Homeowners often complain of projects that cost more than estimated, delays, low-quality workmanship, miscommunications, and outright scams, all of which can pack a wallop to your wallet.
While due diligence isn't a guarantee that your home repair experience will be stress-free, it's the best way to protect yourself from these nightmares.
Perhaps a friend or neighbor recommended a repair person, or maybe you found one via an online forum or in the phone book. Remember that a recommendation is just the first step in securing reputable help. Do be sure that you also keep these important things in mind:
1. Ask the service professional you are considering to provide references. You'll want to contact at least two other sources who can confirm a job well done.
2. Make sure whoever you hire has adequate insurance (both general liability and worker's compensation) to cover any mishaps in your home. Otherwise you may be liable for the coverage if the unthinkable happens.
3. Check to see that your prospective contractor has professional credentials and affiliations. A contractor who is affiliated with organizations in his or her field is more likely to stay abreast of new developments in their area of expertise, as well as having access to the professional resources available to members. Your job is safer in the hands of someone who is in the field as a career, rather than simply trying out a new sideline.
Often, you'll see the words "licensed, bonded, and insured" in advertisements for home fix-it professionals. Licensing refers to a professional registration with a governing body (like a state) that typically requires the contractor to adhere to certain standards. If a contractor is bonded, it means he or she has set aside funds in an account that is secured by the state; these funds are made available should a consumer win a claim against a company. And again, insurance is an important safeguard for your protection (as well as the company's) should anything go terribly wrong.
4. Find a home pro who accepts credit cards. Paying by credit card affords you much greater protection than cash or check in case you are dissatisfied with a job.
5. Get it all in writing. Make sure your estimate details each part of the work to be done, what kind/quality of materials will be used, who is responsible for supplying the materials, and a comprehensive cost breakdown so you can see exactly for what services you'll be paying.
6. Reward longevity. Many years in the business mean that many more previous customers you can contact for a recommendation.
Of course, no one can guarantee that the home repairs you hire out will be problem-free, but taking these steps is as close as you can get to ensuring quality workmanship. That's peace of mind you can take all the way to the bank.
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This article, written by Elizabeth Brokamp, was originally published on Nov. 11, 2006. It has been updated by Dayana Yochim. The Fool has a disclosure policy.