Hiring a general contractor to work on your house can be a nervous experience, and while a few inexperienced or undisciplined contractors may give the rest of us a questionable reputation, our experience has been that contractors are just like you. We have children and homes to support with the added pressure that our income is directly connected to how well we are received by you, the customer. If we develop bad working practices, fail to communicate or do substandard work, it won't be long before we are no longer in business. Most of us rely almost entirely on references from other customers and our ultimate goal is to use you as our next reference.
The highest priority for our company since we began this work in June of 1990 has been to demonstrate integrity in our work, behavior, and attitude. In spite of this, you have some very measurable ways with which to verify our or any other contractor's integrity before you hire them. We suggest the following:
Every contractor in the State of Washington is required to have a current liability insurance policy that covers your home while they are working on it. This covers damages that may occur while the construction is going on or injuries to you or your guests that occur as a result of the construction.
State Industrial Insurance:
The employees of any contractor or subcontractor who come on your property are required by law to have State Labor & Industries insurance in the event that they are hurt.
It is important to notify your homeowner's insurance agent that you are doing a remodel on your house. If you do a considerable remodel, your current insurance may not be sufficient to cover you in the event of loss.
Every contractor and subcontractor in the State of Washington is required to carry a bond. This is an account in which there is a minimum of $12,000 set aside in the event that the contractor doesn't complete the job.
Every general contractor or subcontractor in the State of Washington is required to have a current license on file with the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries. This ensures that all of the appropriate insurance and bond requirements are in place and current. This is the first place you need to check when looking for any company to do any type of work on your home. Just call them (see phone number below) and ask if
1. Is the contractor's license current?
2. Is their bond in place and current?
3. Is their General Liability insurance in place and current?
4. If they have employees, is their State Industrial Insurance in place & current?
5 . Ask if there have been any complaints or judgments against the contractor in the past.
Check out references. Ask for a list of the last three to six customers the contractor has worked for (not just a few whom the contractor has selected to give you). Keep in mind that if you don't get absolutely glowing reports from each and every customer, this may not be a reflection on the contractor. Consider how it is with your job, some customers can be a little harder to please than others.
Check out the contractor's vendors. You will have to get permission from the contractor to do this but you should be able to contact the suppliers he intends to use on your project to make sure he has paid all his previous bills. Suppliers are often the first to know if a contractor is having trouble.
Most of all, feel free to ask any question that might concern you no matter how unimportant it may seem to you.
Make sure any specific concerns or requirements are written in the contract or construction agreement. You may not want workers in a specific area of the yard, you may not want anyone in the house or even sitting at a picnic table eating their lunch. It is YOUR house that we are working at and we need to be as respectful as any other guest you would feel comfortable having over. We, for example, don't allow smoking, radios, using customers' kitchens, microwave ovens or bathrooms. You can of course offer these if you want but we won't assume them to be offered.
LOW PRICED CONTRACTORS:
These are tough questions to ask but a legitimate contractor will really appreciate the opportunity to display their integrity. Any contractor who makes you feel uncomfortable asking these questions may not be someone you want to do business with.
Make sure that every person who walks onto your property has all the insurance required to protect you and your home from lawsuits resulting from injury, death or other claims.
Make sure the contractor does not owe other people money so your down payment will go to your job and not the last job they did that went wrong.
Beware of contractors who offer cash discounts. This is an indication that they are not keeping good records, are avoiding paying their taxes or are already in too much debt to qualify for a license. It is tempting to avoid paying sales tax but it is a crime that the State of Washington, the IRS and now, the Department of Homeland Securities is watching.
Beware of contractors who do their own Electrical, Plumbing, Gas Piping, or Mechanical (furnace or air conditioning). Each of these tasks requires a specific license and cannot be done by the General Contractor himself.
Beware of contractors who ask for more than half of the money as down payment or more than their bond is worth.
The following is a statement of reference for you to verify at your discretion.
Implicit in the existence of our contractor's license is not only a $12,000 performance bond but a $1,000,000 liability insurance policy for the protection of your home, personal property and medical expenses arising out of problems related to construction in your home. We have never in 28 years had a customer submit a claim on our bond. We have had only one claim on our insurance in 2004 by an uninvited individual who came onto a jobsite and claimed to have been injured. It was determined to be a frivolous case and was settled by our insurance company.
We would be pleased if you contacted the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries at (425) 990-1400. Just give them our company name (Northwest Woodcrafters LLC) and contractor's license number (NORTHWL014NP Expiration date 10/5/18). We have never had either our bond, insurance or license revoked, suspended or canceled in the 28 years we have been in business. We were previously licensed as Alan W Gray Building and Remodel but changed our name and tax status from Sole Proprietor to Limited Liability Company in 1999, this is reflected in the Department of L&I records.
How to Hire a Contractor