Do your homework... so your home work will come out the way you expect. That's the message from the Westchester County Department of Consumer Protection, if you are among the many this spring and summer who are thinking of hiring a home improvement contractor to fix up your house.
Whether you are considering a small home repair or a major home renovation, there are things you should know to make sure your project turns out the way you hope. The department's brochure, "Time to Modernize Your Home, Choosing a Home Improvement Contractor," offers you numerous suggestions that will guide you during various phases of the renovation.
The brochure can be obtained by contacting the department at (914) 995-2155.
Included in the brochure are tips on selecting a home improvement contractor, suggestions on creating a detailed contract for the work and things to watch out for once the job is underway.
Your best protection is being well informed before you start.
- Use a licensed contractor. To find out if a contractor is licensed you can check online at www.consumer.westchestergov.com. There are currently over 7,600 licensed contractors in Westchester County.
- Get at least three estimates, especially if the job is big. In assessing the estimates, don't always go with the low bidder. A higher price may be worth it if the contractor is the most experienced, will use better materials, will do a better job, and keep to a timeline.
- Be wary of an extremely low bid. It may be an indication that the contractor is overeager for your business.
- Check with the Department of Consumer Protection to see if the company has had any complaints filed against it.
- Ask each contractor for references, and call the references to see if they were satisfied with the work. Also, see for yourself by visiting the homes where the contractor has done work.
- Once you've decided on a contractor, insist on a written contract. Don't agree to an oral contract. Make sure the contract contains all the specifics of the job. Use written change orders for any changes that may be agreed to during the course of the project.
- Avoid contractors who show up at your doorstep unannounced.