Choosing a contractor to repair your home or business

Finding a qualified professional remodeling contractor can be a difficult task following a disaster which causes widespread damage and put contractors and sub-contractors in such high demand. Following these guidelines will make the selection process easier and you will be better prepared to make an informed decision that best suits your needs.
Employ a contractor with an established business in your area when possible. Local firms can be checked through references from past customers in your community.
Check to make sure the contractor is licensed, bonded and insured, and ask to see a copy of the contractor’s license and certification of insurance for the name of his or her insurance agency – and then verify coverage. Most states require a contractor to carry worker’s compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance.
If you solicit bids from several different contractors, be sure they are bidding on the same scope and quality of work. Compare bids and be wary of any bid much lower than the others.
Contact your state or local licensing agencies to ensure the contractor meets all requirements. Check with the government Consumer Affairs Office and the Better Business Bureau to ensure there is no adverse file on record for the contractor
Depending on your needs and the size of your remodeling project, there are several options for you to explore before finalizing your plans. Attempt to define which of the following alternatives represent the best approach for your project:
The General Contractor – Many home improvements may not require professional design services and can be handled by an experienced remodeling contractor. Again, be sure to deal with a professional. Even small jobs need careful planning, as their successful completion is important to you.
The Design/Build Contractor – Design/build is a concept developed to benefit the homeowner with his or her remodeling project by providing both quality design and construction services within the same company. A design/build contractor will be able to see your project through from start to finish, keeping design, engineering and budget in mind.
The Architect – Major remodeling projects require construction drawings to define contracts and permit procurement. If your professional remodeler does not provide design services, you can use a professionally trained architect. It is best to work with an architect experienced in remodeling, as he or she will be more sensitive to the special challenges that remodeling represent
Get a contract which details all work and costs
Be sure the contract includes the contractor’s name, address, phone and license number (if applicable). A contract should include detail about what the contractor will and will not do. A detailed list of materials for the project should be included in your contract, with information such as size, color, model, brand name and product. The contract should include approximate start and completion dates. Study the design plans carefully. Insist that you approve them and that they are identified in your written contract before any work begins.
Known as the “Right of Recision,” Federal law requires a contractor to give you written notice of your right to, without penalty, cancel a contract within three business days of signing it, provided it was solicited at some place other than the contractor’s place of business or appropriate trade premises.
Make sure financial terms are understood and spelled out in the contract. The total price, payment schedule, and any cancellation penalty should be clear. A warranty covering materials and workmanship for a minimum of one year should be written into the contract. The warranty must be identified as either “full” or “limited.” The name and address of the party who will honor the warranty (contractor, distributor or manufacturer) must be identified. Make sure the time period for the warranty is specified.
A binding arbitration clause is also a good inclusion in the event a disagreement occurs. Arbitration may enable you to resolve disputes without costly litigation. Consider the scope of the project and make sure all items you’ve requested are included. If you do not see a specific item in the contract, consider it not included.
Never sign an incomplete contract. Always keep a copy of the final document for your records. Be sure to put all changes in writing if your remodeling project is modified while work is being done. Both parties should sign the amendment, called a “change order.” Keep a job file including contract, plans, specifications, invoices, change orders and all correspondence with the contractor.
Request a contractor’s Affidavit of Final Release be provided to you at the time you make the final payment and a final waiver of mechanic’s lien. This is your assurance that you will not be liable for any third-party claims for non-payment of materials or subcontractors.
This information was provided by the National Association of the Remodeling Industry (NARI), the only independent association dedicated to the remodeling industry and a not-for-profit trade association with more than 50 years of industry experience. NARI represents professional remodeling contractors, product manufacturers, distributors, wholesalers, trade publications, utilities and lending institutions. NARI is committed to enhancing the professionalism of the remodeling industry and serving as an ally to homeowners. View NARI’s standards of practice at www.RemodelToday.com and click on “ABOUT.” Also see www.nari.org/consumers for more information. The NARI professional remodeler pledges to uphold the association’s strict Code of Ethics and is dedicated to advocate professionalism and integrity. For more information, or to locate a NARI professional in your area: Visit www.RemodelToday.com