Home Improvement Contractors

Contractor laws and licensing

Home improvement contractors

Home improvement contractors are the answer to your problems if you don't have the time or skills to do the project you have in mind. However, if you don't deal with your contractors properly, you may end up causing more problems than you solve. Here are some tips for getting the best out of your home improvement contractors.

Home improvement contractors: laying the ground rules

Discussing everything in advance is the best way to avoid stress later. There are a few essentials you need to discuss with your home improvement contractors before you start:

The contract itself. What work will be done? How long will it take? What materials will be used? How much will it all cost? Also ask if the contractor has a license and ask to see it.

Hours of working. Do you want the contractors doing the renovations while you're at work, or do you want them to work weekends to get the job done sooner? Are you happy to get up early at weekends to let people in?

Access to the property. Unless you want to put up with all the noise of construction, you're going to have to allow contractors to get into your property when you're not there. You need to talk about exactly who will have a spare key.

Home improvement contractors: keeping everybody happy

Much of the stress relating to home improvement contractors is caused by having strangers in your space and on your property. You'll cut down on the worry if you ensure that all breakable items are stored away before the renovation begins. Cover everything possible with dust sheets. Hang plastic sheets over the doorways to prevent plaster dust spreading. You should also show the contractors which bathroom they can use, and give them access to somewhere they can make drinks. (Brewing a pot of coffee and buying a pack of biscuits also does a lot to maintain goodwill.) Make it clear which areas of the house are out of bounds to workers. Then keep to your side of the bargain and do your best to keep out of the contractors' way.

Home improvement contractors: laws and licensing

The law relating to home improvement contractors varies from state to state. There are no national construction standards relating to the quality of the work carried out, mainly because environmental conditions are one of the main factors for determining standards. For example, California construction standards take the higher risk of earthquakes into account. As for your consumer rights when hiring a contractor, the law on this also varies depending on which state you live in. Most states require contractors to be licensed and insured so check for these safeguards at a very minimum. To find out what your local requirements and rights are, contact your state's Better Business Bureau or the consumer affairs department. Some states, such as Massachusetts (www.mass.gov/homeimprovement) put information and sample contracts online.

Home improvement contractors: some things are inevitable

Even with the best planning in the world, some things are never going to go smoothly. Being aware of this before you start is the best way of maintaining a positive attitude. For example, the work will always last for longer than expected. It is also likely that, for a big project, you will have some supplies temporarily cut off, whether that's water or electricity. Even smaller projects require more disruption than you would expect. Whatever happens, it's going to be a little stressful. So plan a few evenings out, or even a weekend away. Try not to lose your temper with the contractors; good workers are a valuable resource, and if you treat them right this time, you've got some home improvement contacts for life.


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