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Hiring a Home Improvement Professional

Time-tested advice

Whether you are hiring someone to replace a window, remodel a bathroom, or re-side your house, doing your homework will help ensure the project goes smoothly and professionally.

  • If possible, get word-of-mouth referrals from family, friends and colleagues–people you know are  likely to be forthcoming about the strengths and weaknesses of the professionals they hired.
  • Get written price quotations from at least three companies. When comparing quotations, make sure they cover the same scope of work. If the bid seems extremely low, make sure the company understands the project scope and isn’t planning to hit you with unexpected charges down the road.
  • Always call at least three references for each company you are considering. If your project scope is large, such as remodeling a kitchen or landscaping an entire yard, try to visit the homes on the reference list and see the quality of work for yourself.
  • Watch for unprofessional conduct. If the company representatives don’t return phone calls promptly, show up late for meetings, evade questions, or just don’t communicate well, look for a more professional outfit.
  • Ask to see a copy of insurance certificates, including worker’s compensation (if the contractor has employees), property damage and personal liability.
  • Check your state’s Better Business Bureau and consumer affairs office to see if there are complaints about the company.
  • Use our Green Directory of pre-vetted GreenCheck® Providers

Signing the Contract

Regardless of the project size, make sure you have a written contract spelling out the details. If there’s something you think should be done that isn’t specifically mentioned in the contract, it likely isn’t included in the scope of work. Be sure to read the contract thoroughly; if it contains language you don’t understand, don’t sign until you know what it means. Companies usually have standard contracts, but you can write in changes if both parties agree.

The contract should include:

  • The company’s specific responsibilities. In addition describing the work to be performed, the contract should spell out other requirements such as obtaining permits, removing waste, and cleaning up the site.
  • A list of all materials to be provided by the company, including brand name, specific product names or model numbers, colors and other details.
  • Approximate start and end dates.
  • The total price and the payment schedule. Try to limit your down payment. Check with your state office of consumer affairs-many states have laws limiting how much money the contractor can request for a down payment.
  • Details about the warranty for materials and workmanship.

Don’t get taken

Scam artists and unscrupulous contractors prey on gullible homeowners. The Federal Trade Commission warns that these signs may indicate a contractor is planning to rip you off:

  • Soliciting door-to-door
  • Only accepting cash payments
  • Asking you to get the necessary building permits
  • Not listing a business number in the phone book
  • Telling you your project will be a “demonstration”
  • Pressuring you for an immediate decision
  • Asking you to pay for the whole job upfront
  • Suggesting you borrow money from a lender the contractor knows

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