By John Voket
It's astounding how many times I have been in earshot of some chatty homeowner who has gotten the best deal or found the elusive 'dream contractor.'
So with the likelihood of spring contractor work being required by many homeowners across the nation in the coming weeks, my friends at Better Business Bureau offer the following checklist to save money and avoid problems when hiring out for a fix-up:
Inspect your property - Check gutters, drains, trim, concrete slabs, the roof and chimney for obvious damage. Make sure pipes connected to outside faucets didn't split during the winter.
Prioritize repair work - Winter and a spring thaw can reveal damage which, if repaired quickly, can prevent other problems. Basement flooding for example, can creep into walls and framing, and cause structural damage and mold.
Contact your insurance company - Not all water or weather-related damage is covered but it's worth it to check your policy.
Call-in experts & compare - By obtaining three bids, you can avoid overpaying while learning about the type of work required. Ask for and compare detailed estimates for the same work using the same materials.
Get the paperwork done right - Ensure the estimate specifies the contractor will get required permits from your city or town hall.
Learn a thing or two - Have the contractors explain what kind of work is required. If one bid is significantly higher or lower, ask why.
Verify licensing and insurance - Check www.elicense.ct.gov to look up a prospective contractor's licensing.
Check references - Photos and web pages are not sufficient to indicate the quality of work a contractor has performed. Ask for references, and if possible, go see work that was done in person.
Get a detailed contract - Include start and completion dates; number of hours of labor; guarantees or warranties; and a payment schedule. The contract should also contain notice of the federal cooling-off rule.
Pay by thirds - Pay one third up front to lock-in a date and allow for materials to start the job, one third when the work is under way, and the final third after the job is complete and you are satisfied.
You can always check contractors' BBB Business Reviews, or select a Better Business Bureau accredited contractor at www.bbb.org.