Find a contractor who won't rip you off or ruin your project

Consumer Reports News: June 28, 2012 02:29 PM

The right contractor can ensure your remodel runs smoothly—saving you headaches and money in the process. But hiring the right pro isn't always easy. Start by asking friends and neighbors for referrals or visit the website of the National Association of Home Builders, for a list of local builders' associations, which will offer referrals. Then, follow these steps.

Do a background check
Once you have a list of possible candidates, call the Better Business Bureau to ask about complaint histories. One or two gripes shouldn't necessarily induce you to look elsewhere. But be wary of a contractor with more problems than that.

Check licenses and insurance
Ask to see each contractor's license and proof of insurance. If you arrange to have work done by an unlicensed or uninsured contractor, you may be liable for injuries or damages that occur.

Check references
Request a list of recent clients. Call each one and ask penetrating questions like these:

  • Would you hire this pro again?
  • How would you rate his/her work?
  • How did the contractor handle cleanup each day?
  • Was the contractor easy to talk to?
  • How did the contractor handle differences and work changes?
  • Was the job completed on time and at the bid? If not, why not?

It can also be a smart move to ask the contractor for a list of his or her building-material suppliers. Call them to find out whether the contractor has an account or pays for items upon delivery. Most suppliers are willing to extend credit to financially reliable contractors—an indicator the pro runs his or her business well.

For more information from the experts at Consumer Reports as well as kitchen and bath designers see our guides to updating your kitchen and remodeling your bathroom. Both reports include the top-performers from our tests of appliances and home improvement products.

Adapted from Consumer Reports Kitchen Planning & Buying Guide, on newsstands now.

E-mail Newsletters

FREE e-mail Newsletters! Choose from cars, safety, health, and more!
Already signed-up?
Manage your newsletters here too.

Home & Garden News


Cars Build & Buy Car Buying Service
Save thousands off MSRP with upfront dealer pricing information and a transparent car buying experience.

See your savings


Mobile Get Ratings on the go and compare
while you shop

Learn more