Tips for hiring a Chicago contractor

Home remodeling projects can be difficult and sometimes it’s best to leave the hard work to an expert. When assessing your project, it’s important to make a few key decisions before hiring a professional.

Handyman vs. contractor? Determine the complexity of the work involved. Do you need a jack-of-all-trades handyman to handle a few minor projects, or do you need a specialized contractor for more extensive work requiring plumbing or electrical repair?

Handymen can address a wide range of general services like installing ceiling fans or fixing doors, while a specialized contractor is typically certified in one area like electric work, plumbing or roofing.

Is the contractor reputable? Not all contractors and handymen are equal. Choosing the right one for your job shouldn’t be difficult, but it does require time and effort.

Start the process by asking a friend or neighbor for recommendations or checking reviews online. It’s also important to review and compare fees and services provided by several service providers. Prepare a list of specific questions to ask when calling for an estimate. Ask about the length of the project, payment methods and preferred materials.

If one company promises to do the job for significantly less than the others, don’t jump for joy just yet. The company with the lowest estimate might be at the bottom for a reason. Make sure to get all terms of agreement in writing and avoid paying in cash.

Is the contractor licensed? Licensing rules differ for each state and sometimes for each city or county within a state. Take the time to make sure prospective contractors are operating legally. In Chicago, most contractors are legally obligated to hold a general contractor’s license. It requires the contractor to pay a fee and submit proof of insurance.

In some instances, a contractor working in Chicago may also be required to hold a home repair license issued by the City of Chicago's Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. The home repair license ensures the contractor has insurance and makes it easier for a homeowner to file a complaint. Of course, you can always check Angie’s List to see if a contractor is licensed.

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