Homeowner Tips

Here are some recommended tips for finding and working with a contractor.


Preparing for your first meeting with a contractor

Selecting a contractor for your project is an important decision and one that requires you to ask the right questions. Bring a list of information to your first meeting and discuss it with the contractor. Ensure that they are willing to listen to your needs and desires as well as make suggestions.

Things to discuss at your first appointment:

  • What type of services you are looking for?
  • Do I have the plans if the project requires it?
  • Do you need design assistance?
  • Will you be purchasing your own lighting fixtures, plumbing fixtures, accessories, etc, or will you be ordering these items through the contractor?
  • Do you have an idea of the materials you would like included in your project?
  • What is your target investment range for the project?
  • Do you have a specific timeframe for beginning/completing the project?
  • Are there any specific concerns you have regarding the work, contractor, etc.?


Tips from the Contractors State License Board (CSLB)

The CSLB urges consumers to follow these tips when dealing with a building contractor:

  • Hire only licensed contractors and ask to see the license;
  • Don't rush into decisions;
  • Be especially hesitant when approached by someone offering home improvement services door-to-door, especially when they will use material they claim is left over from another job;
  • Verify the contractor's license by checking online or via CSLB's automated phone service at 1-800-321-CSLB (2752);
  • Get a written detailed contract.
  • REMEMBER Contractors are required to have their license number on their business card and on all bids and contracts. Seeing the number there doesn't necessarily mean the license is valid. Check the license status on the CSLB Website. Although an unlicensed operator may give you a low bid, the risks of possible financial and legal consequences you may face outweigh any benefits a lower bid may seem to offer.
  • The law requires any contractor to be lead safe certified as required by the EPA.
  • Verify the contractor's business location and telephone number.
  • A contractor who operates a business out of the back of a pickup truck with a cellular telephone may be difficult to find to complete a job or fix something that has gone wrong after the last bill is paid. You can find a licensed contractor's "address of record" on this website when you look up their license status.
  • Verify the contractor's workers' compensation and commercial general liability insurance coverage. This information is available trough the CSLB website.


Additional Tips for Finding Your Next Contractor

  • Make sure that you obtain a lien release for the work on your home once it is completed and you have made the final payment. Ask the contractor in your initial meeting with them if they provide lien releases on their work.
  • Find out how long the contractor has been in business. The longer they've been in business, the more of a reputation they have to uphold.
  • Ask the contractor about their insurance and that of their sub contractors. Ask to see the General Contractor's Worker's Compensation and General Liability Insurance Certificates.
  • Always check the old tried and true: The Better Business Bureau. This will tell you if any formal complaints have been filed against the company in the past.
  • Never hire the contractor with the lowest price. Keep in mind that if it seems too good to be true, it most likely is. A contractor who is able to charge prices well below their competitors is most likely already on their way out of the business and is desperately trying to stay afloat. They will probably be lacking in qualified help and the materials used are often low quality. Low prices may sound great in the beginning, but in the end could end up costing you more than you'd have paid to have it done right the first time.