Better Business

Robb Hicken: Do homework, nail down details when hiring contractors

Chief storyteller for the Better Business Bureau serving the Snake River RegionJune 18, 2014 

Robb Hicken.JPG

Robb Hicken


When a contractor doesn't do what he's supposed to do, there's more than one person at fault, says Bill Keilty of Keilty Remodeling Inc. in Boise.

"It's always tough going in behind someone else, because you're already having to deal with an unsatisfied customer," Keilty says.

And if the contractor failed to do the work properly, the new contractor has to deal with mistakes or changes that may cost more than originally planned.

Keilty says hiring a contractor starts with the consumer. "The more you can check their references, the better off you are going to be," he advises.

The Internet has made it so consumers can know more about a contractor than ever before. Licensing, past projects and business reviews are all available.

"People always ask about licensing, but I have to correct them that it's registration, not a license," Keilty says, referring to the Idaho Contractors Registration Board and the Idaho Bureau of Occupational Licenses. "We recommend that they check that and go to NARI (the National Association of the Remodeling Industry) and BBB (the Better Business Bureau)."

In addition, check with subcontractors. If a contractor fails to pay a subcontractor, the matter may end up in court and with a lien on the property.

BBB suggests the following:

Get multiple estimates. When hiring a contractor to do any type of work, get at least three estimates. Make sure the contractors have proof of their registration and insurance. Ask if a permit is required for the project. Qualified contractors are able to acquire any permits before starting the job. Check out a contractor at to see how long it has been in business, if it is accredited and if there are any complaints against the business.

Check references. Look at more than what the contractor supplies. If possible, ask to visit previous jobs and interview the given references. Ask the previous customers if the job was completed to their specifications and on schedule. Ask why they would recommend that particular contractor and if they would use the contractor again. Ask if the original estimate was close to what they paid or if the contractor charged unforeseen costs along the way.

Never pay up front. Try to arrange a low down payment and pay the contractor only according to how much work has been completed. Do not make the final payment until the job is completed and the final project meets your standards. Pay with a credit card or check, never cash.

Get everything in writing. Ask the contractor for a written agreement that clearly includes all project details. The contract should consist of: contact information, a payment schedule, estimated completion date, materials being used and their cost, warranties and any specific promises. Make sure to include that the contractor is accountable for cleaning up the area after completion of the work. Never sign a blank contract or any contract without reading it thoroughly. Keep a copy of the contract after the job is completed in case there is an issue., 947-2115

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