As I drive through my community to and from work I tend to take notice of the various projects going on. Homes being built, additions being added, docks and seawalls under construction, landscaping contractors coming and going, roofs being replaced. I also read the newspaper daily and occasionally read with sadness of the many good people in our community and around the state that get taken advantage of. Despite strict state laws contractors still engage in predatory practices that tarnish the fine reputation of tradesman and craftsman in the industry. I thought I would take a minute to offer you some very important advice on engaging in business with contractors. If you like it please use it. If you don’t it was free and you may discard it.
First and most importantly never pay for an estimate. You should never have to pay someone to give you information about their business and how much a project will cost. Consider this part of the process your interview with the contractor. Don’t just ask about the project and don’t assume because they were listed in the yellow pages they are qualified.
In the state of Florida, homebuilders, remodelers, roofers, heating and air conditioning companies, electricians, plumbers, aluminum contractors (screen enclosures) and many other specialties must be state certified to practice their trade. This is different than an occupational license. The contractor must take a test, pay fees, receive continuing education that is properly certified, and remain in good standing with the state and the municipalities and counties in which they practice their trade. You should insist on receiving their license number and check their status on MyFlorida.com to make sure they have no complaints on their license and that they are current. In addition you can check with your local building department on line to see if they have pulled a permit on your job.
Always get three estimates for any work performed. You want to have an apples to apples comparison so make sure all bids include a scope of work that describes what is included and what is specifically not included in the contract. If you don’t you could find yourself with considerable add on costs. Take your time and review everything and ask many questions. Every question you might have is important without exception. Many contractors will require a deposit and this is acceptable if the contractor is reputable but make sure the deposit is appropriate for the work being performed. Deposits of 10-20% are typical. But remember that State Law requires that deposits of 10% or greater require the contractor to pull a permit within 30 days.
Finally check references from a minimum of three customers. Past business experiences and an important clue as to how your project will run. Professional contractors always have customer names and numbers to offer. Make sure references are current. How a business performed ten years ago is of little value. Good luck with your next project and I hope this advice helps.