The following are general guidelines from the Better Business Bureau on steps to take before hiring a home improvement contractor:
- Always obtain at least two or three bids from competing contractors to compare prices, skills and experience levels.
- Discuss the bids in detail with each contractor, making sure they are based on the same specifications, materials, labor, and time factors.
- Ask the contractor if his company is insured against claims covering workers compensation, property damage, and personal liability. Verify with his insurance agency.
- Check with the state Department of Community Affairs, Division of Codes and Standards, (609)-530-8800, to see if the contractor is licensed and bonded.
- All oral promises should be put in writing. This includes any revisions to the original contract.
- The written contract should include:
- A complete description of work to be done, including specifications for materials used (quantity, cost, brand).
- Starting and completion dates.
- A payment schedule. A traditionally acceptable schedule allows the contractor a third up front, a third half way through and the remainder upon completion and acceptance.
- Any warranties or guarantees of workmanship and materials.
- Cleanup responsibilities.
- You should have the contractor’s full name, address, phone number and license number on the contract.
- You have the right to cancel within three days of signing a contract.
Note: Some homeowners also recommend checking with local authorities for any complaints.