12 Home Repair Contractor Tips

Repairing your home after a major disaster can be a headache. Learn how to find and work with construction industry pros to ease the home repair pain. Every year, thousands of American families suffer major home damage from tornadoes, hurricanes, fires and other disasters. Fortunately, if you’re one of these victims, homeowners insurance can give you a second chance. You’ll have an opportunity to rebuild your home and life, whether it’s repairing one room or starting over from the ground up.

This content is provided courtesy of USAA.

But the rebuilding process isn’t as easy as just writing a check. Choosing a trustworthy, professional contractor or homebuilder is the first step to a successful recovery. Here are 12 tips to help you do your homework and avoid costly mistakes when choosing and working with contractors and builders.

1. Beware of disaster chasers.

In the wake of a natural disaster, it’s common for a number of contractors to roll into the area, looking to capitalize on the widespread home damage. While many of these companies are reputable, others are fly-by-night contractors lacking the qualifications to do the job right. The Better Business Bureau warns against door-to-door contractors who use high-pressure sales tactics or offer you unbelievable deals.

2. Seek referrals.

Talk to friends who have used building contractors in your area. Ask your county’s building inspector for recommendations. You can also check for reputable local contractors with the National Association of the Remodeling Industry, the National Association of Home Builders or the Better Business Bureau.

3. Check credentials.

Call your local Better Business Bureau to find out how long a company has been in business. Google the name of the company’s owner; sometimes unscrupulous contractors will go out of business and then start back up under a new company name. If your state requires contractors to be licensed, registered or bonded, contact the appropriate regulatory agency to make sure yours has met the requirements.

4. Visit current job sites of a builder or contractor.

Are they clean? How do workers handle tools and materials? Are dust covers used to protect belongings? Remember, they’ll keep the same habits on your turf. While you’re at it, visit the contractor’s physical office to make sure it’s equally professional.

5. Ask potential contractors to provide their insurance information.

Companies should carry workers’ compensation, property damage and personal liability insurance. Ask for the documents and look for expiration dates when they come to do your bid — you don’t want coverage to expire before your project is done.

6. Don’t forget the subcontractors.

General contractors may hire other specialized companies, called subcontractors, to work for them. If so, make sure they, too, have all of the necessary licenses and insurance. And have your contractor specify in the work contract who they will hire as subcontractors.

7. Get estimates in writing.

Get bids from at least three reputable contractors. If prices differ wildly, find out why and don’t automatically choose the lowest price. Sometimes you get what you pay for; radically cheaper bids might mean you’ll be getting cheaper materials, fewer workers on the job and/or a lower priority in the contractor’s schedule.

8. Understand the timing.

Ask how soon the work can begin. Especially after a major disaster, some contractors might be booked solid and unable to start on your project until months later. On the bright side, this could be a sign of a good contractor who is in high demand. If a contractor can start tomorrow, there might be a good reason that business has no other customers.

9. Seal deals in writing, too.

Make sure the start and completion dates, project scope, materials, costs, payment schedule and all promises are in the contract.

10. Read and understand the work contract.

Don’t assume anything. If you’re unsure about the jargon used, or any of the wording, let an attorney review the contract for you.

11. Don’t pay too much upfront.

Typically, contractors will ask for 20% to 30% before work begins. If they ask for much more, walk away. And whatever you do, don’t pay the final installment until all work is completed to your satisfaction.

12. Never pay in cash.

Use a credit card or check, and keep receipts. That way, you have proof of payment all along the way.

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