What you need to know about dealing with contractors

First of all this is not about trust.  You have to assume they are out to cheat you and behave accordingly. They are guilty until proven innocent.

Check the contractor out with the better business bureau. Check with the state to make sure they don’t have any claims against them. Ask to see their license and proof of insurance, and worker’s comp proof.  Get references and make sure it’s not their brother in law. You can ask for addresses of places they did and then check to see who the owner is.

You should always get more than one bid. Make sure the bid is broken down into material and labor. Be sure the list is written on a first grade level . Don‘t assume anything. Spell it all out. Specify materials- brand, size, brand name and product.

You can act as your own gc and let the main contractor do most the “handyman” type jobs and then sub out the big stuff like roof or plumbing. Remember that the gc is going to do that and make money on every sub. You also have to be aware that when the gc gets subs, you have to make sure that they get paid or you can get a lien on your house. Make sure you get proof of partial releases with names of subs. Stamp each check with lien waiver release stamp so he can’t come back at you. When everything is done, you need a unconditional final waiver. That is not done until the final inspection from the city is done.

The contract is most important. In Ca. a contractor can only ask for 10% upfront so don’t fall for that 50% nonsense.. You should lay out  a payment schedule and what they have to do to get paid. I think it should be tied to inspector signoffs. You should set a start and finish date with penalties for missing dates and well as rewards for early finish. You should include proceedures for changes .


If it’s a big job I would suggest an attorney to review it.