Tips for Hiring a Contractor

Whether you are taking on hurricane related repairs or remodeling your entire home, hiring a good contractor is important. Always keep in mind the saying “you get what you pay for” and never hire a professional based on price alone.

Here are some tips to ensure you hire the right contractor for your needs:

Do Some Research

The best way to find a reputable, competent contractor is by word of mouth. Ask friends and family, or check with your local chamber of commerce. Ask for references, check out their past work if possible, and pay close attention to online reviews.

Find out how long they have been in business, what licenses they have and what insurances they carry. At the very least, contractors should have Personal Liability, Worker’s Compensation, and Property Damage coverage. Department of Business and Professional Regulation is a great place to search for licensing requirements and information and check the status of the contractor.


Get Estimates and Ask Questions

Get written estimates from at least 3 different contractors for better comparison. Don’t choose on price alone; compare the type of materials they will use, whether or not they will be using subcontractors, what payment options they offer, and what is included in the price.

Even simple projects may require a permit. Make sure you ask in advance what permits are necessary for your project and choose a contractor that is very familiar with the process.

It’s also a good idea to ask how many of the same types of projected has the contractor completed recently and how many projects they take on at a time.


Don’t Pay Cash

For your protection, it is always best to pay with either a check or credit card. If the project requires a large sum of money you can arrange financing ahead of time.

Florida does not have any laws regarding how much contractors may or may not charge as a down payment. However, you should be wary of contractors that ask for large amounts of money up front.


Have Everything in Writing

Make sure you have a written contract with the professional you decide to hire and that it is signed by both parties. The contractor must also provide you with a signed copy of the contract, and a “Right to Cancel Contract.”


Your contract must include:

  1. Name, address, and license number of contractor
  2. Definite dates when work will begin and when it will be completed
  3. Description of work to be done and materials to be used
  4. Total amount due less any down payments
  5. Schedule of payments corresponding to amount of work completed

You should also add in the contract any additional details like specific colors to be used, type of materials, etc.


Withhold Final Payment Until You are Satisfied

If you are not satisfied with the contractor’s performance, do not pay. As a rule of thumb, it’s best to withhold at least 20% of the total due amount until you are completely satisfied with the work, it has been approved by an inspector, and you have received the Final Release of Lien and Affidavit for each payment from the contractor.


Finally, remember that often times unforeseen problems arise when tackling a home improvement project. The best way to avoid as much stress as possible is to communicate frequently with your contractor and always ask regarding potential changes to the estimate or timeline.


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