You’ve decided it’s time to talk to a contractor about some home improvements you want done but there are so many options out there, it can be hard to be sure you are hiring a reputable contractor. Here are some questions you’ll want to ask before making your decision. The answers you get may be a big help when you’re ready to make your choice of contractor.
1. Have you checked their license, their bond and their insurance?
If your state or city requires contractors to be licensed, then it’s usually easy to do. Go to the website of your state or city’s contractors license board and enter the contractor’s license number. You’ll usually get a chance to see their license status, the status of their bond, and who their insurance company is.
2. Will you get copies of your permit applications before work began?
If your city or county offers permits and inspections, you want to take advantage of this service. It’s usually reasonably priced, and having a third-party professional look over the work never hurts. Contractors may promise to get permits, but sometimes the hassle and expense means those promises aren’t kept. You can go to the building department yourself to see the permits, but don’t be afraid to insist on seeing the permits (or job cards in some jurisdictions) before letting the work begin.
3. Is your work being done by full-time professionals?
There are a lot of skilled amateurs and part-timers out there. But there are lots of unskilled ones as well. Get the comfort of knowing the people in your home know their trade. For example, in the air conditioning trade, the minimum certification is issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). All service techs should be EPA certified, as well as at least one installer in a crew working on your home. Ask to see their certification card.
4. Does the contractor have a good track record?
Check if the contractor is accredited with the Better Business Bureau or ask your contractor for referrals to call. If you’re a member of Angie’s List, you can check online reviews from other homeowners.
5. Is the contractor proposing materials and fixtures purchased just for your home, or is he using leftover from his yard or warehouse?
Make sure that what you’re buying is factory fresh, and hasn’t been sitting in a yard or on a shelf for months (or years). Older components could now be out of warranty, and nothing made with moving parts (like plumbing fixtures, windows, furnaces or water heaters) benefits from long time periods of idle neglect.
6. Is your contractor committed to “green” practice to protect the environment?
Does your contractor offer high efficiency Energy Star rated appliances? Does he recycle older building material removed from your home, and properly dispose of hazardous waste like asbestos tiling or lead-based paint? Does he offer WiFi-enabled appliances that you can monitor (and adjust) remotely, letting you manage your energy use from wherever you are? Be smart on what you or your contractor buys for your home.
About this Experts Contributor: Bob Helbing is a fourth generation contractor and President of Air-Tro Inc., which provides heating and air conditioning service in Los Angeles, CA. He is also currently serving as President of the Institute of Heating and Air Conditioning Industries. You can follow this contributor on Twitter @airtroinc and Google+.
As of September 2, 2014, this service provider was highly rated on Angie's List. Ratings are subject to change based on consumer feedback, so check Angie's List for the most up-to-date reviews. The views expressed by this author do not necessarily reflect those of Angie's List.