Tips for Home Improvement – Hiring Contractors

Hire Only Licensed Contractors. Check a contractor’s license number online.

Do Your Homework! It’s a smart idea to get at least three bids from different contractors.

See the Results! Get three references from each bidder and take the time to visit and review past work in person.

Get it in Writing! Make sure all project expectations are in writing and only sign the contract if you completely understand the terms.

Are They Covered? Confirm that the contractor has workers’ compensation insurance for his or her employees.

How Much Up Front? Never pay more than 10% down or $1,000, whichever is less. Don’t pay in cash and never let payments get ahead of the work.

You’re the Boss! It’s a good idea to keep a job file of all papers relating to your project, including all payments.

Pay for What You Get! Don’t make the final payment until you’re satisfied with the job. Final payments mean just that! It’s done.

Finding a Contractor

Always take the time to evaluate the contractor who may be doing the job.

Talk to building officials. Be particularly cautious when selecting a contractor to repair your chimney. Not everyone is qualified to repair or rebuild a chimney. It takes specialized skill and training.

The State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) recommends the following steps when hiring a contractor:

  • Be wary of contractors soliciting business door-to-door.
  • Ask contractors if they have done this type of repair work before, if they will be purchasing necessary permits, and if the work will be inspected.
  • Determine if a contractor, electrician or plumber is registered or licensed. All contractors doing business in the state are required to register. While not a guarantee of performance, registration does mean the contractor has minimal liability insurance and a surety bond that can protect the consumer if there is a problem.
    For information, call L&I’s toll-free number 1-800-647-0982. The caller can also find out how long the contractor has been in business and whether there have been any complaints against the bond.
  • Try to get three separate bids on the job.
  • Ask for references.
  • Obtain a written contract.
  • Be cautious in dealing with a contractor who asks for a large down payment.
  • Pay the contractor at the end of the job, or pay only for the portion of the job that has been completed.
  • Avoid making final payment until you have received a lien release.

Additional information to consider:

  • Check for a permanent place of business, telephone number, tax I.D. number and business license.
  • Look for a company with a proven track record that readily offers client references and a list of completed projects. Call these clients to find out whether they were satisfied.
  • Check to see if the contractor is a member of any regional or national industry associations.
  • Contact your local Better Business Bureau to check for a business report or any complaints that have been filed on a contractor.