Do you have some home renovations to take care of but don't want to be burned by a bad contractor?  Hiring the right contractor for the job can be tough, but taking the time to find a good contractor can make all the difference to your project, and your wallet.  Here are some things you can do to help ensure that you aren't getting ripped off.

Look at some of their other projects
Before getting an estimate, you will want to make sure the contractor you are hiring has done work similar to what you are looking for.  Any good contractor will show you some of their previous work to give you confidence that they know what they are doing.  Picture books, web sites, customer testimonials and referrals are all great ways to see some of the work that the contractor has completed before.  If they don't have any of these, how do you know if they have ever done anything like what you are hiring them for?

Get it in writing
This is probably the most important thing you can do when hiring someone to work for you.  When you finally agree on the work with your contractor, make sure there is a written agreement between both parties.  The contract needs to include at the minimum:

-exactly what materials are being used and the cost
-in detail, the work being done and the cost
-the date of completion
-the exact total amount you will pay
-the payment frequency and payment date
-signed and dated by both parties

The more detail, the better.  If you are unhappy with the work that is done, it is much easier to resolve disputes if everything is in writing.  If there are any changes to the project along the way, make sure addenum(s) to the contract are created, and signed by both parties.

If your contractor does not provide you with a contract, this is a dead give away that they have no idea what they are doing.

Get a second quote
..or third, or fouth quote!  Don't be afraid to shop around and ask other contractors for a quote or estimate.  You absolutely do not have to tell the contractors that you are shopping around, but there is nothing wrong with telling them that you are.  A good contractor may even ask you to shop around, to give you some confidence in the quote they have given you.  Some contractors may compete for a best price, which could save you even more money in the end.  Just make sure you aren't hiring purely on estimate alone, as bad contractors will underestimate to get hired and paid.

Don't be rushed to hire
If your potential contractor is rushing you, bullying you into going with them then chances are there is a reason for that.  Take your time, make sure you trust this person fully before hiring them.  If they can't wait for you to make an informed decision, take that as a big sign that they don't have your best interests in mind.

Pay after the work has started
Contractors need to be paid for their work and for the materials they purchase.  If a contractor asks you to pay for the materials or work up front before the work has started, you may want to consider why they need the money so badly.  A good contractor will specify payment date and frequency in the contract, and will stick to that agreement.  If you pay before the job is complete, there is very little motivation for a bad contractor to finish their work.

Only pay the amount agreed upon
If the contractor needs more money then what is agreed upon, then that is unfortunate, for them.  A good contractor will know when they have given a bad quote and will eat the costs.  A bad contractor will try to ask for more money because they didn't do their due dilligence when quoting you originally.


Have you been burned by a bad contractor?  What are some other tell-tale signs of a bad contractor?  Let us know in the comments!