1) Does he have a license? Make sure the contractor has a California state license.
He must display his license number on his business card, in his ads, on any signs promoting his
business, on his website and on his bids and contracts.
2) Is his license valid? Check the license number online at www.cslb.ca.gov or by calling (800) 321-2752.
Sometimes a contractor may have a license number but has had his license suspended or revoked. You can find out the status of his license by checking with the CSLB (California State License Board).
Ask to see the contractor’s pocket license and a picture ID to ensure that the person you are dealing with is indeed the contractor whose license number appears on the paperwork.
3) How does his bid compare? Get at least three written bids. Compare the bids. Do the bids include everything you are expecting to have done on the job? Do they include exact and detailed specifications for the materials and fixtures that you want?
If something is not included in the written bid, then you could be charged extra for it later or you might get an inferior product substituted for the one you verbally specified.
4) Can he give you references? Don’t be afraid to ask each bidder for the names, addresses and phone numbers of at least three previous customers.
If the contractor is reputable, he will give you this information. Call the references and ask them how they felt about their remodeling experience.
Did the contractor answer their questions? How did he handle any problems that come up during the job? Was the job site kept clean? Was the job completed on time? Are they happy with the finished product?
5) Is everything in writing? Once you accept a bid, make sure that
everything is in writing and included in the contract. Read the
contract and make sure that you understand all the terms.
6) Does he have workers’ compensations insurance? The contractor must have workers’ compensation insurance for his employees. If he doesn’t, this could put you at risk legally.
Some general contractors don’t have employees. They hire sub-contractors (plumbers, drywall, insulation, masonry, etc.) to do the work. In this case, make sure that the sub-contractors are carrying workers’ comp for their people.
7) Is he asking for the legal deposit amount? The contractor will ask you for a deposit. By law, he is not permitted to receive more than 10% of the total cost of the job or $1,000, whichever is less. Never pay a contractor in cash.
8) Does he provide and stick to a payment schedule? Ask the contractor for a payment schedule. This will show the progressive phases of the work and how much you are being charged for each phase. Only pay what the contractor is owed based on what had been completed.
9) Are there unhandled problems during the progress of the job? Create a file for the job. Keep all paperwork in this file.
During the job, it is a good idea to keep a record of all verbal agreements between you and the contractor and/or job supervisor. Check back to make sure these are met.
If it is a big job, keep a daily log of everything that occurs that you might want to reference later. Note all problems and track when, how and if they were handled.
10) Is he interested in your complete satisfaction? Once the job is done, take the time to do a thorough walk-through, inspecting the job for anything that might not be to your COMPLETE satisfaction.
Do not make the final payment to the contractor until he has handled any and all issues found during this inspection. If he is an ethical person, he will be more than happy to oblige.
He should even offer to give you a one-year warranty on his work, meaning that if you find anything wrong within one year of completion, he will fix it at no cost to you.