With warm weather melting the winter chill, many homeowners are lining up home improvement projects and setting up the contractors to do the work. Too often well-intended projects to secure, beautify, or refurbish homes end in disaster. How can you protect yourself and your home?
Start with planning. Good and thorough planning is the most essential step in any project on your home. Planning includes budgeting, outcomes (what you want done), and finding the right contractor.
The creation of a realistic and specific budget means deciding what you want done and what it involves. Research materials at your local home improvement store. This research will enable you to set a budget you can stick to, and will also give you the knowledge you need to work effectively with your contractor.
The good news about finding a contractor is that there are many qualified, honest, efficient contractors who will use the right materials, hire appropriate subcontractors, and offer you a fair price. Any of them will do an excellent job on your project. The task is separating any such contractors from the dishonest, unreliable, unskilled ones.
To find the right contractor for your project, begin with word-of-mouth research, asking friends and family for references. It is more than likely that if a friend or family member was satisfied with a contractor, you will be too. Plus, it’s quick and easy.
In almost all states, contractors must be registered. Therefore it is a good idea to ask a potential contractor to see his/her registration certificate. Understand that registration by no means ensures quality or reliability, but it does offer a system for eliminating any under-the-table or fly-by-night outfits.
During the process of interview contractors, initiate a detailed discussion of your project. Request a written estimate. Soliciting detailed bids from at least two or three contractors—job specifications, materials, timeline, labor, and total charges—will allow you to compare. A second or third opinion is never a bad idea.
Finally, check for consumer complaints filed against your potential contractors. Contact your state’s attorney general’s office and check Consumer Affairs website. It is also possible that your county keeps records on contractors complaints.
Never, ever start a home improvement project with a contractor before first getting a written contract. This is a written agreement that specifies precisely what work will be done, what material will be used, projected dates of beginning and end of the project, total costs, and schedule of payments. A clear contract is beneficial for both contractor and consumer.
Overall, maintain an active involvement in each step of your home improvement project. Know and assert your rights from initial planning to finished product to ensure a satisfying, quality end product.