westchester County required contractors to pass a written test and have all the necessary insurances to receive a Home Improvement License.

4.  Is the company credentialed?  There are a variety of programs for professional contractors to establish their credentials as knowledgeable installers.  Top notch contractors will also attend ongoing training sessions to stay current on new materials and techniques.  By choosing a contractor with solid credentials you can be assured that they are properly trained.

5.  How long has the company been in business?  Needless to say, longer is better.  Less than three years may signal an unstable business or one low on the learning curve.  On the other hand - everyone must start somewhere.

6.  Will the company provide referrals or references from previous jobs?  Getting references allows you to double check any business and is very important when dealing with a new business.  Ask for photos of completed work and request names and phone numbers of customers who have had work done in the last 12 months.

Some questions to ask when checking references:

     Would you hire this contractor again?  Were you satisfied with the quality of the work?  Was the contractor easy to talk to?  Were they responsive when asked for information or changes?  Was the job completed on time and at the bid price?  Would you recommend them to a family member?

7.  What is the company's workmanship warranty?  There are two different kinds of warranties:  The Manufacturer's Warranty covers the materials and the Workmanship Warranty which covers the installation.  Typically workmanship warranties are for one year or longer.  Longer warranties are not necessarily more valuable than shorter ones.  The length of the warranty is less important than the intent and ability of the contractor to stand behind their work.  Problems with workmanship or materials usually show up very quickly.   Even if problems of workmanship show up after the warranty has expired, a reliable contractor usually will stand behind their work.

8.  What is the company track record for solving customer complaints?  Many contractors in business for any length of time have been involved in a dispute.  To test your contractor's reputation, request a referral from a job that involved a complaint, and asks how the dispute was resolved.  Contact the Better Business Bureau and licensing departments to find out if any complaints have been filed against the contractor.

9.  Does the company employ its installers or utilize subcontractors?  A company that has its own installers, as opposed to subcontracting work out, could indicate a more stable business.  However, that is not always the case.  Regardless, you want to be sure that your contractor will stand behind their installers, and do not blame the problems on a subcontractor.

Be cautious with the lowest bid.  We've all heard "if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."  While that is not always the case, contractors who low ball may be cutting corners or may not be properly insured.

A few more things to be aware of are: 

Compliance with local codes and ordinances - are there permits required?  Are inspections required?

Product choices - Make sure that the product chosen is clearly stated in the contract.

Clean up job site expectations - Require a daily clean up of the premises.  Include specifics like: picking up trash that blows on neighboring properties; keeping radios at a reasonable volume; working within appropriate hours; and workers, being respectful and dressing appropriately.


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Double R A Construction Corp
9 Jean Ln
Rye Brook, NY 10573