The Better Business Bureau offers tips for those who need to hire a contractor.
Tips for Hiring a General Contractor:
Get Multiple Estimates. When hiring a contractor to do any type of work, get at least three estimates. Make sure the contractors have proof of their licences and insurance. Ask if a permit is required for the project. Qualified contractors are able to acquire any permits before starting the job. Check out a contractor at bbb.org to see how long they have been in business, if they are accredited, and if there are any complaints against their business.
Check References. Look at more than what the contractor supplies. If possible, ask to visit previous jobs and interview the given references. Ask the previous customers if the job was completed to their specifications and if it was completed on schedule. Ask why they would recommend that particular contractor and if they would use their business again. It is also important to find out if the original estimate was close to what they paid or if the contractor charged unforeseen costs along the way.
Never Pay Upfront. Try to arrange a low down-payment and only pay the contractor according to how much work has been completed. Do not make the final payment until the job is completed and the final project meets your standards. Always pay with either a credit card or check, never cash.
Get Everything in Writing. Ask the contractor for a written agreement that clearly includes all of the project details. The contract should consist of: contact information, payment schedule, estimated completion date, materials being used and their cost, warranties, and any specific promises. Make sure to include that the contractor is accountable for cleaning-up the area after completion of the project. Never sign a blank contract or any contract without reading it thoroughly. Keep a copy of the contract after the job is completed in case there is an issue.
Avoid Contractors Who:
Sell door to door or have extra material from their last job
Ask for payments in cash or want the full payment upfront
Pressure homeowners to sign a contract
Tell the customers to borrow money from their lender
Ask customers to get the building permit