Advice before you hire a home improvement contractor

By Kristen Miranda - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - When Delores Brickey hired a contractor to resurface and paint her deck, she did what so many of us do.

"I knew the name and that they had been in business for a long time so I trusted them," she said.

Unfortunately the finished product was nothing like she expected and not up to her expectations.

"I think they did a lot more damage than they did good," Brickey added.

Springtime is when more and more people want to spruce up their homes but it is also a time when organizations like the Better Business Bureau get more complaints about contractors doing shoddy work or taking a customers money without finishing the job at all.

According to the local chapter of the BBB, of the more than 1,000 home improvement companies registered with the organization, 96 have an F rating.   On the positive side more than 300 are rated A or A +.

The BBB offers this advice when hiring a contractor:

BBB's Homeowner Checklist: 10 Tips for Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor

1.  Track record – Check out a company's BBB rating and complaint history at It's fast, easy and free.  You can also call the BBB at (704) 927-8611 or 1-877-317-7236, toll-free in N.C. and S.C.  Customer service staff are available, Monday through Friday, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. (excluding 12-1 p.m. for lunch).

2.  Cost comparisons - Get at least three bids in writing and be sure you compare the bids based on the same warranty, specifications, labor and time.

3.  Licensing - Check to see if the company you plan to hire has the proper licensing. In N.C., contractors must be licensed if the total job exceeds $30,000. In S.C., contractors must be licensed if the total job cost exceeds $5,000.

4.  Insurance - Verify the company's liability insurance to protect you against damage. You can also check with the department of insurance in your state.

5.  References – Ask for references from the company's last three jobs and check them out before you sign a contract. Do not hire someone who is driving through your neighborhood, or who puts a flyer in your mailbox and claims to be doing work with your neighbors. The contractor could be from out of state, using his truck as his office.

6.  Written contract - Do not permit work to start without a signed, written contract that includes start and completion dates, exact costs, specific work to be done, and warranty information. Be sure to read the fine print carefully.

7.  Deposit required and payment – Do not pay more than 25 to 33 percent of the total job cost as a deposit. Final payment should not be due until the job is completed. Do not pay in cash; pay by check or credit card.

8.  Warranty – Get warranty information in writing on products and installation. Be sure to read the fine print carefully.

9.  Bonding – Be sure all workers are bonded to protect you against theft and damage.

10.  Criminal history – Check out anyone you allow into your home to see if they have a criminal history.

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