Before hiring a contractor for your building or remodeling project, all
agreements should be put into writing. The written contract should include:
The contractor’s full name, address, telephone number, and professional
license number
A detailed description of the work to be done. Specify the materials to be
used: quality, quantity, weight, color, size, brand name, etc.
The starting and completion dates
The labor cost and the material charges
Information on how and when you must pay
Any warranties and guarantees of workmanship
The method for debris and material removal when the job is complete
A “right to cancel” clause. This gives you time (3 days is the standard) after
you have signed the contract to change your mind. The clause should also
describe what happens if unexpected problems occur after the work is begun.

Be Safe When You Sign
Never sign a contract unless it is filled out completely.
Read the entire contract carefully. Ask questions.
Keep a copy of the signed contract.
Do not pay more than the required minimum down payment before the work
is begun.
Do not pay the balance until all work is completed and debris removed.

Ten Biggest Mistakes Homeowners Make When Hiring a Remodeling or Building Contractor
A successful home remodeling or building project is dependent upon finding
an ethical, reliable, competent and experienced contractor. The
responsibility of hiring an ethical and experienced contractor falls on the
homeowner. Doing the necessary research and background checks on the
potential contractor is key to finding that contractor and avoiding an
encounter with the contractor from hell. Unfortunately, many homeowners
simply don’t bother with thoroughly vetting their contractor and end up in a
nightmare they never imagined. As a consumer advocate for homeowners
over the last 8 years I’ve identified the ten biggest mistakes homeowners
make when they begin their search for a contractor.

The Homeowner

1. Does not bother to check the remodeling or building contractor’s license
status at all, if just to verify that he/she has one and that it is in good
standing. Checking the license is a necessary formality but it does not
guarantee a favorable outcome. (Not all States require licensing)
2. Assumes that just because a building contractor is licensed in his/her state
that they will be ethical, will abide by the contractors laws in their state and
perform quality work that meets industry standards. Many homeowners
stop here without doing further background checks on the contractor.
3. Does not thoroughly interview the contractor, asking key questions about
job performance, employees or subcontractors and material suppliers he
uses, projects he has done similar to yours and how he handles problems
when they come up – because they will come up.
4. Has an uncomfortable “gut” feeling about the contractor but ignores it and
hires him/her anyways because they want to get going with their project.
5. Does not verify if the contractor maintains a permanent physical business
address – not a PO Box or Postal Annex type address with a suite number –
a mailing address, published phone number, fax, and cell phone or voice
messaging system.
6. Doesn’t verify that the contractor has all the necessary insurance
coverage – Surety Bond that is active; Workman’s Compensation Insurance
if there are employees; and General Liability Insurance by contacting the
companies to confirm coverage.
7. Signs a construction contract they don’t thoroughly understand and has
little detail with regards to the scope of work to be done, materials used with
brand names you chose included.
8. Assumes the oral agreements made when discussing the project will be
part of the work performed when in fact they don’t make it into the contract
and when later the homeowner questions the contractor about it, it becomes
a “change order”. And the law is on the contractor’s side; anything not in
the contract is considered to be a change order.
9. Gives the contractor a large sum of money up front to begin the project.
Every State has specific laws relating to the amount of money the contractor
can legally ask for to begin the project.
10. Hires the remodeling or building contractor based on trust alone. Trust
is something that is earned. If the homeowners did their homework and
background checks on the contractor, they will come to trust their
contractor based on his performance, behavior, professionalism and knowledge.

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