ask david: what should i look for when hiring a contractor?

dennis b. from san diego, ca writes;

we are getting ready to renovate our kitchen and are searching for contractors but i don’t know where to begin other than referrals from a couple of neighbors. what are some things i should look for in selecting a contractor?

david’s response;

hi dennis, and thank you for writing in.

there are 3 very definite things you should make sure you consider when selecting a contractor for your renovation. one note is that when we are talking about contractors here, we’re really talking about “general contractors”, these are the people who run the whole job and your contract will be with them. the general contractor will in turn hire the subcontractors to complete the work, i.e. plumber, electrician, etc.

now, 3 things to look for;

1. hire only licensed contractors. i cannot emphasize this enough. do not try and save a few bucks by going with a contractor who isn’t licensed as it will surely come back and bite you in the end. if the contractor is knowledgable and reputable, they should be licensed. be sure to check out the california contractors state license board and you can check a license online

2. make sure the general contractor carries a general liability policy of at least $1,000,000. for whatever reason, contractors are not required in the state of california to carry a general liability policy (strange to me, yes). however, if they do not carry a general liability policy, they are supposed to tell you but i wouldn’t count on that. ask the general contractor that you are considering hiring if they carry a general liability policy and ask them for the contact name and policy number so you can call his/her insurance company to see if their policy is current.

3. check references for projects that the general contractor has previously completed that are similar in scope to yours. general contractors tend to specialize and a kitchen remodelling contractor may not be the best candidate for a second story addition (then again, they might, your homework will let you know). take the time to check references and talk to his/her past clients. most contractors would gladly provide this information to you.

those are 3 major items i would definately recommend when searching for a general contractor. they are easy to do, don’t take much time or effort, but will go a long way in your comfort level with a contractor once you find the one you like. one final word of caution: don’t necessarily go with the cheapest bid, especially if it’s significantly lower than the rest of them as they probably left something out.

good luck dennis!

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