How do I pick a contractor?

Posted by: Jun 20, 2014By Brian Stutheit

Do not rely only upon references provided by the contractor. References can be useful, but a contractor is not going to give you bad references.

Do ask for evidence the contractor is licensed in the city or county where the work is being done.
In most Colorado jurisdictions, general contractors, roofers, plumbers, and electricians need to be licensed. In many towns and counties, HVAC technicians must be licensed. The State of Colorado does not license roofers or general contractors, but the city or county where the property is found does license. Framers, carpenters, flooring contractors, painters are not typically licensed. Engineers and architects must be licensed in Colorado. Colorado also requires electricians and plumbers to be licensed.

Do not sign a contract which allows the construction professional to use subcontractors, unless you know who is going to be used and what their qualifications are. Did you know that often roofers from outside Colorado, sometimes called storm chasers, pay a local roofer for the right to get building permits using the local roofer’s license? This sometimes happens with general contractors as well.

Do ask the contractor for proof of liability insurance. This is generally coverage under a Commercial General Liability insurance policy (CGL). Coverage under CGL policies is for claims against the insured for “bodily injury” or “property damage” resulting from the work. Architects and engineers should have professional liability insurance. Ask if the contractor has workers compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation insurance covers injuries to laborers. Sometimes contractors ask their subcontractors to waive the right to claim workers compensation if they are injured. Having workers at your property who are not insured for injuries puts the property owner at risk if someone gets hurt.

Do not rely too much on referral services. These services are “pay to play.” They are a promotional medium for contractors who pay to belong.

Do look for contractors who belong to the best professional associations. This is a sign the contractor is serious about his or her craft.

Do ask how long the contractor has been in business, and how many business names he or she has used in the last few years. Sometimes contractors run from financial or legal problems by creating new companies.

If the contractor promises you a manufacturer warranty, such as for shingles or windows or siding, ask how you will be protected against the manufacturer refusing to honor the warranty because installation is defective. Is the contractor willing to call the manufacturer to the job site for an inspection and approval of the installation? Without manufacturer approval, that warranty is likely to be useless.