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10 Tips for Working With a Contractor

This is the year you're going all out. You're going to build a deck, add a porch, erect a gazebo or lay a patio. You've done the research. It's well within your capability and you're looking forward to the satisfaction of creating a structure of beauty.

Or not. Yes -- you'd like to proceed with an outdoor structure but for you, it isn't a do-it-yourself project. How can you find the right person to do it for you? Here are 10 tips for hiring and working with a contractor.
1.Plan your project carefully. Clip pictures, make sketches, write a description. This will help you accurately convey to the contractor what you want the finished product to be.
2.Make a list of contractors. Ask your neighbors or friends for the names of reputable tradesmen. Contact material suppliers -- lumberyards, for example -- and ask for recommendations.
3.Get at least three written bids for the project, but don't give in to the temptation to automatically accept the lowest bid. A higher bid may be worth the price in better materials, workmanship and reliability. If you get a very low bid, the contractor may have made a mistake or forgotten to bid on everything you wanted. If they have deliberately low-bid, they may use cheaper materials or take shortcuts to make a profit.
4.Many states and provinces require registration and/or licensing. For the USA, www.nationalcontractors.com provides a starting point for your state and type of construction. Click on Verify Contractors License. If licences are required in your jurisdiction, be certain to ask to see your contractor's licences and be sure that it's not expired.
5.Ask for references and then check them out. Look at the projects and ask the previous clients if they are satisfied with the quality of work done, if it was started and completed on schedule and if it is complete.
6.Get a signed, written contract and be sure you understand it. The Construction Contractors Board of Oregon claims that the single biggest cause of homeowner-contractor disputes is the written contract: not having one, having a poor one, or having one everyone ignores. A good contract should include:
oThe company name, address (not a post office box) & phone number, the name of the builder, contractor and licence number, if applicable
oA detailed project description
oA materials list
oA statement that all necessary permits and inspections are the responsibility of the contractor
oStarting and completion dates
oWarranties of workmanship, the length of the warranty, and specifically what's covered and what's not
oContractor's guarantee that he carries liability insurance and worker's compensation coverage
oA statement that clean-up will be done by the contractor
oThe total price and payment schedule
Be wary of hourly, time and materials or cost-plus pricing where the final price is not determined until completion of the project. Although it may seem higher, a fixed price may give you the best protection and price.

Debbie Rodgers



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