Whether you're building a home or planning an addition for a growing family, finding a competent and reliable contractor is the first step to a successful and satisfying building or remodeling project.
Your home may be your most valuable financial asset. That's why it's important to be cautious when you hire someone to work on it. Contractors often advertise in newspapers, the Yellow Pages, and on the radio and TV. However, don't consider an ad an indication of the quality of a contractor's work. Your best bet is a reality check from those in the know: friends, neighbors, or co-workers who have had improvement work done. Don't automatically choose the lowest bidder as it almost never turns out well.
Know what to look for in a contractor:
Tip-offs to potential rip-offs:
- solicits door-to-door;
- offers you discounts for finding other customers;
- just happens to have materials left over from a previous job;
- only accepts cash payments;
- asks you to get the required construction permits;
- does not list a business number in the local telephone directory;
- address is a P.O. box;
- tells you your job will be a "demonstration;
- "pressures you for an immediate decision;
- asks you to pay for the entire job up-front.
Questions you should ask:
How long have you been in business?
Look for a well-established company and check it out with consumer protection officials. Lakewood Companies has been in business since 1989.
Are you licensed and registered with the state?
Since January 1, 2008, any contractor who wants to take out a construction or erosion control permit for a one- or two-family dwellings will require two certifications from the Wisconsin Safety and Buildings Division. One is the Dwelling Contractor Certification. The other is the Dwelling Contractor Qualifier Certification. Wisconsin and Michigan require permits for construction projects, even for simple jobs like decks. A competent contractor will get all the necessary permits before starting work on your project. Be suspicious if the contractor asks you to get the permits. It could mean that the contractor is not licensed or registered, as required by the state.
May I have a list of references?
You will find a list of our most recent clients along with testimonials from past projects in our pre-project package. Every contractor should be able to give you the names, addresses, and phone numbers of multiple clients. We can visit jobs in progress, as well as some we have completed. During our presentation you will be able to view some pictures of the projects we have.
Will you be using subcontractors on my project?
If yes, you may want to meet them. This is usually accomplished at our project walk-through. All of our subcontractors have current insurance coverage and licenses, if required and are usually long time partners.
What type of insurance do you carry?
All contractors are required to carry general liability insurance and worker's compensation. The general liability policy should carry limits of not less than $1,000,000. Ask for copies of insurance certificates, and make sure they're current. Avoid doing business with contractors who don't carry the appropriate insurance. Otherwise, you'll be held liable for any injuries and damages that occur during the project.
How will our project be managed?
We assign one person, a Project Manager, to each project at a time. This is the person who will be your primary contact throughout the project and will be with you every day until the project is successfully completed.
Will you give us a copy of the schedule for our project?
Your project needs to be finished in a timely and efficient manner. We are committed to the process of producing your project on schedule. Timeliness is the single biggest complaint about contractors. Lakewood Companies will give you a copy of your schedule so that you may monitor our progress. A sample schedule is included in your pre-construction package for your review.
What is your warranty?
Lakewood Companies stands behind our projects with a written warranty.
Will the job be kept clean?
While no one can promise that the home will be kept completely dust free, we at Lakewood Companies use dust curtains to seal off the area under renovation. We cover the floors that will be used for travel with protective covering designed specifically for the floor type involved. Work areas are swept at the end of every day and we provide a detailed cleaning service for the work area at the end of the job.
Talk with some of the contractor's former customers. They can help you decide if a particular contractor is right for you. You may want to ask:
- Can I visit your home to see the completed job?
- Were you satisfied with the project?
- Was it completed on time?
- Did the contractor keep you informed about the status of the project, and any problems along the way?
- Were there unexpected costs? If so, what were they?
- Did workers show up on time?
- Did they clean up after finishing the job?
- Would you recommend the contractor?
- Would you use the contractor again?