5 Tips for Hiring the Right Contractor

April is the time of year when many homeowners plan the projects and improvements they’ll make to their property during the coming warmer months.

This is a good year to hire a contractor. The slow economy means that many of them are looking for work (they might even return your phone call!). Many of the “fringe” contractors who appear in boom times have washed out of the market; quality tradespeople tend to have work in good times and bad.

Nevertheless, finding the right contractor isn’t always easy. Here are 5 tips to help you in your search:

  • Seek referrals from friends, co-workers, other contractors, and material suppliers. Keep good notes.
  • When interviewing contractors, ask:
    – How many years they’ve been in business.
    – List of last 5 customers.
    – Where their permanent location is (even if they work out of their home).
    – Any professional affiliations or designations.
  • Certain contractors in Maine must be licensed (plumbers, electricians, oil burner technicians, etc.). For more information on these trades, visit the Maine Office of Licensing and Registration.
  • Get more than one estimate. Beware of bids that seem unreasonably low, and make sure that they include the same scope of work. Ask about the rate for work that wasn’t contemplated before the job, but may be needed after it’s started.
  • Get a certificate of insuranceincluding any subcontractors they may hire. Hire a contractor who buys General Liability Insurance and Workers’ Compensation Coverage. Otherwise, you may pay for damage the contractor causes to your own property, or injuries your contractor or their employees suffer while on your job. Self-employed individuals aren’t required to purchase workers’ comp coverage on themselves, but that doesn’t mean you have to hire them. This is especially important for hazardous work like tree work, roofing and siding installation.

Be sure to know your rights when dealing with contractors. The State of Maine provides an excellent guide that outlines these.

Finally, if you’re adding insurable value to your home (finishing a basement, adding a deck or addition, etc), be sure to contact your insurance agent to increase your homeowners coverage.

Good luck with your projects. If you’re doing any of the work yourself, be safe!