Hiring a Contractor

Do’s and Dont’s


1. Always contact multiple contractors and obtain more than one estimate.

2. Work only with licensed contractors.

3. Always get the contractor’s full name, physical address (not a PO Box), business phone, cell phone number, contractor’s license number, truck license plate state and number. If they won’t give you this – DON’T USE THEM!

4. Verify the business phone and address, and check on the Internet, the Better Business Bureau, and with your state consumer agency or attorney general’s office to see if previous customers have reported complaints.

5. Verify the license expiration date is current

6. Make sure the contractor has enough insurance and liability coverage. If you use a contractor without it, make sure to get liability waivers and lien waivers to protect yourself. You should always contact your insurance agent for information and advice.

7. Make sure the contractor is bonded and has liability, worker’s compensation and property damage insurance.


1. Do not use a contractor who is going door to door.

2. Do not allow a contractor to inspect your property when you are not home.

3.  Do not use a contractor who does not have a listed number   

4.  Do not use a contractor who asks you to get any required building permits.

5.  Do not use a contractor who only accepts cash.

6.  Do not use a contractor who says your job will be a demonstration.

7.  Do not use a contractor who offers exceptionally long guarantees.

8.  Do not use a contractor who asks you to pay for the entire job up front.

9.  Do not use a contractor who tries to scare you into signing for repairs claiming they are urgent.

10.  Do not use a contractor who demands a lien on your property.

11. Do not use a contractor who can start the job “tomorrow.” Consider that a good contractor is most likely a busy person and will often need to schedule your project along with his others. A bad contractor “can start the job tomorrow” because he may not have any other work.

Your Contractor Checklist

Make sure the contract you sign has all this information included and that you have read and understand the contract. 

1. Contractor’s full name

2. Business address: (this is a physical address not a PO Box)

3. Business phone

4. Cell phone

5. Contractor’s license number

6. Truck license plate state and number.

7. Ask if they are a “residential” contractor?

8. Ask how many years of experience do they have?

9. If it is an insurance claim, ask if they will be billing your insurance company or you? Ask if they have experience dealing with insurance adjusters and companies. (Make sure your insurance agent is aware of this before you file a claim.)

10. Ask what kind of materials they will be using for the project?

11. Ask to see a breakdown list of costs? (i.e. labor, insurance, materials, overhead).

12. Make sure the estimate details the plans and specifications? (This will allow you to compare several estimates based on identical project specifications.)

13. Ask what kind of insurance they carry: (i.e. Personal liability, Worker’s compensation, Property damage). Is their company bonded?

14. Ask them to provide a Certificate of Liability Insurance? (Then verify it with the insurance company.)

15. Ask how long before they will be able to begin work.

16. Ask how long will the project take.

17. Ask if there be any subcontractors involved for cleaning or repairing, and are they licensed, insured and experienced?

18. Ask what kind of warranty they offer and what procedures for corrective action will be in the contract if you are not happy with any portion of the project?

19. Is there a 3 day right to cancel in the contract?

Requests for Payment

1. NEVER EVER PAY CASH! Pay your contractor by check or
credit card so you have documentation and recourse
should you need it.

2. Never pay for the job upfront or you may never see this “contractor” again. No reputable contractor will ask for most—or all—of his payment immediately. Most legitimate contractors only bill AFTER the job is done to your satisfaction.

3. Never prepay more than $1,000 or 10% of the job total, whichever is less. That’s the legal maximum in some states, and enough to establish that you’re a serious customer so the contractor can work you into his schedule—the only valid purpose of an advance payment. As to the materials and backhoe rentals, if he’s a professional in good standing, his suppliers will provide them on credit.

4. Never fork over a large down payment for materials. 5. Define and set up payment terms in conjunction with completed stages of the job. If a contractor makes a mistake or says he needs more money from you, DON’T give it to him. It’s his responsibility to fix his error. Make sure your contract references this issue. 6. Never pay a contractor the balance of the job, or sign a completion certificate, until all work has been finished.