With the deep recession we’re in, anyone with a pickup truck has gotten into the construction business.  Here’s an example and advice on avoiding getting ripped off by unscrupulous or inexperienced contractors:

In January, I completed a sunroom addition in Big Canoe next door to a home that was having a screen porch added.  The homeowner asked for my bid on the screen porch (I originally built the home for its previous owner) and the customer chose to go with a friend’s son, whose bid was a little less than mine.  My estimate for completion:  3 weeks.

The homeowner started the job in November and needed it complete before the holidays.  Guess when it was done?  This week, a full 3 months.   A job that should have taken 3 weeks took 300% longer.

Before you hire any contractor, follow these 5 essential steps:

  1. Check at least 3 references (that are not relatives).  Check out the contractor’s work on these jobs in person.
  2. Have the contractor provide their workers compensation and general liability insurance.  Ensure the paperwork is authentic by requesting it from the contractor’s insurance company.
  3. Get a copy of the contractor’s state license.  Most states require a license to obtain a building permit.  If the contractor wants you to obtain the permit or doesn’t want to get one, check with the county/city building department to see if one is required for the work you are doing.  If a permit is required, don’t use a contractor that is unwilling to get one.
  4. Clearly define the work to be done and get a fixed price contract.  If you change the work specifications, get the new cost and work schedule in writing.
  5. Have clearly defined milestones tied to dates in the contract.  For exterior work, don’t forget to add extra time for weather delays, especially in winter.

By following these 5 steps, you can ensure you will have a positive experience in renovating or updating your home.