Unless you’re just doing a few simple DIY projects like installing baseboard radiator covers or doing some interior painting, you’re most likely going to have to hire a contractor or two. Large-scale projects might even entail bringing in a general contractor who will hire a number of subcontractors with various specialties. With so many strangers coming and going inside your home for a few days or even weeks, it’s important that you as the homeowner take some precautions to protect yourself and your property. Here are a few tips.
Don’t hire just anybody
Your top priority should be to carefully select your contractor(s). There are a few things you can do to limit the chances of hiring a dishonest person who will take advantage of you. First you should make sure that the contractor has a license to do the kind of work they do. Checking their BBB rating is another smart idea. Make sure the contractor is well-established in the community—that they’ve been in business for at least a few years and have a good reputation. Company logos on uniforms or vehicles is a good sign that it isn’t a fly-by-night operation.
Get the necessary permits
Obtaining the necessary permits from the city will ensure that your remodel adheres to local building codes. A reputable contractor will take care of all this for you but it’s a good idea to verify yourself that any necessary permits have been obtain before work begins. Failure to do so could mean further remodels down the road to be in compliance and it could negatively impact the value of your home when you try to sell it. Jobs that typically require a permit include additions, anything involving electrical or plumbing work, and anything related to HVAC but there may be others based on where you live.
Be careful how you pay
A good rule to live by when paying a contractor is to never pay too much up front and never pay with cash. It’s very unlikely you can get your money back when you pay with cash and the contractor doesn’t complete the work to your satisfaction. If you paid with check or credit card, however, you can often call and cancel the check through the bank or dispute a charge through your credit card company. By only paying a small percentage up front and the rest in installments, you provide incentive to the contractor to keep his/her end of the deal.
Ask about insurance
Most states require contractors to have insurance. This protects your property from any accidental damage and it prevents you from being liable for any injuries that might occur on your property during the remodel. If a contractor can’t supply proof of insurance, then it isn’t worth the risk.
Keep records of everything
Finally, keep a record of all written correspondence between you and the contractor. You should also have a copy of the contract you signed with the contractor that details the specific materials that will be used and an estimated timeframe and cost for the project. Receipts from materials orders as well as any permits that were required are other good things to have. You may end up not needing any of it but if there’s a dispute, you’ll be glad you have a written record to look back on.