As a homeowner, you're liable for everything that happens on your property, including uninsured injuries to your contractor's crew. You want your contractor covered six ways from Sunday to protect your interests.
If the contractor can not provide proof of insurance and proof of Workman's Compensation coverage, look for a different contractor.
Ask for References
Ask the contractor to provide references – people you can talk to about the work the contractor has performed. A professional will have a long list of satisfied customers happy to share their success stories. The fly-by-nights will not, unless they give you the number of their second cousin once removed.
Call the references and ask them about the work the contractor performed. Was it done quickly? On time? Any glitches? Any surprises? Did they clean up after the work was done? You get the idea. Of course, remember, no contractor is going to give you the telephone number of a dissatisfied customer, but you might pick up a few warning signs from previous customers – things like "They started work each morning at 6:00 or" They left coffee cups and cigarette butts all over my yard. " Okay, not the end of the world, but an indication of the quality of service you're likely to receive.
He or she may be a skilled craftsperson, but if s / he lacks people skills or a sense of customer service, you may be left with a great job and a bad feeling about the way it was completed. It's a judgment call, but something worth considering.
Ask to See Examples of the Contractor's Work
Again, the good ones will be proud to strut their stuff and show you just how good they are. Of course, it's illegally that total strangers will want you walking through their homes checking the newly-installed electrical outlets. However, a general contractor, a driveway contractor, a painting company or landscaper should be able to provide addresses of homes where work has been completed to the homeowner's satisfaction. Drive by and have a look.
Get at least three estimates. Another common sense tip, but some words of warning.
Do not need to go with the low-ball estimate. Use it as one more piece of information. If the lowest is also the most professional and has a pile of references, fine. The thing is, you may spend a few more dollars to get the best quality work, but the money will soon be forgotten. The work will not.
Another cautionary note: if two of the estimates are close and one is much higher or much lower, the odd one should be eliminated. The contractor either missed the project parameters (which will cost you more money) or he's low-balling the estimate, only to 'discover' unseen damage that'll cost you plenty.
Review your insurance policies at least once a year. Reading over an insurance policy has all the appeal of a trip to the dentist. Okay, it's not fun – but it is necessary to protect …