Hiring a Professional
Once you have had an energy assessor come to your home and provide you with new information about its efficiency, you may decide to hire a contractor to perform improvements.
Selecting a contractor
Choosing a contractor is much like a job interview, but you are the employer. The state of Minnesota, through the Department of Labor and Industry, establishes standards and safeguards to help homeowners avoid hiring disreputable or unqualified contractors, and to protect them against sloppy or poor quality construction. When choosing your contractor, consider the following:
- Check out licensure on contractors you are considering. The Department of Labor and Industry maintains lists of all licensed contractors and their current status.
- If a particular trade specialty requires certification or training, make sure the contractor is in good standing with the certifying organization and current on all required training.
- Utility companies may have contractors that they recommend who have met certain established standards.
- Contact the Better Business Bureau to see if there are any complaints or actions again the contractors you are considering.
- Talk with friends, neighbors, and suppliers about who they have worked with and who they would recommend for a project like yours.
- Ask the contractor for references and be sure to contact them!
- Check out online consumer rating services to learn what others may have to say about particular contractors.
Getting a bid
To make sure that you have explored all your options, get at least three bids that will meet your minimum requirements. Here are some tips:
- Only review bids that are in writing and include detailed information about the job: scope of the work, materials to be used (including manufacturer’s numbers, models, colors, sizes, and anything else that specifies exactly what you are buying), prices, cleanup and debris removal, and the names of all subcontractors and suppliers.
- Be sure you are getting what you are expecting. The lowest bid many not be the best; incomplete or vague bids may not protect your interests.
- Don’t be misled by “sales” or “deals” that are available for “a limited time only.” If you feel pressured to sign a contract, you should be cautious.
- The contractor should apply for permits and be responsible for meeting all building codes and arranging inspections. Also in the bid should be information about timeframes and what will happen if deadlines are not met, as well as the schedule of payments and any holdback clauses for incomplete or substandard work.
- Contracts are negotiable, legally binding agreements. This means that you have the right to request additions, deletions or changes in the terms prior to signing.
- Learn about the “Three-Day Cooling Off Law” that gives you the right to cancel within 72 hours or signing a contract for work to be done on your home. Don’t provide a check or down-payment until this period has ended and you have had the opportunity to review details, check references, or make other evaluations of the contract of the contractor.
- The final contract should list everything that was included on the initial bid. Over the course of the project, any additional work done must be approved by you with a “change order” that specifies the work and any additional costs to you. If you have not signed the change order, it is not an enforceable part of the contract.
- Require lien waivers from all suppliers and subcontractors. Make delivery of signed lien waivers part of the initial contract, and do not make any final payments until you receive them from all subcontractors and suppliers.
- Before making final payment, make sure everything has been completed, including all inspections and cleanup. If you are unsure that everything is done to your satisfaction, ask for a day or so to inspect before making the final payment.