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Hiring a Contractor by Barbara Jennings

I've previously dealt with hiring a contractor before, but I want to focus on it again, because it's not just about getting quality work - it's about safety too. Contractors come on to your property to do the work. This in itself puts you and your family at risk. Hiring contractors needs to be a careful decision based on gathering the right data about them and getting your quote in writing. To help you hire a contractor for your next home improvement project, here are some pointers.

  • First, you only want to hire a reputable contractor to come into your home who has references, a commercial address, an easy to contact phone number (preferably several).
  • Insist that they provide you with a written estimate on their company letterhead. If they have no company letterhead, beware.
  • Insist that they provide you with a written guarantee. If there is a time frame you require, be sure the completion date is also listed. It's also a good idea to put on the contract that if it isn't completed on time, that the contractor will deduct a specific amount each day from the balance due until the work is completed.
  • Dump the company if they insist on cash payment.
  • Ask for a copy of their license and registration. Make sure both are valid.
  • Ask for their business card.
  • Insist on a copy of the liability insurance coverage to be provided to you by the insurance company. Make sure that you are listed as an "additional insured" entity.
  • Find out if they are bonded or not.
  • Check with the Better Business Bureau to see if they are listed and if there are any negative reports on them.
  • See if they have a website. Spend time browsing the website. If there are any claims regarding licensing, insurance, guarantees and so forth, print off a copy for your records.
  • Find out how long the company has been in business.
  • Get plenty of references, but realize that you will only be provided with people who sing their praises.

Don't be afraid to ask these questions and get these things in writing. Any reputable contractor will gladly provide such. Remember, your family could be at risk. Some families have found out the painful way, such as theft or having a child abducted. So ask yourself, "Is saving a few dollars really worth that? Do I really want to hire someone right off the street?"

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(2004-05 Copyright Barbara Jennings)

Barbara Jennings
is the West Coast Pioneer in Redesign, author of 7 decorating books, a published artist, corporate art consultant, and furniture arrangement consultant. For training in professional furniture and accessory arrangement, or to start your own redesign or art consulting business, please visit: