10 warning signs when hiring a contractor

(Photo courtesy of Yvonne Aguirre)

(Photo courtesy of Yvonne Aguirre)

For many homeowners, deciding which contractor to hire can be the most difficult decision to make during a remodel or home improvement project.

While the basics are clear, checking references, verifying credentials and getting multiple bids, discerning the warning signs of a potentially bad hire can be harder to determine.

The next time you’re facing a home improvement hiring decision, be on the lookout for these warning signs:

1. The contractor gives off a bad vibe

It’s strange to start off a list of warning signs with such an ambiguous red flag, but the point is that homeowners should always use their intuition and trust their instincts. Would you feel comfortable with this person in your home alone? If the answer is anything but yes, consider hiring another candidate.

2. The contractor doesn’t have a portfolio or relevant work history

Everyone has to start somewhere and it may be tempting to give a contractor who is new to the business their first paying job. It’s not always a bad idea – many times contractors that are new to the business can be the most creative, dedicated and innovative. But there’s a big difference between a contractor with very little work history and a contractor with absolutely no work history.

Even if they’re just starting out as an independent contractor or business, contractors should have some jobs under their belt, such as working as an employee for another contractor or as an apprentice. If a contractor has limited work history, ask that they provide references of other contractors or companies they’ve previously worked for.

3. The contractor doesn’t hold the proper license, registration or insurance

Laws for contactor licenses and registrations vary from state to state and city to city, but an above-the-board contractor will hold the proper credentials required to operate legally in their area. Equally important is that the contractor holds adequate liability and workers compensation to help keep your project protected financially.

4. The contractor doesn’t possess skills that are relevant to your project

If you’re hiring a contractor for a kitchen remodel, choose a contractor with experience in that type of home improvement project. Even if a contractor has decades of experience doing basement remodels but no kitchen remodeling experience, he or she may not be your best choice.

5. The contractor shows up late or can’t keep appointments

Everyone has run late or been forced to cancel an appointment at one point or another. Courteously requesting a reschedule for an initial consultation due to unforeseen problems such as illness shouldn’t automatically disqualify a professional contractor. However, a contractor who repeatedly shows up late, misses appointments or cancels with little warning should be crossed off your list.

6. The contractor doesn’t appear to have the right equipment to do the job

Every remodeling or home improvement project has unique equipment needed to do the job properly. Give the contractor an in-depth description of the job you want completed and ask if he or she has the right equipment to do it.

7. The contractor asks for odd payment arrangements

Contractors who request large amounts of money upfront or cash-only payments should be cause for concern. If you feel uncomfortable with a contractor who makes a low-ball offer, or one that wants large or in-full payments upfront, trust your instincts and select a contractor you feel comfortable with.

8. The contractor insists that you make a hiring decision immediately

In most cases, contractors know that homeowners need time to select the right contractor for the job. Contractors who resort to using high-pressure or scare tactics to secure a job should be avoided.

9. The contractor doesn’t act like a professional

In most cases, the contractor should know more about what it takes to successfully complete a remodeling project than the homeowner. It’s a good sign when the contractor and homeowner communicate well and work together, but if the contractor asks too many questions that signal inexperience or he or she can’t offer a professional opinion about the work your project will require, it may be a sign you’re better off hiring someone else.

10. The contractor has a bad attitude

It is possible to have a bad attitude but be an excellent contractor, but, remember, if you’re hiring someone, you’ll have to deal with them – and their attitude – for the duration of the project. If you can’t communicate well with your contractor because of a bad attitude, a better hiring choice is likely someone you can get along with.


#A1 Reason - No name on work vehicle = fly by night; good luck finding him if/when there's a problem. #B2 Reason - Contractor can not produce a valid Certificate of Insurance with your name/address named as Certificate Holder. #C3 Reason - Contractor charges you for materials without both of you writing and signing a notarized contract; you having a copy of his driver's license, business license, etc.

They are listed under multiple names but same phone number. I used a chimney sweep and found this out after the fact. He insisted on coming out to the house but refused to tell me if there is a fee for giving me an estimate. He still was aloof when he got there and continually kept avoiding the question. He came with a junior apprentice and I ask him if he could ask him. Still no response. Found out apparently he was in on it too. While I was speaking with the apprentice the owner of the business went on the roof. Then he gave me an estimate for repairs. I decided not to do the work with them. Then about a week later I get bill for $125 for an estimate. I called them and told the wife who answers the phone they were not getting one penny because from the time I spoke with her and her husband/owner came to my house, I repeatedly ask if their was a charge and never was told by her or him. Eventually they stop sending me notices.

#11. Ask the person doing the estimate and planning if they are going to personally be doing the work. If not, then kick them out the door as fast as you possibly can. Anyplace that's big enough to hire a planning specialist or hire separate crews will not care enough about your work to do it right, and you'll be buried in punch lists and rescheduled repair jobs.

I have to say that number 8 on this list is very important! As with All-Knight we DO NOT exspect a anwser right there on the spot. We understand that it is a big decission and not one that is to be made on the spot. Jim is a excellent sales person. He actually has cost us money, (kidding) because he has gone on sales that another bigger company in town was just there and said this Senior Citizen on a fixed income had to replace system, quoted $8,000+ Jim looked replaced a $2.00 belt, it has now been 2-3 yrs and her system is still operating well. So, if you have a Sales person wanting a answer on the spot, be careful, they may be paid on commission also. (which btw All-Knight does not pay on a commission scale, so they have no reason to pressure or sell something that you really don't need).

All are good suggestions but the first is best - use your first/gut reaction to the contractor & do not be afraid to simply say "NO". It will be quick, painless & you will feel empowered to move on.

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