What Resources Should I Use To Check A Potential Contractor? 

One of the most difficult tasks for a homeowner, when remodeling their home, is to find a reputable, reliable and knowledgeable contractor to provide the materials and services provided in your scope of work.  It is important to know that a potential contractor can be trusted in your home, that they are capable of executing the complete project, whether with or without subcontractors, and that they are as dedicated to the project as you are. It is also imperative that they are licensed and insured to provide remodeling services in your local area.

The more knowledgeable and prepared you are as a homeowner, the more capable you will be in choosing the right contractor, which is pivotal to the success of your project.  Vetting a contractor could be a lengthy process.  A good place to start is by consulting with your architect. They are familiar with the work that local contractors provide to their clients, and speak from experience.

Many architects that provide architectural services for homeowners will follow their projects through to completion. They have the opportunity to see the craftsmanship of the contractor at project end, and have the opportunity to speak to their clients about their experiences with the remodeling contractor.

Another good resource is a friend, neighbor or relative that has recently had a contractor provide work in their home. Word of mouth is one of the best sources of advertisement for a contractor. If someone you know had a good or bad experience with a company, they will have no problem telling you. It is also an easy way to see for yourself the results of the contractors work.

The online world makes it easy to gather information about potential contractors.  Google, Yelp, Houzz, Angie's List and Home Advisor are good resources for homeowners to identify how the contractor is rated by other consumers.

Many contractors also use social media as a way to connect with their customers. They interact with their followers by posting photos of their work and can receive reviews on their pages.  Consider checking the reviews made by other clients to get some insight into the way they respond to their reviews, whether good or bad.  A conscientious company will address customer complaints graciously and look to correct a bad customer experience.  

Check with the NYC Department of Consumer Affairs by calling 311 or by visiting their website at www.nyc.gov/dca to make sure the contractor you are considering is licensed. The contractor should hold a valid Home Improvement Contractors (HIC) license and the salesperson that comes to your door should hold a valid Home Improvement Sales (HIS) license. The proposal that you receive should also list the same HIC and HIS license numbers.

Electricians and plumbers are not required to hold a HIC license, rather they hold a New York State license, with a license number assigned to the Licensed Electrician or the Master Plumber.  These licenses can be checked through the applicable New York State agencies.   

You can also contact the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org to check the businesses rating and to see if any other consumers have made a complaint with the bureau.  Any complaints will be posted on the contractor's page and the status of the claim will be noted.  

Contractors maintain credentials beyond licensing such as certifications with industry organizations. When speaking with a contractor, ask about their certifications and the associations that they belong to.  This can provide some additional resources for reference checks.

Some contractors will also take the extra step to become certified installers with national manufacturers to install their specialty products like; heating and air conditioning equipment, windows, doors, flooring or appliances. If there are certain manufacturer's products you want to include in your project, consult with the manufacturer to identify if the contractor you are considering is a trained and certified installer.

When considering a contractor for your remodel, it is important to request an estimate from at least three contractors. Although it is not necessarily any easier to make a choice, you will have the opportunity to see how each contractor differs in the services they provide and to see if their personalities align with you and your family.

Once you have identified which contractors you will be interviewing, make a check list of all the questions you have about your project and ask the same questions to each contractor.  Questions should include timelines, payment schedules, subcontractor information, insurance and licensing information, and an acceptable communication plan. You should also ask for references from the contractors last few projects, and visit active worksites.

For any questions about your remodeling project, you can contact NARI-HIC of Staten Island by e-mail at narihic@gmail.com.

Lana Seidman, Executive Director - NARI-HIC of Staten Island Inc.

(718) 356-2323     www.hicofsi.org