HOW TO CHOOSE A CONTRACTOR, 10 QUESTIONS TO ASK BEFORE INVITING HIM INTO YOUR HOME

By Michael J. Cardillo

1. Are You Licensed?
Make sure the contractor is properly licensed. In Westchester County, all contractors should be licensed. Anyone can say they are licensed. Make the contractor prove it by either showing you the license or giving you a copy of it. Remember to check the expiration date. Being licensed is the law. If a contractor can not produce a valid license, DON’T HIRE HIM!

2. Do You Carry General Liability Insurance?
Make sure the contractor carries general liability insurance. This type of insurance protects your property in case of damage caused by thy contractor and/or his employees. The insurance company will pay for the cost of replacing and/or repairing any damage that occurs.

3. Do You Carry Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
Make sure your contractor carries workers’ compensation insurance. It protects you from liability if a worker is injured while on your property. Be aware that if the contractor doesn’t carry workers’ compensation coverage, you may be liable for any injuries suffered by the contractor or any of his employees on your property. If the contractor is a one man operation, he can be exempt from having to carry workers’ compensation insurance. If he is doing so legally, he can provide you with a copy of his Construction Industry Certificate of Exemption from Workers’ Compensation. This is very risky for you though. If he shows up with a helper and the helper gets hurt, with no workers’ compensation insurance, you may have to pay the medical bills. If the uninsured contractor is sloppy about verifying his subcontractor’s workers’ compensation insurance and the subcontractor bets hurt, again you may have to pay the medical bills. In short, it is as much safer to deal with a fully insured contractor.

4. Will You Provide Me With A Written Lien Waiver?
Your contractor should provide you with a written lien waiver at the end of the job. This is a legal document which says you the homeowner have paid the contractor in full for the services rendered and the contractor waives his right to place a mechanic’s lien on your property. If during the course of construction you receive any Notice to Owner documents from material suppliers or sub-contractors, it would be prudent to ask the contractor for a Final Release of lien from each one prior to paying the contractor his final draw. This protects you in case the contractor doesn’t pay his material suppliers or sub-contractors of the Remodeling Industry and NAHB stands for the National Association of Home Builders. it’s always a good idea to consider hiring a NARI or NAHB contractor. In most cases, both organizations only attract conscientious contractors interested in bettering the industry and in weeding our unprofessional contractors. In order to become a member, the contractor’s background and references are thoroughly investigated.

6. Will You Pull All The Required Building Permits?
Make sure your contractor pulls all required permits. this is very important. When a contractor pulls the required building permits, you know things will be done to "code". Also, many homeowners insurance policies require pulling a permit on any major remodeling to keep your home properly covered. Not all contractors will do this. many prefer not to pull permits because of the time involved and the "hassle" with the inspectors. Some contractors may ask you to get the permits because they are unlicensed or the work is outside of their license. A reputable contractor will permit every job where a permit is required.

7. Do You Guarantee Your Work?
Your contractor should guarantee his work for at least one year from date of completion. Some contractors guarantee their work for two or even three years.

8. Who Will Be In Charge Of The Job?
Make sure the contractor or his foreman is on the job whenever work is being performed - especially if sub-contractors will be used. The responsible party must be intimately familiar with every aspect of your project. If you won’t be home during the construction and must leave the house unlocked or leave a key with the contractor, you must feel comfortable. You can’t be worried about what is going on when you are not there.

9. Will You Provide Me With Written References?
A good contractor will be happy to provide you with references. You should look for a well established contractor who can give you several customer references from the last 6 months to one year. Ask for the name of the contractors’ accountant or banker. You want to ensure the contractor is financially sound and won’t be declaring bankruptcy in the middle of your project.

10. How Do You Handle "Dirty Work"?
Construction is dusty and dirty! It gets everywhere, especially if any sanding is being done. Make sure the contractor will make an honest effort to keep the dust contained or notify you when the heavy dust generating operation will take place so you can place sheets over furniture or move sensitive belongings. Make sure the contractor agrees to sweep up and place all construction debris in a predetermined place or refuse container at the end of every day.

"How To Choose a Contractor" is an excerpt from "Six Secrets To Successful Remodeling" written by Michael Cardillo. To request a Free copy call 914-666-0655.