There are many important considerations in making this decision. Here are some suggestions that I can provide you with based on my 35 years of personal experience as a home improvement and remodeling contractor.
1. In Michigan the general contractor must be licensed. This should preferably be in the form of a residential builder’s license. A maintenance and alteration contractor’s license may also allow for certain types of work such as roofing, siding, etc. It’s very important to verify that the contractor holds such a license and that the license is current.
2. The contractor should maintain general liability insurance and workmen’s compensation insurance. Verify that the contractor has current insurance active. The insurance certificate should be obtained from the contractor’s insurance agent to ensure the certificate is valid.
3. Most types of work will require a building permit with the local municipality. Ask the contractor if he intends to pull a building permit if one is required. If the answer is yes and you decide to hire them then verify that the contractor has in fact obtained a building permit and a copy of the permit should be posted on the jobsite. Also make sure that any required building inspections are obtained.
4. A homeowner should avoid dealing with an unlicensed and / or an uninsured contractor. Also, a contractor that refuses to pull a building permit should be avoided. Finally, avoid a jack-of-all-trades contractor that performs their own plumbing, heating, and electrical work. These types of work require separate licenses and permits.
5. Check Better Business Bureau ratings and Better Business Bureau reviews. These reviews are likely to be representative of how your experience will be. A few negative reviews are expected, almost all contractors have some, but most of the reviews should be positive.
6. Make sure that the price quoted seems reasonable. If the price seems very high, or likewise, if the price is very cheap then it may be best to look further.
7. Ask if the contractor offers financing and accepts credit cards. Even if you are paying cash the ability of the contractor to offer financing and accept credit cards means that their work is probably to a higher standard than a contractor that offers no financing and doesn’t take credit cards.
8. Avoid high pressure sales tactics. If a contractor tries to pressure you to buy TODAY then it’s probably best to wait at least a day or two. The deal won’t be gone tomorrow.
9. It’s best if the contractor has a track record, at least 10 years in business is preferable. Many contractors come and go so it’s best to have some peace of mind that they won’t be out of business in the event of a problem. Also, the contractor should maintain a commercial office location. A contractor that strictly works out of their home could close up shop easily if things go bad. Google should show the contractor’s address. It’s easy to determine if this address is a residential home.
10. There should be good communication between the contractor and the homeowner right from the start. The contractor should come across as responsible and trustworthy and should make a good appearance. After all, you are entrusting this person with your most important investment, your home.
11. The contract should clearly spell out the scope of work, the job specifications, the price of the job, the payment terms, and what materials are being installed. A deposit is usually expected but a very large deposit should not be required.
Check back for further thoughts on this, and I would be happy to answer any individual questions by email: firstname.lastname@example.org