Finding a Contractor

During the interview use the Contractor’s Checklist.

Where to Look

There are many ways to find a reputable contractor. Ask your friends and neighbors or your local paint store manager for recommendations. If you visit a home and you especially like the work, get the name of their contractor. You might also look for advertisements in the local newspaper or the yellow pages. Check licenses and references for each potential contractor.

Think it through

Before you pick up the phone, sit down with your spouse or a good friend and think through your project. Write down exactly what you want done, which colors and sheen you’re after. Also note any of your special concerns, for example, an antique table that needs to be handled delicately. When preparing your preliminary time line, expect a waiting period of several weeks from the time you choose your contractor to the actual start of the project.

Get your bids

Now you’re ready to solicit two or three bids for the work you need. Make sure you provide identical information to all bidders. Notice if the contractor returns your call promptly. Does he arrive on time to evaluate your job, and does he provide a written estimate shortly after the initial visit?

Avoid un-reliables

As more people move into the city from the suburbs, the value of your home increases – and so does the demand for contracting work. As a result, less experienced contractors have surfaced who are also less than reliable.

Here’s What Happened…

A Capitol Hill resident hired someone to replace her roof at a cost of $10,000. Shortly after the job was completed, the roof began to leak. The contractor could not be found, and she had to hire another contractor for even more money to repair the mess left behind.

Read between the lines

Once you get your bids, review them carefully. Discuss the bid in detail to make sure you understand the reasons for any potential price variations. A low bid is not always the best bid. In fact, an attractively low bid which supplies sub-grade materials or labor can easily become the most expensive bid in the end.

Here’s What Happened…

A city resident spent $20,000 to repoint the brick façade and sidewall of his home. Several years later, he decided to paint the outside of the house when he discovered that the repointing was done incorrectly. Because the mortar was literally falling out, he spent $27,000 more to have his house repointed correctly.

Quiz your contractor

The most time-consuming and labor intensive part of the quality paint job is the preparation work. This prep work will make the difference between a paint job that lasts one year or ten. When selecting a contractor, ask them about the specific surface preparations they will perform. Scraping, sanding, caulking and patching usually represent more than half of the work.

Before you sign

When you have the bids in hand, compare apples to apples. That means compare the same grade of materials and the same procedures. This includes the area to be painted, the number of coats to be used, the grade of paints and similar preparation steps.

Know that the contract protects both you and the contractor. Get all promises in writing and spell out exactly what the contractor will do. If you intend to do some of the work yourself, or have another contractor do it, write these qualifiers into the contract. Never sign a blank or partially-completed contract.

Obtain a copy of the signed contract for your records. The financial terms should clearly indicate the total price, the time of payments, and the procedure for canceling. Never pay full price up front.

Get the lead out

Finally, be sure to ask for a copy of the “Renovate Right” pamphlet if your house was built before 1978. There are laws pertaining to lead but not all contractors or homeowners are aware of the requirements.

Contractors working on homes constructed prior to 1978 must have completed a specific course approved by the EPA and received certification from the EPA. Ask your contractor for their EPA certification and which of their employees are certified.
Our National EPA Certification of being a Lead-Safe Certified Firm is NAT-50531-1.

Here’s What Happened…

A District resident hired a contractor to remove paint from the house exterior. Five workers used propane torches to illegally heat and remove the lead paint. These workers didn’t practice safe procedures, they didn’t use the proper breathing apparatus, and they didn’t take any measures to protect the adjoining properties. As a result, their grinding and sanding creaded leaded dust which literally covered entire yards nearby.

A toddler was among the neighbors who were exposed to lead hazards. One neighbor notified the appropriate authorities, and the District shut down the job for unsafe practices. Fortunately, the toddler did not suffer lead contamination; but the contracting homeowner bore the sole responsibility and cost of hiring a lead-hazard abatement company at $1,200 per day.

Taking the time to plan your project, ask questions, and check references pays off handsomely in a job well done!