As a shopper is drawn to the lowest price, they also draw the worst contractors to their home. The 1st, 2nd and 3rd notes at the top make up a simple list for choosing a contractor with less risk, and it works for any home improvement project you may consider (like plumbing, roofing, etc.). A few bad contractors have made all contractors appear badly. Sometimes this is true - but not for most of us! Be careful!
- Only select a licensed contractor
- Ask for recent references
- Then.... consider price
A homeowner has POWER when he/she uses a licensed contractor. The California State Contractor's Board (CSLB) advocates for the homeowner - not the contractor. As agents, contractors are given the fiduciary duty to perform the work to the highest professional standards - every time. If there ever was a problem, the CSLB picks up the case and protects the homeowner from harm. (They also protect good contractors from bad homeowners in some cases)
References are essential. Obtain as many as you want from your prospective contractors. 3 is usually a good number, but if you want 3 or 30 - call the references! A professional contractor has no problem giving out as many references as you want (and most likely provides them with confidence and a big smile). A lousy contractor would think this request is a violation of their privacy or integrity and get defensive real quick - ignore their objections. Throw out bids from all contractors who have a problem giving you as many references as you want.
As a note, ask that the references be of recent similar work as that which you desire in your home.
Some questions to ask when calling a contractor's reference:
- How did the reference feel in retrospect about their choice.
- Did the reference feel comfortable with them in or near their home?
- Did the reference feel threatened?
- Did the contractor show up on time, ready for work, EVERYDAY till the job is done?
- Did the contractor concern him/her self with areas of the home that were un-related to the work?
- Did the contractor seem overly friendly? (This is not a good sign)
- Did the contractor exceed expectations? (Very important - not essential, but it is nice to find a contractor who has a passion for his work)
Choosing among the qualifying professional contractors at this point is easy. Go with your gut feelings, and feel free to consider price at this point. Make sure all the bids are for the same thing (ie. same brand names, Model #'s, etc).