Top 10 Contractor Hiring Tips for Homeowners


Posted by: Chris Englebert, Risk Management Support Specialist

As residents of Wisconsin, we are all familiar with bad weather. As an Account Executive in our Personal Risk Department, I wanted to provide you with some tips when selecting that ever-important contractor.

1. Be wary of contractors who solicit business door-to-door or via cold calls. In addition, avoid contractors who quote you a price that will automatically go up the next day or week if you don’t accept it immediately.

2. Obtain recommendations from friends, family members, and neighbors about experienced and reputable contractors who have performed excellent work for them.

3. Ask for a written estimate from the contractor that includes any oral agreements the contractor makes. The estimate should contain a line-by-line breakdown of costs, including materials and labor. In addition, ask if there is a charge for an estimate. If there is, avoid dealing with this contractor.

4. Obtain several estimates along with a few references. Former customers of the contractor will give you first-hand knowledge of the quality and reliability of the company.

5. Do not automatically select the lowest bidder. Their work may be lacking in quality. The age-old tail tells a story….you get what you pay for.

6. Verify that the contractor is licensed, bonded, and properly insured. Ask for certificates of insurance for workers compensation and general liability policies.

7. Contact the Better Business Bureau to see if complaints have been filed against the contractor. This can be performed via the Bureau’s Web site at

8. Avoid dealing with a contractor who asks you to pay for the entire job before the work begins. The standard practice is to pay 33 percent of the job up front.

9. Get a copy of the proposed contract. Ideally, it should include a hold harmless clause in your favor, particularly for major work such as when heavy equipment will be used in constructing a swimming pool. A hold harmless clause specifies that the contractor will indemnify you with respect to your liability to members of the public who are injured or whose property is damaged during the course of the contractor’s operations. The contract should also explicitly specify the work to be performed, the start and end dates, payment agreements, and warranty information.

10. Ask the contractor how long they have been doing business in your area. When large hail storms come through so do the storm chasers. They may do fine work but if a problem arises in the future they won’t be around to fix their mistake.