What should one consider when shopping for a licensed home improvement contractor?
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Home improvement licensing is required by law for your protection
By Beth Borrego
Vice President, See Dirt Run!™ Inc.
What should one consider when shopping for a contractor?This is a question that all consumers should ask, but sadly many do not. We see it all the time, unlicensed and inexperienced contractors damage property, making mistakes that cost more for the frustrated home owner to repair than the work that was originally supposed to be performed. Understandably this has created a stigma for contractors, and many consumers seem to classify all contractors as simply blue collar help for hire. Not all of us are alike.
There are a few simple steps that can be taken to avoid entering into an agreement with a problematic contractor. Check their rating with the Better Business Bureau. Are they in good standing and are they members of the BBB? Did you see their Home Improvement License and a copy of their Liability Insurance Certificate when they presented their estimate to you? It IS required (some will try to tell you otherwise) and they are required to carry a copy of their Home Improvement License and to present it to you to see; that is the law. They are also required by law to carry the Liability Insurance and to show you proof of coverage. Are their employees covered by workman’s compensation insurance? If they are not, and an employee is injured on your property, they can hold you responsible for incredible medical costs and rehabilitative care. Workman’s compensation is required by law as well. Do they follow OSHA safety guidelines and EPA Clean Water Act laws? Are they members of any national organizations, associations or perhaps the Chamber of Commerce? Have they invested in safety training for their employees and are they using the correct equipment for your job?
Avoid companies that make themselves sound older than they are by adding up all of the years each employee has been working. Twenty years of experience sounds great until you find out that ten college guys each have two seasons under their belts. Be equally cautious of companies who tell you how many thousands of customers they serve; burger places may handle that kind of volume, but small family owned contractor businesses do not. The quality of the work should always be more important than the quantity, especially if the quality is inferior or inconsistent. Don’t automatically go for the cheapest price. The old adage that you will get what you pay for is very true here. Costs for labor, materials, insurances, and more go into pricing every job and extremely low prices often mean that corners are being cut in places that far too often mean substandard work.
Make a list of questions and get your answers. When hiring any contractor for any job, you should be able to ask the contractor how they would perform the job, and in turn they should be able to competently explain to you in detail what it is they will do to perform the work. A highly skilled well seasoned contractor will also be able to answer additional question on the fly. Seasoned contractors with high standards for excellence will also be proud to show you photos of their consistent work, and will have testimonials and references available to you. Compare your candidates side by side and do not be afraid to ask questions.
Some other things to consider are:
- Have they contributed to the industry they are a part of through volunteerism? See Dirt Run! Inc. has.
- Have they published any articles in any trade journals or magazines? See Dirt Run! Inc. has.
- Have they done any public speaking at industry events? See Dirt Run! Inc. has.
- Are they considered leaders in the industry they serve? See Dirt Run! Inc. is.
- Have they mentored other companies? See Dirt Run! Inc. has.
- Did you get a real office or an answering service when you called the number? We do not use an answering service. When you call our office you’ll get a See Dirt Run! employee.
- Do they use sub-contractors or employees? See Dirt Run! Inc. only uses employees. No sub-contractors are used. Each employee is trained by our President to his exacting standards.
- When you met with See Dirt Run! Inc.:
- Was the presentation they gave you professional?
- Were all of your questions answered fully?
- Was the staff professional?
- Was the literature thorough?
We are consumers as well and know what it is like to be in the consumer’s position; subject to the bottom line with a host of questions that need to be answered. We hope have found value in this article and that it helps you during your decision making process. It is with great respect that we aspire to serve you.
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