Ever hired a contractor before and when the job was complete you wished that you had never met them? Or spent way more than was expected? Or worse, had one injured at your home and next thing you know you get a call from your homeowners insurance? Don't fear, because you are not alone. Every day, shade tree carpenters show up and do that to homeowners and contractors. Because there is not proper oversight in the contracting community , we are left to do the policing ourselves and that is where the proper information helps us to do that. Below is a list of questions to ask your contractors to ensure your own personal protection.
1) How long have you been doing this specific type of work ?
Warranties, installation method and options change over time. In order to ensure your installation meets the manufacturer's specifications or to know what your choices are ,it's best to use someone with plenty of experience. This is even more important during times of disasters like tornadoes or hail storms. I have seen sheet rock installers become roofers because of insurance money and a year later homeowners searching for a roofer to do repairs. Here at Exterior Gutters Inc. we pride ourselves on the fact that we have been doing this since 1996 after completing enlistment in the Army.
2) Are you properly insured and licensed to work on my home ?
This is EXTREMELY important to ensure the protection of your home and assets if anything
happens, and accidents happen all the time. If a guy trips on a hose and brakes his ankle and is out of work for 4 weeks, he is gonna look to someone to help him keep his bills paid. Lawyers love workers comp claims, especially when a homeowners insurance is involved. Here is what you need to ask to ensure the contractor is FULLY insured because A LOT of contractors try to fly under the radar.
a) GENERAL LIABILITY : This covers you and your house in case the contractor is negligent on any part and damages anything of yours. As a homeowner you must be listed as a beneficiary to claim damages so ask your contractor to have a Certificate of Insurance faxed or emailed to you. It's a free service offered by the insurance companies and doesn't put the contractor out at all. General liability also covers the equipment of the contractor in case it goes missing he can still finish your job.
b) WORKERS COMPENSATION: This insurance covers you in case there is an onsite accident with the workers. As all insurance is, the premium is HIGH, but a MUST. What A LOT of contractors do is get what is called a ghost policy and that is basically just for tax reasons and covers NOTHING, hence the name ghost policy. Ask the contractor if he takes out taxes on his employees. If he does not, then he likely has a ghost policy and the employees are considered subcontractors. Here at Exterior Gutters Inc we fully cover our guys because they are our greatest assets .
c) SC CONTRACTORS LICENSE: This is big for a multiple of reasons for your protection. First, if he is not licensed and something happens and he fails to repair his work, then you have no recourse of action. Or, if you give him money up front and he never returns .... As a licensed contractor, Exterior Gutters Inc. can easily provide you with our license number. Also being licensed, we are required to carry bonds which is additional protection for homeowners.
3) DO YOU HAVE REFERENCES? It is good to know that a contractor has actually performed this type of work and has some customers willing to vouch for the him and the product. Sometimes the contractor is good but the product is not. Ask for a list of at least 4 references and give them a call. I have found out that you get good feed back from it since the contractor does not know.
4) CAN YOU PROVIDE A WRITTEN ESTIMATE DESCRIBING JOB DUTIES AND PRICE ?
This is important so that you are aware of what to expect and to know when you should properly receive a change order. Contractors are horrible about this, "I forgot to add that" technique and charge more at the end of the job. It also helps you know if you have any post work to be done (i.e. paint, caulk) so that there is no shock on either part. Assuming sometimes gets us in trouble.
5) WHAT ARE THE WARRANTIES PROVIDED AND CAN THE PAPERWORK BE GIVEN ?
This is good to have in case factory failure happens, which is possible, regardless of product quality. Most vendors are good about resolving the issues when presented with the proper documentation.
6) WHAT ARE THE PAYMENT TERMS ?
As a normal protocol most contractors will request a 30% - 50% payment to pre-order materials. That is another reason to be cautious of whether your contractor is bonded. NEVER EVER pay for a job in full. Walk away if they request full payment up front. I have never seen a happy customer in the end.