Everyone has heard the nightmare stories of a contractor-gone-bad. Unfinished projects, misappropriated funds, fly-by-night companies, mechanic’s liens, unreturned phone calls…it’s enough to give any homeowner the heebie-jeebies. With so many bad contractors out there, how do you find a good one when you need work done on your home? Is there anything that you can do to protect yourself?

Absolutely! Welcome to a three-part series on how to recognize The Good contractors, The Bad contractors, and things that you as the Customer can do to protect your home and pocketbook when dealing with contractors.

The Good

A good contractor is a professional. As such, there are certain characteristics that you can look for in order to recognize one. For starters, a good contractor is going to be organized in how they manage their time and the projects they are working on. They are going to expect you to ask questions and will be happy to talk about the details of your project so that you will be a happy customer.

Some documents that they will be willing to show you are:

• A copy of their contracting license, if it is required by the state or locality. Neither Colorado nor Wyoming requires a contractor’s license at the state level, however Cheyenne and several jurisdictions in the Front Range do require general contractors (which includes roofing contractors) to be licensed. There are also different classes for licenses to enable the contractor to do more types of work.
• An Insurance Certificate, which should include General Liability and Workers Compensation insurance. If a worker gets hurt on your property and the contractor doesn’t have Workers Compensation Insurance, you could be legally liable for damages. The certificate will include the name and phone number of the insurance agent you can call to ensure that the policies listed are still in effect.
• References. You should be able to speak to some happy customers (from different time periods), as well as drive by and see the quality of work performed. You can also get an idea of how reliable a contractor is by their standing with the Better Business Bureau.

Also, a good contractor is going to want to have a contract so that both parties are protected and all expectations are laid out. In addition, they will make certain that any required permits or building inspections are taken care of. They won’t ask for full payment upfront to get a job started, and they will have enough experience that the project will be completed on time – or very close to it – and on budget.

If you need to speak to your contractor, it is important that they are available or prompt in returning phone calls. A good contractor will be busy, but because they are busy completing projects for their clients, they will make time to quickly return calls. A local office is also an important clue that a contractor is reliable and plans to stay and be involved in serving the community.

Basically, a good contractor knows that they have nothing to hide from their prospective clients. They know that by being accessible, honest, and open from the beginning that they will have happy customers who will return to them or refer them to friends and family, thus keeping them in business. They will welcome your questions and provide you with any information that you need.

Next week, we’ll take a look at The Bad contractors and how to recognize them.