Tips on Hiring a Contractor


Tip # 1:

Is the individual or company licensed? The Commonwealth of Virginia requires all contractors to be licensed by the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation (DPOR) when the value of the work exceeds $1000. Additionally, their license number must appear on all contracts, estimates and advertising. If you have a question concerning the individuals license you can contact DPOR at their automated phone line at 1-(804) 367-8511 or on the web at

Tip #2:

Is the contractor properly insured? Your contractor should carry and be able to provide you with proof of two types of insurance General Liability and Workers Compensation. General Liability covers any damage that may occur to your property during the construction process. Workers compensation insurance covers the contractor’s employees for any work related injuries that may occur on your project. If the contractor does not carry proper insurance you could be held liable for injuries to his employees or you may have to pay for any damages that may occur to your property in conjunction with the work.

Tip #3:

Ask for references. A contractor with a history of good customer service and job performance will generally be willing to provide you with references of past customers and suppliers. Past customers will be able to provide answers to the following questions:

  1. Was the job started and finished on time and at the contract price?
  2. Where you able to contact and communicate with the contractor easily during the project?
  3. Would you hire this contractor again?

Suppliers will be able to tell you if the contractor pays his bill on time and whether or not the supplier would recommend this contractor.

Tip #4:

Contracts. Remember these fundamental rules for contract administration:

  • Never pay the contractor in cash or provide any type of payment without a written contract.
  • Never pay more than 10% of the contract price as a down payment after the contract is signed.
  • Always have a good set of contract documents. These should include the drawings and specifications.
  • Set up a schedule of progress payments based on the progress of the work to be used to pay the contractor. These can be set up to follow the required inspections so you can require the contractor to successfully pass his inspection before releasing any payments.
  • Always withhold a minimum of 10% of the contract price to be issued as final payment once the work has been inspected and completed to your satisfaction. This payment should also be subject to the contractor submitting all lien releases from his subcontractors and material suppliers. These will prove the contractor has paid everyone who has worked on or supplied materials to the project.

Tip #5:

Keep good records of your transactions. Keep all receipts, bills, contracts, copies of permits and etc. If it pertains to the job, no matter how insignificant keep it!

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