Top 5 Tips for Hiring a Home Improvement Contractor

By Dan DiClerico

Updated April 9, 2020

Homeowner talking to contractor

You’ve figured out your home improvement to-do list for the year—hopefully using HomeAdvisor’s True Cost Guide to ensure there’s room in the budget to tackle the various projects. Now you’re ready to start lining up pros to do the work.

Of course, hiring a general contractor for a whole-house renovation is more involved than finding a handyman to make a few spot repairs. But anytime you bring a service pro into your home, thoroughness is key. The following tips from HomeAdvisor will make sure you’re checking every box.

1. Confirm Credentials.

Ask to see a copy of the professional’s trade license to verify that it is current and in compliance with any applicable state and local (township, city, county, etc.) level requirements. Also, confirm the professional is appropriately insured and bonded.

2. Do Your Homework.

Before you hire a contractor, get 2-3 bids for the project. Read ratings and reviews on sites like HomeAdvisor to see what other homeowners have had to say about a pro’s work.

3. Do a Gut Check.

This is especially important on major projects, say a kitchen renovation or family room addition. As you’re meeting with prospective contractors, make sure you’re seeing eye to eye on the goals of the project and that you have good communication and rapport. This is the start of a long relationship, so it’s essential to have chemistry, trust, and respect.

4. Pay with a Paper Trail.

Pay the service professional with a credit card or check, not cash, and only pay the service professional or company that you were referred to. Do not make large deposits or upfront payments. If you pay for supplies, be sure they are stored at your home and you have a receipt.

5. Keep Written Records of Everything.

Get it in writing—this includes proof of licensing, contracts, invoices, proof of payment, progress photos, and all project-related correspondence.

Follow these five steps, and your chances of finding a top home pro for your project needs will go way up. Once the work gets underway, be sure to check in frequently with the team and keep the lines of communication open. Also check out this article on 10 Simple Tips for Hiring a Contractor. Afterwards, assuming you’re happy with the result, share the positive experience with an online review. The pro will thank you for it, and they’ll be eager to take you on as a valued repeat customer on any future projects.

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  1. Easton Memmott, September 7:

    I really like the tip you gave to check the credentials of a contractor you consider for hiring. I need to hire a contractor to help me fix the foundation of my home. I will be sure to check if a contractor is certified and licensed before I decide to hire them.

  2. Easton Memmott, September 10:

    I really liked your tip to keep everything that happens in writing. I am planning to hire a home improvement team, and i want to make sure that everything goes well. I will be sure to get everything in writing.

  3. Ingrid david, January 11:

    This article was spot on and makes me think of my experience with First Florida. Their team of experts were very professional, friendly and worked with us every step of the way to give us the home of our dreams. So if you’re looking to build your own home or just make some refined additions to the current one, First Florida can definitely help you!

  4. Faye Jimenez, March 14:

    Last week I almost got taken for $3500. From Sears specialist I saw on internet when I was looking for an a/c duct cleaning specialist. Apparently these young guys were SUB-CONTRACTORS. Came in Sears truck, didn’t show I’d or credentials. Stated I had major problems and TOLD me a price then went down $200. and willing to fix immediately without estimate or proposal and they did not look at total problem to know extinct of damages. Kept talking while I was trying to compare rates. I even went to bank for $$$ when red flags went off in my head. Thank God flags went off. Had them leave and am satisfied with Altman 1hour company recommended by BioResponse who was also recommended online. Can’t remember if it was Yelp. Angie’s list, Homeadvisor or Thumbtack. I did call Sears with complaint because I was so upset by them I cried, panicked and could have become very ill from emotions.
    I appreciate your list of tips.

  5. Adam, February 4:

    This is good advice. As homeowners looking for contractors, you run the risk of being taken advantage of if you’re only getting one estimate. Or if you don’t do your due diligence looking to see if a contractor is licensed and bonded. Unfortunately there are contractor’s and impersonators out there that will tell you what you want to hear just to get a deposit from you, only for you to never see them again. Be sure to follow up and look the company up on the state register.

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