Hints & HELP!
a Home Contractor
by Lorene Bartos, Extension Educator
This article will appear in the April
4, 2004 Lincoln Journal Star Newspaper.
and summer are common times to think about home improvement
projects, such as remodeling or putting in a new roof or
driveway. Hiring a reliable contractor is critical for a
successful home improvement project. Following some simple
steps will help ensure a satisfactory remodeling experience.
common scams by being cautious of contractors that come
directly to the home. They may say they are already in the
neighborhood so they can give you a special price and usually
will attempt to pressure you into making a quick decision.
Ask door-to-door solicitors to leave a phone number and
materials. Legitimate operations have a permanent address.
friends or colleagues for names of contractors they've used.
Look for contractors that belong to professional associations.
These associations usually have professional standards for
their members. Ask how long the contractor has been in business.
possible, aim for getting at least three bids. Give all
contractors the same information so estimates are comparable.
Ask for names of previous customers and call or visit them
to see if they would hire the contractor again.
not agree to obtain building permits for the contractor
since this makes you liable for the quality of the work
but do be sure the necessary building permits are obtained
by the contractor. Do not allow work without a permit. Permits
provide an assurance the work is being completed according
to local building codes.
sure the contract is complete. It should have specifications
for all major materials and steps in the project. If quality,
types or brands of materials are important to you, be sure
this is also stated in the contract. For additions or remodeling
jobs, insist on scale drawings. Clean up, repairs or replacements
for defective merchandise and faulty or poor quality work
should be addressed. Ask about the contractor's insurance
coverage, and how and when building materials and service
bills and any subcontractors will be paid.
sign a contract with blank spaces and do not agree to pay
the amount in advance. Discounts for advance payments are
a potential indication of a scam. Another variation is contractors
who offer to arrange financing for you. They may offer to
take care of everything if you sign a few papers, saying
payments can be spread over several years with a small down
payment. However, the papers may be for an extremely high-interest
loan against your home which involves large balloon payments
at the end. If the loan money is paid directly to the contractor
even before the work is done, the contractor may have little
incentive to complete the job.
financing is necessary, check with your bank or lender.
Home equity loans usually are easy to get and carry a reasonable
interest rate. Pay the contractor as the work is completed,
reserving some money for when the work is finished satisfactorily.
if you sign a contract for home improvements, federal and
state laws allow three business days to reconsider the decision
and back out of the contract. The contractor must leave
a copy of the contract and must explain your right to cancel.
improvement projects will be a more pleasant experience
if you take precautions in selecting a contractor and keep
on top of the progress during construction.
to Household Hints & HELP