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Old 08-04-2008, 01:42 PM   #1
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?'s to ask a contractor

I'm having some contractors come out the estimate the cost of finishing my basement and I wanted to know if there is any specific questions I should ask? How do I verify they are licensed and in good standing? Is there anything I should look for to determine if they are shady? Thank you all for any help.


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Old 08-04-2008, 02:50 PM   #2
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Most States have a web site that will take you to an area that you can check on contractors license and status / actions taken etc. Try google your state .gov.

Shady? If they want you to pull the permit....
Advise you will need a copy of their workers comp & liability Insurance. Provide a fax number for the carriers to send direct to you.
If the contractor was not referred by a trusted source.. ask for references and call them...

When the right guy leaves.... you should be well in your comfort zone...

Price is only one factor...weigh them all


Last edited by Big Bob; 08-04-2008 at 02:54 PM.
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Old 08-04-2008, 05:10 PM   #3
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Check your county's online court records to see how many times he's been sued. Many builders are sued by their suppliers, subcontractors, and clients. Some cities even take them to court. I know builders that have been in 40 or 50 various civil suits over their careers, and a few with criminal history as well.

Check your county's/state's tax records to see if he owes back taxes. A lot of bigtime builders owe a lot of money around here.

Check with the city inspector. Although they may not be able to give a biased review, they can answer general questions. "Does he always satisfy the requirements of the permits he pulls?"

If he wants you to pull the permit he's someone to look out for. He should be able to pull his own permit.

If he wants money up front, be cautious. If he says he needs money to purchase materials, be cautious...He can't get credit from his suppliers. You should work out a payment schedule based on performance. Do not pay money up front. And, don't pay in full until the job is completed and passes inspection. I see a lot of jobs where the contractor won't come back to fix code violations because he's already been paid in full.

Check references no matter what. I suggest you do this even if he's been personally recommended. I know a lot of people that are actually really satisfied by the work that crumby contractors put out.

Don't get too turned on by the term "licensed." It doesn't necessarily mean too much. Licensing requirements vary from state to state and city to city. Here, all you have to do is pay some money, pass a relatively easy test, and go to a few hours' worth of continuing education classes per year...And you're a licensed conctractor. I know plenty of licensed contractors that have no business charging for what they do. Some areas require less, some require more. Some don't require anything.

As previously mentioned, contact his liability insurance directly. There are hacks out there that forge those documents. A quick call to his agent will confirm that you're dealing with someone who's insured.
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Old 08-05-2008, 09:07 AM   #4
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Just a few more questions for the prospective contractor:
-What is their opinion on the schedule?
-How will they staff the project?
-What step would they do first?
-How will they handle the dust / debris?
-Ask for a detail of one aspect of the job, then compare amongst the other contractors (for example, how will they waterproof and insulate the exterior walls?)
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Old 08-05-2008, 12:31 PM   #5
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thanks so much, I really appreciate all the good info.
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