Check list for home owners
Check for qualifications, like licensing
Many states, but not all, require contractors to be licensed and/or bonded. Check with your local building department or consumer protection agency to find out about licensing requirements in your area. Licensing can range from simple registration to a detailed qualification process. If your state or locality has licensing laws, make sure the contractor’s license is current.
Will my project require a permit?
Most states and localities require permits for building projects, even for simple jobs like decks. A competent contractor will get all the necessary permits before starting work on your project. You may want to choose a contractor familiar with the permitting process in your county, city, or town
What types of insurance do you carry?
Contractors should have:
- personal liability
- worker’s compensation
- property damage coverage
Ask for copies of insurance certificates, and make sure they’re current, or you could be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project
Get a Written Contract
Contract requirements vary by state. Even if your state doesn’t require a written agreement, ask for one. It should be clear and concise and include the who, what, where, when, and cost of your project. Before you sign a contract, make sure it includes:
- the contractor’s name, address, phone, and license number (if required)
- an estimated start and completion date
- the payment schedule for the contractor, subcontractors, and suppliers
- the contractor’s obligation to get all necessary permits
- how change orders are handled. A change order is a written authorization to the contractor to make a change or addition to the work described in the original contract, and could affect the project’s cost and schedule.
- a detailed list of all materials including each product’s color, model, size, and brand. If some materials will be chosen later, the contract should say who’s responsible for choosing each item and how much money is budgeted for it (this is also known as the “allowance”).
- what the contractor will and won’t do. For example, is site clean-up and trash hauling included in the price? Ask for a “broom clause” that makes the contractor responsible for all clean-up work, including spills and stains.
- any promises made during conversations or calls. If they don’t remember, you may be out of luck — or charged extra.
After You Hire a Contractor
Keep all paperwork related to your project in one place. This includes:
- copies of the contract
- change orders
- any correspondence with your home improvement professionals
- a record of all You may need receipts for tax purposes.
Keep a log or journal of all phone calls, conversations, and activities. You also might want to take photographs as the job progresses. These records are especially important if you have problems with your project — during or after construction.
Don’t make the final payment or sign an affidavit of final release until you’re satisfied
Besides being satisfied with the work, you also need to know that subcontractors and suppliers have been paid. Laws in your state might allow them to file a mechanic’s lien against your home to satisfy their unpaid bills, forcing you to sell your home to pay them. Protect yourself by asking the contractor, and every subcontractor and supplier, for a lien release or lien waiver
Use a Sign-Off Checklist
Before you sign off and make the final payment, check that:
- all work meets the standards spelled out in the contract
- you have written warranties for materials and workmanship
- you have proof that all subcontractors and suppliers have been paid
- the job site has been cleaned up and cleared of excess materials, tools, and equipment
- you have inspected and approved the completed work
Signs of a Home Improvement Scam
How can you tell if a contractor might not be reputable? You may not want to do business with someone who:
- knocks on your door for business or offers you discounts for finding other customers
- just happens to have materials left over from a previous job
- pressures you for an immediate decision
- asks you to get the required building permits
- tells you your job will be a “demonstration” or offers a lifetime warranty or long-term guarantee
- doesn’t list a business number in the local area.