Large-scale renovations to homes and businesses typically don’t come cheap. So, if you’re currently in the market for a dependable contractor, it’s in your best interest to do your homework in advance of making your decision. Making the wrong choice regarding which contractors you hire can place a tremendous strain on your finances and result in less-than-stellar work. Fortunately, minimizing your chances of winding up with a dud isn’t nearly as daunting as you may think.
Limit Yourself to Licensed Contractors
Doing business with an unlicensed contractor is never a good idea. To start with, unlike licensed contractors, they have very little incentive to complete jobs in a timely, professional manner, stick to a budget or see jobs through to completion. On the flipside, licensed contractors must maintain a certain level of professionalism, lest they run the risk of losing their licensed status. This isn’t to say that you’ll be 100% happy with every licensed contractor, but working with one is likely to cause you far less stress than giving your business to someone without a license.
If a contractor takes the time to obtain licensing in their respective jurisdiction, this should be taken as a good indicator of dedication to their craft. In fact, in most states, general contractors are required by law to obtain licensing by a state board of contractors. Furthermore, since the criteria for licensing varies by state, being licensed in one state doesn’t mean that a contractor is licensed in others.
Due to their comparatively cheaper rates, many people opt to hire unlicensed contractors as a cost-cutting measure. And while the desire to save money wherever possible is certainly understandable, it should be understood that when working with an unlicensed contractor, you’re likely to get what you pay for. As stated above, contractors practicing without licenses have little incentive to conduct themselves in a professional manner, be honest with clients or stand by their work. So, even if you entrust certain renovations to someone without a license, you may ultimately wind up having to call in a licensed contractor to fix any mistakes they make.
Another benefit to hiring licensed contractors is their ability to pull permits from municipalities. Conversely, carrying out certain renovations in the absence of the proper permits can carry a host of undesirable consequences – including hefty fines and having to start over from scratch. Fortunately for anyone working with a licensed contractor, obtaining the right permits can be a hassle-free undertaking in municipalities with convenient government software systems.
So, before committing to do business with a contractor, take care to request proof of licensing. Should the contractor become defensive or outright refuse to provide proof, take this as a red flag and start exploring other options.
Make Sure They’re Insured
You should never work with a contractor who isn’t insured. In the absence of general liability, automobile and workers compensation insurance, you’re liable to find yourself financially responsible for any damage caused by a contractor or any injuries they incur while working for you. Workers compensation insurance is of particular import, as you don’t want to wind up paying a contractor’s medical costs. So, as is the case with licensing, make sure to ask for proof of insurance before giving your business to a contractor.
Consider the Opinions of Past Clients
To get a real feel for a contractor’s work ethic, business practices and general expertise, you should seek out feedback from past clients. Fortunately, many consumer feedback websites, online business directories and social media outlets feature helpful reviews for a wide range of contractors. Should you discover that the feedback for a certain contractor is overwhelmingly negative, it’s probably a good idea to shift your focus to other prospective candidates.
Choosing the wrong contractor can be an intensely stressful and costly mistake. Considering how much money goes into most renovations, making the wrong choice when seeking out a dependable contractor stands to drain your finances in an expedient manner. Unfortunately, there’s no surefire way to definitively distinguish a good contractor from a bad one. There are, however, numerous steps you can take to dramatically reduce your odds of hiring the latter. So, if you’re currently in the market for a reliable contractor, remember to heed the advice outlined above.