Spring Improvements- Hiring a Contractor?

March 29, 2013

Are you considering hiring someone for a home improvement project?  Have you ever heard a home improvement horror story?  If not, ask around there are plenty of them. That is why it is so important to protect yourself while hiring a contractor. But where can you can go for help?

Contractor working on wall studs.The Washington Department of Labor and Industries is a great resource.  Check out the following links for step-by-step guidance and checklists:  Hire Smart Step-by-Step or print and use their Hire Smart Worksheet.

Some other helpful recommendations per L & I  in hiring a contractor are:

1. Plan your project. Clearly and specifically explain what you want to avoid any misunderstanding that result in cost overruns.

2. Interview several qualified registered contractors and ask for written bids.  Verify that the contractors you are considering are registered by looking them up online at www.Contractors.Lni.wa.gov, or by phone at 1-800-647-0982.

3. Ask for references and then check them out. If possible, view their work, interview other clients and/or visit a site with work in progress.

4. Ask for references of suppliers that the contractor works with and check out their  payment record.

5. Request a copy of the contractor’s insurance policy to verify what is covered.

6. Do an internet search on the business owner’s name to look for general comments that might be posted by prior clients.

7. Evaluate the entire bid: reviewing the scope of work, warranties, references, time frames and price.

8. Consider requesting that the contractor post a performance bond for the entire cost of the project if it exceeds their $6,000 Bond limit.

9. Try to anticipate problems that may arise, such as cost overruns or cleanup, and come to an agreement with your contractor on how these issues will be handled before the work begins.

Once you have chosen a contractor:

1. Obtain a written contract that includes price, payment terms, sales tax, permit fees (if applicable), the specific work to be performed, materials to be used, warranties and start and end date. It is also a good idea to include change-order processes, final review and sign-off procedures and cleanup.

2. Ask for a disclosure statement prior to work starting.  Sample  disclosure statements are available on the L&I website and at local L&I offices.

3. Make frequent inspections and consult your local building department about required permits. Make sure that all permits are in place and that inspections are in order.

4. When advancing money for materials, it may be possible to make checks payable to both the contractor and the supply house or to pay the supply house directly.

5. Put all change orders in writing and ask questions as work progresses.  Avoid verbal contracts, and be very cautious about paying for work that has not been completed.

6. Request signed lien releases from all major subcontractors and suppliers on your job before making final payments.