For the Consumer

HIRING A CONTRACTOR – WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Choosing the right contractor for your home improvement project is the single most important factor in your project ending in success or failure. Before you hire a contractor, make sure you can trust and are comfortable working with that person. Ask friends, relatives, neighbors, and other professionals for recommendations. When you have the names of several reputable contractors, interview them; ask for references, ask to see completed projects, check for online information and reviews, make sure they do projects of your size and scope, and ask whatever else you feel would improve your confidence moving forward.

Once you’ve identified the contractor(s) who you would consider hiring, do your due diligence to ensure that the contractor(s) meet the highest standards. Give special consideration to contactors who are members of a professional builders’ association. A member of a professional association is one indication that a contractor recognizes the responsibilities of being a professional.

Most importantly, verify that the contractor has insurance and is registered with the RI Contractors’ Registration and Licensing Board. You should also check to see if the contractor has been the subject of any consumer complaints or regulatory violations. You can see that here: http://www.crb.ri.gov/search/contractor-search.php

When you meet with contractors, know what your expectations are. Solicit several bids that include labor, materials, profit margins, and other expenses. Be sure to understand whether there will be any contingencies or other unexpected costs and know ahead of time how these will be handled so there are no surprises. Once you’ve made your decision, sign a contract that details the scope of the project, costs, payment schedules and the like. Also understand how long the project will take. If your contractor has many projects going at once, their time may be spread thin resulting in delays.

It is important to note that you should not let price alone dictate your choice in a contractor. The lowest bid may not be the best bid. You should also agree to a payment schedule that includes periodic payments after benchmarks are reached and final payment upon satisfactory completion of the project.

Red Flags

If any of the following examples arise, it should raise a red flag and you should reconsider whether to use the contractor or not.

  • Refusal to provide registration and insurance information.
  • Refusal to provide reference information
  • Refusal to enter into a written contract. In RI, a written contract is required when the cost of the work exceeds $1,000.00.
  • Refusal to pull permits.
    • For most renovation projects, a building permit is required. If you are unsure whether your project would require a permit, you should contact your local building department.
  • Lack of experience with your type of project.
  • Request for an excessive deposit.

While RI law does not cap the % of the total contract price that a contractor can ask for as a deposit, in some other states, contractors are prohibited from asking for more than 10-30% of the total contract price as a down-payment before work begins. 

This is a good rule-of-thumb.

In the end, a home construction project will provide many years of satisfaction. Choosing the right contractor will make the process easier and more satisfying, so you want to get it right the first time.