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How To Find a Great Contractor to Repair or Paint Your Home

Updated on June 6, 2011

Whether you are completing a major home renovation project, or you need to hire a paint contractor, finding a general construction contractor can be serious business. Finding an honest home improvement professional is difficult enough, but you need to find someone who can sort through all of the paperwork, get work permits, and find licensed subcontractors to complete the project. How can you tell which home improvement contractor is honest?


Find a General Contractor Online


Good Electricians and Construction Contractors Are Hard to Find

It’s not always what you know… sometimes it’s who you know. And when you’re looking for an honest construction contractor to do your home repairs or home renovation project, make sure you can find someone you trust.

Home improvement contractors and electricians are advertised everywhere. But simply flipping through the yellow pages or completing searches online will not tell you about the integrity of the workers. Your best bet is to ask a friend or neighbor who they would use to complete their construction job. Often, they’ll recommend you to “their paint contractor" or "their electrician.” And you’ll probably have the opportunity to ask questions about the quality of work, as well as the personality of the worker. (Make sure the contractor is licensed, too.)

The local hardware store is also a good source for contractor names. General contractors and home builders purchase materials and supplies daily, and they probably know the cashiers on a first name basis. The employees are probably familiar with the best local contractors, and probably know a few stories about the shady contractors. Ask them for recommendations.

Another great resource is your local Chamber of Commerce. They are familiar with many of the local businesses, and could refer you to someone with a good reputation. If a company has not done a good job, the Chamber of Commerce will certainly know about it. Word travels fast. You can give them a call, or research their members online.


Electrical and Paint Contractors


Check the License Board and the BBB

Once you have chosen an electrician, construction contractor, or home renovation company, check their references. Call the local License Board and see if they have a current contractor license. You can also check to see if they have had any complaints. Next, call the local Better Business Bureau (BBB). Even if the company is not a member of the BBB, you can still find out whether complaints have been lodged against them. You’ll also be able to view their BBB rating, if they have one.


Ask About a Work or Building Permit

In most areas of the country, homeowners need a work permit or a building permit before completing certain types of home improvement projects. Electrical and plumbing projects always require a work or building permit, as does any type of new construction. Replacing windows or adding a fence may require a permit, depending upon the laws in your county or state.

During your interview with the contractor, ask if they will obtain the permit for you. There is a huge benefit to having the contractor obtain the permit; they know the rules, and have the tools to complete the forms correctly. You should find a person who will get the permits for you.

Do not try to save money by skipping the permit. By law, you must have a permit. In addition, if something dangerous would happen to your home, such as a fire, your home owner's insurance may not pay if you did not have the proper permits. Plus, your home may be difficult to sell later if you do not have all the correct documentation.

Ask for References

Each company that you interview must provide a list of references. Copy this list of references and make sure that you call everyone on the list. Ask when they used the painter, plumber, or electrician, and ask how satisfied they were with the job. Discuss their professionalism, their attention to detail, and their work ethics.

A contractor's behavior says a lot about their work. One time, we had a major home improvement store send a contractor to place an area rug in our basement. When the workers left, we found about twelve empty bottles of beer lying on the floor. Needless to say, I did not refer them to anyone else.

If possible, call your friends before you interview a contractor. Find out who your friends have used as a painter, plumber, or electrician. If a family from church has built another section onto their home, call them and ask about their builder. This information is extremely valuable.

Helpful Videos on Hiring a Contractor

Always Sign a Contract

With any type of home renovation project, you must get a written signed copy of the contract. Don't rely on a verbal agreement, especially with a friend. Written documentation is the only protection that you have.

Write the contract to specify every detail of your project. Indicate who is responsible for buying the paint, obtaining work permits, and selecting the materials. The contract should also include information about the time frame of the renovation project, as well as the times that the workers will arrive and leave. 

If you would like to approve the project after each step is completed, put that in writing too. If you ever have the need to go to small claims court, you will need all of the documentation. It is unlikely to be a problem, but it certainly is possible in this economy.

Paying Your Contractor

Never pay your contractor in full before the job is completed. That is the most dangerous way to pay, since your contractor will have no incentive to complete the job. During your initial meeting, review the contract and view the payment terms. Most contractors will ask for a downpayment, then a payment every few weeks or so, with a final payment made upon the completion of the project. Never send the final payment until after you have signed off on the work.


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    • DonnaWallace profile image

      Donna Wallace 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Oh, thank you very much for the nice compliment. I did a lot of research when we were hiring contractors for our home improvement projects.

    • WordPlay profile image

      Carla Chadwick 7 years ago from Georgia, y'all

      Excellent info! Really well done.

      I voted this page up and indicated that it was "useful" by clicking the word below the voting buttons. You deserve it!

    • DonnaWallace profile image

      Donna Wallace 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Thank you, Climber James!

    • climberjames profile image

      climberjames 7 years ago from Steel City

      Great advice! :)

    • DonnaWallace profile image

      Donna Wallace 7 years ago from North Carolina

      Oh, thank you for your kind works, Rebekah. We've done so many home improvement projects over the years, and we're always hiring a paint contractor, eletrician, or plumber!

    • rebekahELLE profile image

      rebekahELLE 7 years ago from Tampa Bay

      thanks for writing this informative, how-to article! there are so many contractors that try to take short cuts, this will help those who do their homework first! I'm bookmarking it for future reference. rated up!