Sometimes we all get in over our heads and need a little professional help. Here are a few things to remember when you find yourself needing to locate a little hired help to fix up the homestead.
1. If they won't come give you a free estimate keep dialing until you find those that will. 3 written estimates is a good minimum.
2. Check their license. Use the Internet and verify that it is both valid and under their name. Contractors sometimes let other friends work "under" their license. Don't get caught using someone "borrowing" a license.
3. Make sure you only pay up front what your state allows them to charge you, and never finish paying for the job before it is done or you can bet on never seeing them complete the job.
4. Make sure the contract has a finish date with built in penalties for delays and time over runs. You can make this more palatable to the contractor by offering a bonus for early completion.
5. If you are buying the materials make sure you keep track of receipts AND where the material goes. Buying 400 sheets of drywall and then only counting 75 sheets hung on the studs should raise a red flag. Look at coverages of materials used and how many square feet of work is being done to try to minimize the chances of being taken for a ride.
6. Any special tools needed to do the job are THEIR responsibility not yours. If you buy the tool you keep the tool, but, really, what are you going to do with an industrial paint sprayer or demolition hammer? They buy their own tools, and then they can write them off on their taxes. (Assuming they pay them of course.)
7. Make sure they have their own worker's compensation insurance for themselves and their workers.
8. Make sure that they are paying their help and not you. This will put any issues with illegal workers on their shoulders and not yours.
9. Check to see if the person who bids the job will be the one showing up to do the work, or if there will be a separate crew that will come do the work. A larger company will almost always do this, but it is a red flag for a one man shop to do it.
10. Watch the crew that shows up. Don't be afraid to ask about the quality of work that occurs while it is happening. Also see if every one on the job looks over 18. If not you should verify the age before you allow them to proceed. If anyone brings their kid to the job site make sure that the child stays off your property. No one needs issues with child labor laws.
11. Make sure that you know what city permits that you will need to pull and get them taken care of or make sure the contractor has it included in the contract.
12. Last but not least, Don't sign off as complete until it is actually completed to YOUR satisfaction. Don't get pressured into paying the final payment or signing off the job until you are happy with it.
These are some basic guidelines. Don't be afraid to add your own precautions as well. Any other tips are welcome. Just add them to the comments for this post. If there are enough I may compile them into a Part II article.