Although the ramifications of choosing the wrong contractor are scary, uncovering the “pesky details” to help you with your “homework” is really not that difficult. There are a lot of good contractors in Columbia so there is little reason for you to compromise your standards, and don’t forget to verify, never, never, never take our word for it. Always keep in mind the “four faces.”
The following are recommendations that tend to be the minimum. You may have good reasons to accept less and thankfully people did this for me, but you may need to put some extra in your budget just in case.
Years in business–
Experience at staying in business 10 or less, unless you know differently… don’t take the chance, 15 or more years is better, at least at 15 years they should be about finished getting significant additional education at the expense of home owners
In lieu of a stack of phone books, the Columbia business license office will be able to confirm licenses back into the 80s. If the contractor doesn’t have a current license you should… turn them in. If the contractor doesn’t have a local history make them supply verifiable information and if necessary the costs of verification. This action should be applied as needed to every aspect of doing your “homework.”
Less than 15, unless you know differently… don’t take the chance, 20 or more years is better and only if they have experience from footing to roof cap. A carpenter that has only “trimmed for most of the 20 years experience is probably only a highly skilled trim carpenter.
Just like you did to secure your employment. A simple verifiable chained resume of their employment and business history.
Should have a total of 10 or more years in business, years as a construction superintendent or production management or any business where interaction with customers was part of the job.
Again a simple verifiable resume along with customer references, such references will be addressed later here-in.
Will you be able to reach the “owner” any day at any time, of course in a reasonable manner and time.
An unlisted phone number or address is a tip off, if you can’t get these… don’t take the chance. You should expect nothing less then to have all manners of access and communication to the owner if an emergency arises and/or you have trouble with the owners employees. Don’t forget that the contractor is also your designer…. the architect so to speak….. your protection.
Continuing education and commitment to the industry-
The contractor should show that they are involved in the industry and interested in expanding their three critical experiences.
Membership in industry associations and subscribing to their codes of ethic, civic service, industry education classes, career center classes, etc. All verifiable.
Be satisfied with their references, keeping in mind that the worst contractors around can come up with a half dozen or so glowing references.
Why not a list of all of their past customers, preferably chained, or at least the past 7 or 10 contiguous years, along with the glowing references. Verifiable? Sure if they don’t already have it, they should be able to compile one in short order from their bank records.
Well you are half way there.
It may seem like a lot of work but you should only have to do it once to select a long-term contractor. Maybe twice if you think it is needed to keep your contractor on their toes.
They must have it. General liability and workers compensation insurance.
The only way you can be sure, is to have their insurance co. issue a certificate, then if it lapses the insurance company will send you a notice. This process is simple, a phone call, it is done between contractors and subcontractors every day. If a contractor has no employees or subcontractors or the contractor is one person and the only person working on your project, by law, they do not need workers comp. But how will your project get finished if your one-person contractor is incapacitated?