Avoid Bad Contractors, Roofers, Plumbers | Angies List Tips
Whether you're planning a kitchen remodel or need someone to remove a fallen tree off your driveway, do your homework before you hire. Check out our 2008 list of worst contractors.
- Clearly define your project. Before you begin talking with contractors, pick up remodeling magazines, search the Internet for information on designs and materials and put your ideas on paper. Even rough ideas on paper are better than nothing at all. It will give a potential contractor a better sense of what your expectations are and what you're hoping to accomplish.
- Do you need a general contractor? Once you know what you want done, consider what you realistically can accomplish on your own. For larger projects, especially those that may involve more than three different service providers, a general contractor to oversee your project may be required.
- Consider an architect. If you're eliminating walls, adding rooms or doing anything that impacts the structure of your home, an architect or structural engineer may be a good idea. Some larger remodeling firms have these professionals on staff to review possible options, finalize plans and ensure the structural integrity of your home.
- Ask around. Ask neighbors and friends who’ve had work done for references. If you’re new in town, or don’t know anyone who has had similar projects done, check Angie’s List for references.
- Do your research. Don’t just hire based on a conversation. Check the performance record of the contractor you plan to hire through Angie’s List or the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI). If your contractor balks at providing references, move to the next one on your list.
- Check references: Get names of previous customers and find out if they were pleased with the work and the timeline of the project, as well as if they’d hire the contractor again. Get the names of subcontractors and ask if they work with the contractor often and does he pay on time.
- Get estimates: Take the time to get at least a few different estimates for your job. And get it in writing – documentation is often the best ammunition you have if things go wrong.
- Where can I reach you? Be cautious of contractors who give you a post office box with no street address or only use an answering service.
- License for hire: Some states or cities have no licensing requirements for contractors, which can make it difficult for homeowners to check up on contractors before they hire. Don’t rely on the contractor’s word to know whether his or her license is valid: check it out through the appropriate agency.
- Insured & bonded? Check the status of the contractor’s bonding and liability insurance coverage. Angie’s List members can check the website for a list of sites by state and category.
- Know your budget and payment options. Experts say the recommended deposit is typically between 10 percent and 15 percent of the total value of the project, but it can vary. Even the most careful budget will change, especially if your project includes hidden problems. Never pay for a project with cash; always use a credit card so you have recourse in case something goes wrong. Before you sign off and make the final payment, check that the work is complete.
- Review all aspects of the contract before you sign. Don't assume certain specifics are included, such as appliance installation. Know the details of the contract, as well as how any change orders will be handled. Check that your contract includes a lien waiver, covering payments to all subcontractors who worked on the project.
- Confirm the “punch list” procedure. Basically, this is how the contractor will deal with the list of small items remaining to be completed at the end of the job. A good rule of thumb is to determine the cost of those items, double it, then withhold that amount from the final payment until the list is complete.
- Prepare your family for the stress. This is one of the most overlooked, but critical considerations. How will the project change your routine, especially if it’s a kitchen or bath? Where will materials be stored? What are the working hours for the crew?