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Tips on hiring a contractor

Posted March 11, 2009

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— Whether you want to remodel a kitchen or just need home repairs, the process of finding a reliable contractor can be overwhelming. However, there are things you can do to protect yourself and your money when hiring a contractor.

How to check out a contractor How to check out a contractor

Start with a specific plan of the work you want done. That will help you and the contractor come up with accurate prices and keep you from adding work you don't want.

Then shop around and get at least three written estimates. However, don't be too quick to jump at the lowest bid. A survey by Consumer Reports shows people who hired the lowest bidder generally got poorer work.

Get references from current and previous customers. At a minimum, call the person, but it is advised that you see the work for yourself.

Ask about quality, clean-up, how the contractor handled changes, did he or she return calls and were the jobs completed on time and on budget. If not, find out why.

Get proof of insurance, and then verify it. Otherwise, if a worker is hurt or something is damaged during the project, you could be liable.

Find out if the contractor is licensed. In North Carolina, a license is required only for jobs that cost $30,000 or more. A license doesn't guarantee success, but does indicate a degree of professionalism and competence.

Next, get a written contract – signed by both you and the contractor. It should specifically list the scope of the work, as well as materials, allowances, prices, labor costs, the payment schedule and a timetable.

Never pay too much up front! Experts say 10 percent down, then pay more as work is complete. For example, when half of the work is done, half of the money should be paid.

While taking these steps can't guarantee you will get a great contractor, they can lessen the chances you will get a bad one.

The North Carolina Home Builders Association and the National Association of Home Builders can be sources for finding a contractor. Industry trade groups usually require members to meet certain competency and financial standards.

Also, check out Better Business Bureau of Eastern North Carolina and the North Carolina Licensing Board for General Contractors.

You can also contact the North Carolina Attorney General's Office at 919-716-6400.

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  • capitalland Mar 13, 2009

    No contractor worth his salt needs 'up front' money. I'd also check on his accounts payable status with his suppliers. Don't forget that suppliers can lien your property for materials provided to an intermediate party. I.E. (builders supply company liens your house because 'git er done' didn't pay his bills.)

  • wolfman Mar 12, 2009

    as a family owned painting and wallpapering business in raleigh since 1947, i always tell my customers and customers to be #1.always make sure that the contractor has insurance and ask for a certificate of insurance to be sent to you before start of work.#2 get recomendations for customers IN your area(that way they can go or call)#3 always check where they purchase their paints and materials(so as to know the products you are requesting)and MOST important#4--NEVER EVER give money up front.that is always a red flag! you can give a draw for work that HAS been completed and then remainer at finish of job

  • BULLDOZER Mar 11, 2009

    ""The North Carolina Home Builders Association and the National Association of Home Builders can be sources for finding a contractor. Industry trade groups usually require members to meet certain competency and financial standards.""NOT TRUE
    Though this helps, these groups DO NOT VET NOR VERIFY competency or financial standards.