If you watch enough court TV, you'll know that there's a lot of unscrupulous home improvement contractors out there.
Don't be shy about asking several potential contractors many questions:
- How many projects like the one I want have you completed in the last 12 months?
- Are you insured and bonded?
- Will you need a permit?
Never, ever rely upon a verbal contract! Get everything in writing! Avoid vague references; get all the details down including cost.
- A contractor who shows up at your door trying to get your business. If he just happens to be in the line of work that coincides with a current need you have, don't let this sway you.
- Rushes you for a commitment or has a sense of urgency
- Will take only cash
- Has materials "left over" from a prior project; don't get suckered into this if he offers you a discount due to these "left over" materials.
- Wants YOU to get the required permits
- Wants upfront payment
- Investigate online sites that give legitimate reviews.
- Ask the candidate to see examples of previous similar projects they've done.
- Ask about their experience and how long they've been in business.
- Try to go with a reputable company rather than "Joe" from a few blocks away.
- Check for things like licensing and certification. Make sure their licensing is current.
- Google the prospective contractor. In the search engine, pair their name with keywords like "rip-off," "scam" and "complaint."
- Get references from trusted family members and friends, though don't put all of your stock in a reference.
- Consider "Angie's List".
After going through the above checklists, your next step is to obtain written estimates; no phone or in-person oral estimates. The lowest bidder isn't necessarily the best choice. If someone's bid is notably lower than the other candidates,' ask why.