By SCOTT SIEGAL
Special to the Blade
Over the last decade, the largest trade publication (Remodeling Magazine) has conducted surveys of homeowners who have recently performed home improvement projects. According to the results, almost half of the respondents would not recommend their contractor. This means that if you are contemplating any type of home improvement work, you are at great risk, even if the contractor was referred to you.
All construction projects end with the customer being either satisfied or dissatisfied. There are clear-cut patterns in both the satisfied and dissatisfied situations. The following information is intended to help you identify the telltale patterns so that you better understand the contracting process.
If you do your homework and take the time to make the proper decisions, you will be one of the satisfied owners and not one of the victims. Generally, most dissatisfied construction project victims limited their focus to the following two questions:
“How much will the project cost?” and “When can the work get started?”
However, many authorities have suggested focusing on other questions before awarding your project to anyone. There is a lot to learn before awarding your project, such as, what products are available and which procedures to use. Therefore, it is vital to know that you can rely on the contractor you choose to give you good advice about those products and procedures that may be new to you. The critical factor in a successful contracting project is selecting the right contractor.
In order to select the right contractor, it is necessary to evaluate what I call the 4Ps of owner protection:
Problems: What are the problems that are causing the need for construction?
Products: What products and procedures solve those problems?
People: Who is the contractor to install the products and how do you qualify him/her?
Price: How do you determine if the price quoted is fair and competitive?
You should evaluate your contractor as carefully as you would choose your doctor or lawyer. You will want to select a contractor who can perform the work to your expectations and satisfaction. I will try to highlight some very straightforward questions that you should ask contractors in order to protect yourself from the nonprofessional or unqualified contractor. A professional contractor will have no problem working with you to answer these questions so that you can proceed with trust and confidence.
First, allow yourself a minimum of one hour to sit down with each contractor. You need to explore the problems, products and prices. You will be surprised at how many options and questions can be discussed with a professional contractor. This hour of getting to know and qualify your contractor can save endless hours of time dealing with dissatisfaction.
Question 1: What is the full name and address of the company?
Reject a contractor without a permanent place of business. Visit the contractor’s place of business. Does it appear that the equipment, manpower, and wherewithal is available to complete your project in a professional and timely manner?
Question 2: Does the contractor carry insurance and is the coverage adequate?
Reject the contractor without proper and adequate insurance. You should have them provide you a Certificate of Liability and workers’ compensation insurance. Verify with the insurance agent that the coverage is still in effect and for the type of work you are contracting.
Question 3: Is the company a licensed contractor?
Licensing is required in Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Each jurisdiction has its own requirements. Reject a contractor that doesn’t have a valid license.
Question 4: Is the contractor a member of a trade association and in good standing?
Contractors that are members of trade associations get training and up-to-date industry information that prove they are committed to their trade.
Question 5: How long has the contractor been in business?
Needless to say, the more experienced the better. Less than five years is often a telltale sign of an unstable business. Most contractors (96 percent) fail within the first five years.
Question 6: What is the contractor’s track record for handling complaints?
Many quality contractors with thousands of completed projects are exposed to disputes. The question is not if they have had disputes, but what was done about the dispute after it occurred.
There are many more questions, but I hope that this information helps you make a wise contracting decision. This may seem like a lot of work, but if you ever had a bad contracting experience, or know someone who has, you can appreciate the value of the time spent evaluating your contractor.
Scott Siegal is president of Maggio Roofing. Reach him at 301-891-1390 or firstname.lastname@example.org.