Hiring a Contractor

Choosing the right contractor is the most important decision you will make in your project. Here is how Consumer Reports recommends you choose a contractor:

  • Plan for success. Get three bids to gauge the going rate for work. But don't jump at the lowest bid; our surveys have shown that people who hired the lowest bidder generally got poorer work.
  • Look for proper licensing and insurance. Make sure the contractor is licensed to do business in your state and that he has proper general liability and workers-compensation insurance. Check with your local government for permit requirements and confirm with the contractor who is responsible for paying for permits. Also visit the Contractor's License Reference Site to learn about licensing requirements in your state and to find out if a contractor is licensed.
  • Check the Better Business Bureau for filed complaints. Also contact your state's attorney general's office. 
  • Obtain a contract. A written contract will specify what will be done to complete the job, associated costs, and the payment schedule. Never sign a blank contract or one with blank spaces.
  • Stick with the plans. Making changes to plans after work begins could lead to cost overruns and delays.
  • Pay by check. Write out the check to the contracting company rather than to an individual. A reasonable down payment is 10 percent on new construction and 30 percent of the total project cost to be paid upon initial delivery of materials for a remodel or addition.
  • Make final payments only when the work is completed to your satisfaction. A reputable contractor will not threaten you or pressure you to sign documents if the job is not finished properly.



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