Looking to upgrade your home? BBB offers advice for hiring the right contractor

Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net
Image courtesy of Idea go at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

If you plan on staying in your home for the foreseeable future, but would love to make some changes, a home improvement project might be for you.

Most of these projects take plenty of time and money. More importantly, they require skilled, reputable contractors who can bring your dreams to life. But before you commit time and resources, do your research.

Your BBB receives numerous complaints each year from consumers who were unhappy with the contractors they hired to make home improvements. Most complaints allege contracted work was not done properly or final costs were more than quoted. Other consumers complain about repair or billing issues.

It’s important to do your research before hiring anyone. You can find a BBB Accredited contractor at checkbbb.org.

For any business, go to bbb.org to check the company’s BBB Business Review for a history of complaints, advertising issues, and licensing information.

Once you have a list of contractors to contact, ask the hard questions:

How many projects like mine have you completed in the last year? May I have a list of references?

Ask for a list of references to get an idea of how familiar the contractor is with your type of project. A contractor should be able to give you names and phone numbers of at least three clients with projects like yours. Ask each client how long ago the project was and whether it was completed on time.

What are my payment options?

Don’t pay large fees up front or pay in cash. It’s best to solicit bids from at least three different companies. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used. Depending on the nature of work, you may wish to specify the kinds (grade or thickness) of materials that will be used, as this could affect the bid.

Will my project require a permit?

Some building projects may require permits, even for simple jobs like decks. Additions or alterations to your home may affect title transfers or insurance requirements should you ever decide to sell your home. Therefore, be cautious of contractors who state no permits or inspections are required. All contractors are required to obtain permits for their work. Also, be wary of a contractor who asks you to obtain a permit on their behalf. The party that obtains the permit is ultimately held responsible for work that does not meet city code.

What types of insurance do you carry?

The Federal Trade Commission recommends contractors have:

  • personal liability
  • worker’s compensation
  • property damage coverage

Ask for copies of insurance certificates and make sure they’re current, or you could be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project.

Some other things to consider:

Licensing. Use only licensed trade contractors. Do your homework on what trade contractors need to be licensed by researching on Texas state government websites.

Review Warranty Coverage. Find out if the company offers any type of warranty or guarantee on their work, and make certain you understand the terms and conditions of the coverage. Make sure the warranty information is included in the contract you sign.

Carefully read and understand the contract. Most home remodeling and/or repairs will be done under contract. Make sure everything agreed upon/promised is included and written in the contract. Do not sign a contract with blanks. This leaves room for contractors to go back through and fill in additional information that you might not agree with, or want done. Make sure you get a copy of everything you sign.

If you have an issue with a business or feel you have been scammed:

File a complaint with BBB

Contact the Texas Attorney General’s office