Choosing the Right Contractor
Building a home or having work done to an existing one can be very exciting. Choosing the right contractor is a crucial step in the process, and one that should not be rushed into. Below are a few tips that can keep you from making the wrong decision when choosing a contractor.
Confirm they have a current contractor's license - Make sure it's the proper class (A, B, or C) for the size of your project. Check with the Virginia Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation for any violations or complaints. You can check on-line at http://www.dpor.virginia.gov/LicenseLookup/
Is the company insured? - Your contractor should carry general liabilty insurance as well as workers compensation insurance for all employees. Any sub-contractors that are used on the project should carry the same insurance. If a contractor or sub-contractor does not have the appropriate insurance, the homeowner can be liable for any injuries that occur on the job site.
Check references - Referrals and references are very important to any business. Ask for them. If they can't be produced you should beware. Don't settle for references from the past; ask for references from current, or just-completed jobs, and from a job similar to yours.
Requesting large payments up front - This is a red flag. A reasonable deposit is normal, but larger payments or draws should only come after work is completed. Make sure the contract states the work to be completed before payments are made. Payment due dates are unacceptable.
Asking the homeowner to get permits - This is another red flag. There is something to hide if this happens. They don't have a proper license or want to do work they can't legally do (HVAC, plumbing, electrical, and others must have seperate permits). The contractor's name should appear on the permit. This is your only documentation that the work is being inspected, meets code requirements, and adheres to good building practices. If the homeowner's name is on the permit, he is responsible and liable for all inspections, licenses, insurance, and quality of work.
Consider your personalities - You will be working closely with your contractor during the course of your project, making decisions, and discussing details. It is very important that you are comfortable with your contractor and can communicate openly and honestly.