Top 10 things to do when hiring a contractor

The influx of warm weather has many people thinking about upcoming building projects, such as remodels, additions and new construction. Some consumers are handy – or brave – enough to take on their own projects, but many look to professional contractors to bring their visions to fruition. Better Business Bureau of Minnesota and North Dakota (BBB) offers a Top Ten list of things people should do before hiring a contractor.

“It’s often true that a good start is the best way to ensure a successful construction project,” said Dana Badgerow, president and CEO of BBB of Minnesota and North Dakota, “and there’s no better way to begin than by making sure that you’re dealing with a reliable contractor, one which will fulfill their contract and stand behind their work.”

Here are 10 things everyone should do before hiring a contractor:

Research their track record. Contact BBB to obtain free Business Reviews on any company you are considering hiring. Visit or call 1-800-646-6222.

Solicit multiple estimates. Shop around and get at least three estimates in writing. Use BBB’s Online Directory of Accredited Businesses.

Verify license and insurance. Ensure that companies are properly licensed. In Minnesota, contractors should be licensed or registered with the Minnesota Department of Labor (, in North Dakota, with the ND Secretary of State’s Office ( You should also make sure they are fully insured.

Ask for references. Get references from three recent projects and verify them before signing a contract.

Inquire about a lien waiver. A lien waiver is a statement from the contractor that all suppliers and subcontractors have been paid for their work. Be sure to ask whether the contractor will provide you with a lien waiver upon completion of the work.

Don’t forget building permits. Permits are for your protection and help ensure that work will meet local building codes. Check with your contractor before starting your project. Homeowners bear the cost of building permits, but companies should be responsible for obtaining any necessary permits.

Consider future service issues. If you choose to do business with a company that isn’t local, you might have difficulty resolving any warranty or service needs that may arise after the project is completed.

Get everything in writing. Do not allow work to begin without a signed contract that includes: start and completion dates; a detailed description of services to be provided; any costs or allowances; a payment schedule and warranty information. Be aware that anything you sign is a contract.

Don’t rely on verbal promises. Any promises made orally should be written into the contract, including warranty information.

Arrange a payment schedule. Never pay in full in advance of a project. Stagger your payments according to agreed-upon stages of work completion and make a final payment only when work is finished.

BBB also advises consumers to exercise caution with salespeople who are going door-to-door claiming to be doing work in your neighborhood. Always know who you’re dealing with; verify the company’s track record with BBB.