How to Select the Right Contractor
Selecting the right contractor for your masonry project is critical for a successful project. There are a few rules that every homeowner should know before undertaking a home improvement project.
- NEVER USE AN UNLICENSED CONTRACTOR. All legitimate contractors are licensed and regulated by the State. They are required to demonstrate their knowledge and experience through testing and referrals. Licensees are required by the State to be bonded with a bonding company for $12,500. This means that if the contractor fails to perform, the bonding company will stand behind him up to that amount and the State will require the contractor to come into compliance or the license can be revoked. That is a lot of leverage that you need as a homeowner to make sure your project is successfully completed. Unlicensed contractors are subject to fines and jail time, but realistically, that rarely happens. Most generally, if the unlicensed contractor fails to perform, you the homeowner, suffer the loss. Believe it or not, if a person is willing to risk fines and jail time to illegally contract, he will certainly lie about his status as well. That means, don’t take anybody’s word for it. Get their business card. It is easy to check the status of anyone’s license simply by going to the California State License Board website. You can check by license number or company name. The site will tell you if the license is current, the responsible parties, name and address of the bonding company, and whether or not any disciplinary actions have been taken against the licensee. Some unscrupulous individuals have used false license numbers or legitimate numbers of another contractor without their knowledge or permission. A careful inspection of the above website will tell you whether this person is legitimate or not. The Califormia State License Board can be found at: http://www.cslb.ca.gov/
- OBTAIN CERTIFICATES OF INSURANCE FROM CONTRACTOR. Before the start of the project, insist that your contractor provide you a current certificate of insurance for General Liability and Worker’s Compensation. Why is this important? If a worker is injured on your job or their truck goes through the side of your house and your contractor does not have insurance, guess who is responsible? If it is something serious, that $12,500 bond won’t go very far. Most legitimate contractors carry at least a one million dollar general liability policy and at least an equal amount of worker’s compensation. Make sure that the certificate is currently dated and your project or your name is listed on the certificate. Don’t be fooled by someone showing you an old certificate or one with someone else’s name on it. The policy could be expired or cancelled and you would not be covered. The certificate should come directly from the insurance company to you by mail/fax. All it takes is a quick phone call from the contractor to his insurance company and they usually respond immediately. If a contractor does not have employees, then he is not required to carry worker’s compensation. However, if he says he has no employees and then you have a bunch of workers carrying out the work, someone is not telling the truth. It is illegal and puts you at great potential risk.
- CHECK REFERRALS. Did the contractor come recommended by someone you know? Can you see his work? Better yet, do they have a website that shows the quality of their work with pictures of them actually doing it? If they do and you see something you really like, can you find out where the job is and look at it in person? Call the local material yards and ask if they know the contractor and would recommend them. Is their monthly material bill current? You may not always get a direct answer, but it is worth a try, and sometimes a no comment speaks volumes.
- CALL THE BETTER BUSINESS BUREAU. If a business has been accredited by the BBB, it means the BBB has determined that the business meets accreditation standards which include a commitment to make a good faith effort to resolve any consumer complaints. BBB accredited businesses pay a fee for accreditation review/monitoring and for support of BBB services to the public. Is the contractor an Accredited Business of the Better Business Bureau? If not, why not? Do they have any unanswered complaints? The BBB website also makes research on the company easier. The local BBB contact information is below.
If you take these reasonable and easy steps as listed above, you will significantly lower your risk of a bad experience. Obviously, when a legitimate contractor abides by all the laws and necessary coverages, his costs are going to be greater than someone who does not. We all want a good deal, but is it worth risking all the aforementioned problems, by hiring someone that cuts corners. That bit of savings now could come back to bite later. If you get three bids for your project and one is significantly lower than the other two, a red flag should go up. Old sayings like, “there is no free lunch.” Or you get what you pay for,” might come to mind. It would at least demand a fair amount of scrutiny. The lowest bid is not always the best bid. If you think the knock off Ray Ban sunglasses sold by the guy with the overcoat on the street are legit and the brand name tools selling cheap at the swap meet aren’t really stolen, then you might take that chance. But if you think you and your home deserve the best product for the best price, we are sure that you will call us and be happy that you did for years to come.