licensed contractors are competent, honest,
hardworking and financially responsible.
However, home improvement is a top source of
consumer complaints nationwide. By Asking
these ten questions
you will greatly reduce the chances of having a
bad remodeling experience.
|Always make sure the company you are considering
is properly licensed. Also, remember that anyone
can say they are licensed, make them prove it
with a copy of it, check the expiration dates,
you can call the issuing authority and verify
their licensing is in good standing.
Colorado has no state-wide licensing of general
contractors. Licensing is done on the local
level, (1) either by the county or (2) the city
you live in. Some counties have no licensing
requirements at all (Jefferson county). While it
could be possible for a general contractor to
not be licensed if he only worked in Jefferson
county and always outside the city limits of
Arvada, Conifer, Lakewood or Littleton, it would
be highly unlikely for anyone to be making a
living working in the exception areas only.
Legitimate contractors carry multiple licenses
in a variety of areas they work in steadily.
What are the risks? Generally contractors
without licenses don't have them for a reason,
which is a huge red flag. Licensing requires
passing written tests on codes and building
practices, experience requirements and many
other aspects that prove you are competent at
what you are doing. If somebody isn't licensed
there is probably a really bad reason why not.
You Carry General Liability Insurance?
sure the company you are considering carries
general liability insurance. This is the
insurance that protects your home from
damage or negligence of the contractor, his
employees or any sub-contractors he hires and
brings on your property. A one million dollar
policy is the standard of the industry. Also,
remember that anyone can say they are insured,
make them prove it with a copy of his insurance
certificate, check the
expiration dates, you can call the issuing
authority and verify their insurance is in
What are the risks? If something goes
wrong you have three choices, (1) to pay for the
damages and repairs out of your own pocket. (2)
to go after the contractor for the costs, which
means suing him. Which of course is the where
the real problem starts. If a contractor can't
afford to carry insurance what are the chances
that he has anything to sue him for? You can get
a nice judgment of $50,000 against him, but how
do you collect it from a guy that does
everything illegally anyways and doesn't have
anything of value? (3) you will have to ask your
homeowners policy to cover it. There is no
guarantee of course that they will cover the
loss. Insurance companies do their best to
protect themselves by having verbiage in their
contract with you that might require you to only
hire licensed contractors and prove the work has
been properly permitted. Contractors without
insurance usually don't follow many of the other
rules that insurance companies usually require
You Carry Workers Compensation Insurance?
sure they carry 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 will be liable for
any injuries suffered by the contractor or any
of his employees on your property.
the contractor is a one-man operation, he can be
exempt from having to carry workers’
compensation insurance. Ask him to show you his
certificate of exemption from workers’
compensation. This is very risky for you
thought. 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 sub-contractors
workers compensation insurance and the
sub-contractor gets hurt, again you may have to
pay the medical bills.
What are the risks? Basically if anyone
gets hurt while working on your home and they
aren't covered by having workers comprehensive
insurance coverage, you will be responsible by
law for their medical treatments, which can be
as simple as a few thousand dollars for a minor
injury to hundreds or thousands for a major one.
line - It is always safer to deal with a fully
You Guarantee Your Work?
is one of the most forgotten questions for
customers. You wouldn't buy a car without a
warranty would you? Ask about the warranty and
ask if it is in writing. Never accept a verbal
warranty of "If something breaks, don't
worry, I'll fix it." a verbal warranty will
be worth the paper it is printed on. Always
insist on a warranty in writing. The warranty
should clearly spell out what is covered and
what is not and how long the warranty is good
for. A one year warranty is the minimum you
should expect, two years is better.
What are the risks? It's pretty simple,
with nothing in writing you have no warranty.
The moment the contractor cashes your final
payment you have nothing to protect you from
poor workmanship or an innocent defect.
You Provide References In Writing?
good contractor will be happy to provide you
with dozens of written references. One of the
best ways to gage a companies abilities is by
talking to their past customers. Ask them how
well the company met their promises, did they
deliver on time, and most importantly would you
hire them again or recommend them to others? Ask
them what they like the most about working with
them and what they could have improved upon.
What are the risks? Basically you are
entering blindly into a relationship with
someone on nothing but blind trust and hope.
Most people operate in a pattern of repetition.
Hopefully you got lucky and the person you
hired will be one of the contractors who does
You Provide Me With Written Lien Waivers?
