Special Home Improvement Section: Finding the right contractor can be easy

Published on Wed, Sep 21, 2011 by BIAWC staff

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When you’re building or remodeling a house, choosing the right contractor is as important as settling on the right construction plan. To have the work done correctly, for lasting value and enjoyment, it’s important to find someone you’re comfortable with who has a good reputation, good references and – for your protection – is licensed and bonded.

Finding a professional helps ensure that rules, such as those stipulating how to deal with older lead paint, will be followed in a safe and effective manner.

Plan your project carefully, then interview several registered contractors or remodelers before you sign anyone up.

To begin with, look for a contractor’s registration number on business cards or in advertisements, and verify by checking online with the state Department of Labor and Industries to make sure the registration is current.

Ask each person you interview for a written bid. This will give you a point of comparison and pin down what you’ll get for your money.

Also ask for references, and use them – call more than one homeowner each contractor has worked for. By talking to previous clients, you can get a feel for what it will be like working with a particular individual, and whether he or she lives up to their promises and delivers a good product. Ask, too, if you can see what was done, to get a feel for the contractor’s abilities and the quality of the work.

You can check out a contractor’s records with consumer protection organizations and find out if he or she is a member of a local homebuilding association such as the Building Industry Association of Whatcom County (BIAWC). BIAWC members are required to be registered and bonded and agree to adhere to a code of ethics.

Learn about liens and how they impact you. When you hire a licensed and bonded contractor you are covered by the contractor’s bond that is on file with the state. It’s a good idea to get references for the contractor’s suppliers, and check out his or her payment record.

In drawing up a written contract, arrange to pay as significant work is completed. During construction, put in writing any changes that are made to your original agreement.

Be wary of contractors who:

• Provide credentials or references that can’t be verified.

• Offer a special price only if you sign immediately or use other high-pressure sales techniques.

• Accept only cash, require large deposits or the entire cost up front or ask you to make the payment in their name.

• Do not provide a written contract or complete bid or insist you pick up the building permit. In many instances, the contractor is required to take out the permits. Permits are your protection and help ensure that work will meet local building codes.

• Offer exceptionally long warranties.

• Want to do most or all the work on weekends and after-hours.

• Give you an offer that sounds “too good to be true.” It may be.

For more information, visit the BIAWC website at www.biawc.com. The BIAWC is a private, nonprofit trade organization of builders, remodelers and other businesses related to the home-building industry. The association includes a Master Remodelers® Council and a Built Green® program, which focuses on sustainable building practices.

The BIAWC Member Directory and Buyer’s Guide is available online to help consumers find appropriate help; hard copies are available free at BIAWC offices at 1650 Baker Creek Place in Bellingham. Call 360/671-4247 for more information.