Your contractor should have no problem providing you with a
written lien waiver at the end of the job. This is a legal
document which say’s you have paid the contractor in full for
the services rendered by the contract and the contractor waives
his right to place a mechanics lien on your property. A good
general contractor will also provide you with lien releases from
any sub-contractors that do work on your project such as
electricians or plumbers. This protects you in case the
contractor doesn’t pay his sub-contractors after you have paid
him in full. Without a lien release from the sub-contractors you
will be liable for paying them. This amounts to you paying them
What are the risks? Paying for the work twice. The lien
laws in Colorado favor anyone working on your home and not you.
A general contractor can sub-contract work to anyone they choose
and not pay them for that work and that sub-contractor can hold
you responsible for paying them, no matter if you paid the
general contractor already or not.
Will Be In Charge Of The Job Once It Starts?
sure the contractor himself or one of the
high-level foreman/lead carpenters is on the job
daily whenever work is being performed –
especially when sub-contractors are being used.
The responsible party must be intimately
familiar with all aspects of your project.
Remember, If you won’t be home during the
construction you will be leaving your house
unlocked, or leaving a key with the contractor,
you must feel comfortable. You can’t be
worried about what is going on when you are not
What are the risks? The risks are many
and varied, basically you are hiring the general
contractor who you have met and has established
a level of trust with you. However, many
contractors are nothing but salesman, acquiring
the job and selling it to someone else to
complete. Someone who you have never met and
have no control over choosing to do the work.
Even if the contractor keeps the work in house,
who is going to show up everyday? Will it be the
contractor or his foreman with years of
experience, or will it be unskilled and
You Pull All The Required Building Permits?
Some contractors hate to pull building permits because they add
costs to the project and they slow a project down. But is
very important that your contractor pull all required permits,
this is your only assurance that things will be done to code.
Inspections put a independent 3rd party in your corner and offer
you protection. Also most homeowner's insurance policies will
only cover your home for work that is properly inspected.
Some contractors may ask you to get the permits. This is usually
a warning sign that they are not able to pull the permit because
they are unlicensed, or the work is outside of their
are the risks? Your home is your biggest
investment, you may be putting it unwillingly at
risk as most homeowner's insurance policies have
clauses that allow them to not pay claims coming
about from illegally done work.
Professional Organizations Are You A Member Of?
established companies are affiliated with
professional organizations such as the Better
Business Bureau and industry related
organizations such as the NKBA (National Kitchen
and Bath Association), NARI (National
Association of the Remodeling Industry), or NAHB
(National Association of Home Builders), In all
cases, these organizations only attract
conscientious contractors interested in
bettering the industry and in weeding out
unprofessional contractors. In order to become a
member, the contractor’s background and
references are thoroughly investigated. While a
new contractor may not be a member of any
professional organizations, it is highly
unlikely an established contractor would not be
a member of at least one, unless there is a
reason that he cannot join.
What are the risks? While the risks may
be minor, there are contractors that just don't
belong to any professional organizations, they
are the rare exception and the vast majority of
substantial companies do belong, because they
understand the benefits of continuing education
and peer review.
Questions About How They Work
can't stress how important this information can
be to you, ask questions such as how do
they perform their work, what time do they
start, how will you protect my carpets, how will
the trash and debris be handled, do you work
straight through a project? The answers to these
questions will give you a clear picture of what
type of contractor you are dealing with.
What are the risks? Maybe none or maybe
you are in for a big surprise once work starts
and you find yourself in a mess. Do yourself a
favor and ask some specific questions so you can
make an informed decision before you find it too
many projects like mine have you completed in
the last year?
contractor should have experience in the type of
remodeling project you want done - not just
"contracting experience". The more
experience a contractor has and the more he
specializes in the work you need done the better
off you will be. Many contractors dabble in
anything that comes their way and never develop
expert expertise in what they are doing.
What are the risks? They could be huge
and long-lasting. What can be a routine task for
a company that is familiar with the work
required in your project can be a real problem
for one not familiar with it. This can lead to
defective installations that don't show
themselves until long after the work is done and
sub-par quality. Everything is getting more and
more complex in the world we live in, don't put
yourself in the position of hiring somebody and
paying them while they learn on the job.
Top Ten Mistakes Consumers Make When Hiring A