Public Adjuster Advice Hiring Contractors:
Public Adjusters do not, as a matter of practice and ethics, recommend contractors. That being said, our public adjusters have some advice for homeowners to be cautious when hiring contractors. A general contractor is the person you hire to supervise the entire job, whether it’s new construction or a major remodel job. The contractor is responsible for managing all aspects of the job including purchasing materials and hiring sub-contractors (subs). Normally, you sign a contract with the general contractor and make payments only to him or her. The contractor is then responsible for paying the subs and suppliers. The contractor is the person you approach with all your questions and comments about the work. The contractor in turn communicates your concerns to the subs.
Our public adjusters have witnessed so many homeowners suffer nightmares with contractors.
Some public adjuster tips when hiring a contractor:
Check with friends, neighbors, trade associations, and home improvement stores for referrals. Word of mouth is the best form of advertising. Internet resources such as YELP, Angie’s List and GOOGLE Reviews may provide some insight as well when you are researching potential contractors. Verify their license. In the state of Florida you can confirm their license at: Licensed Contractors
Whether you get referrals from people you trust or blindly searching the internet, trust your instincts. Did the contractor return your call without delay and show up on time for your appointment? During the interview, did the contractor answer questions to your satisfaction? Did the contractor readily provide references? Did he or she lay out his/her expectations for the job? Did you sense a good rapport with the contractor? Communication is an important aspect of the client/contractor relationship and you should feel you can speak directly and honestly with your contractor.
Get at least three bids or more. Compare apples to apples, otherwise you will have no basis for comparison. You may bargain; but don’t cut corners. The estimates should be very detailed. The bids you receive should be in writing and contain an itemized list of labor and materials charges. You want fixed bids, not time and materials bids, which have a way of escalating far beyond what you expected the job to cost. The bids you receive will inform you a lot about the people bidding. Was the bid ready when the contractor promised it? Heed warning signs if the contractor breaks his/her first commitment to you. Was the bid shockingly high? This contractor is busy and only wants the job if you’re willing to pay a premium for his/her time. Was the bid really low? This contractor either doesn’t understand the scope of the job or has deliberately underbid to get the job; and will likely discover several unanticipated problems that are not covered in the original contract which will require additional cash outlay. Your bids may include large design/build companies you’re aware of and smaller companies you’ve never heard of. Don’t rule out this last bunch—there are many good contractors you’ve never heard of because they prefer to get all their referrals by word-of-mouth.
The estimate should have every detail including the details of removing and resetting or replacing a light bulb. Measurements should be included. Permit fees should be included. Ensure proper permits are obtained and are paid.
Here is a sample portion of a detailed estimate:
Foyer/Entry LxWxH 12′ 6″ x 7′ x 8′
215.35 SF Walls
302.85 SF Walls & Ceiling
9.72 SY Flooring
100.00 SF Long Wall
39.00 LF Ceil. Perimeter
87.50 SF Ceiling
87.50 SF Floor
25.92 LF Floor Perimeter
56.00 SF Short Wall
Missing Wall – Goes to Floor 2′ 11″ X 6′ 6″ Opens into Exterior
Missing Wall – Goes to neither Floor/Ceiling 1′ 8″ X 6′ 6″ Opens into Exterior
Missing Wall – Goes to Floor 3′ X 6′ 6″ Opens into Exterior
Missing Wall – Goes to Floor 4′ 8″ X 6′ 8″ Opens into Exterior
Missing Wall – Goes to Floor 2′ 6″ X 6′ 6″ Opens into Exterior
CAT SEL ACT DESCRIPTION
CALC QTY RESET REMOVE REPLACE TAX O&P TOTAL
17. FCT AV++ & R&R Tile floor covering – Premium grade
F 87.50 SF 2.54+ 11.84 = 90.60 251.66 1,600.51
20. FCT LEVCEM< + Floor leveling cement – Light F 87.50 SF 0.00+ 1.33 = 8.38 23.28 148.04 29. FCT MORTAR & R&R Mortar bed for tile floors F 87.50 SF 1.38+ 3.27 = 29.30 81.38 517.56 19. FCT US>> & R&R Underlayment – sound/crack membrane – 70+ to 90 mil
F 87.50 SF 0.93+ 2.12 = 19.22 53.38 339.48
1. FNC B6FJ & R&R Baseboard – 6″
PF 25.92 LF 0.52+ 5.13 = 10.55 29.30 186.30
28. PNT MASKSFC + Floor protection – corrugated cardboard and tape
F 87.50 SF 0.00+ 0.45 = 2.83 7.88 50.09
3. PNT MASKLF + Mask and prep for paint – plastic, paper, tape (per LF)
PC 39.00 LF 0.00+ 1.02 = 2.87 7.96 50.61
5. PNT SP + Seal/prime then paint the walls and ceiling (2 coats)
WC 302.85 SF 0.00+ 0.68 = 14.83 41.18 261.95
6. PNT B1SP + Seal & paint baseboard – two coats
F 87.50 LF 0.00+ 1.12 = 7.06 19.60 124.66
22. PNT B1SP + Seal & paint baseboard – two coats
C 87.50 LF 0.00+ 1.12 = 7.06 19.60 124.66
7. PNT DORT + Paint door/window trim & jamb – 2 coats (per side)
4 4.00 EA 0.00+ 22.62 = 6.52 18.10 115.10
CAT SEL ACT DESCRIPTION
CALC QTY RESET REMOVE REPLACE TAX O&P TOTAL
23. PNT DOR + Paint door slab only – 2 coats (per side)
2 2.00 EA 0.00+ 26.89 = 3.88 10.76 68.42
8. PNT BF<1 + Paint single bifold door – slab only – 1 coat (per side)
4 4.00 EA 0.00+ 15.47 = 4.45 12.38 78.71
26. HVC TSRS + Thermostat – Detach & reset
1 1.00 EA 0.00+ 41.40 = 2.98 8.28 52.66
9. ELE OSCOVD & R&R Outlet or switch cover – Double
3 3.00 EA 0.64+ 3.64 = 0.93 2.56 16.33
11. LIT CHANRS + Chandelier – Detach & reset
1 1.00 EA 0.00+ 108.82 = 7.84 21.76 138.42
24. FCS ACID + Acid wash stone floor
F 87.50 SF 0.00+ 1.15 = 7.25 20.12 128.00
92. FNH THR & R&R Door threshold
1 1.00 EA 8.50+ 40.59 = 3.54 9.82 62.45
118. PNT RGSTR + Prime & paint heat register
1 1.00 EA 0.00+ 15.79 = 1.14 3.16 20.09
Totals: Foyer/Entry 231.23 642.16 4,084.04
Make every effort to not only call the contractor’s references, but to see the work for yourself. You never know, that happy customer could have entirely different quality standards than you do. Before you sign a contract, you also want to check into how he or she conducts business. Check the credit history and bank references, verify that the contractor carries both worker’s compensation and liability insurance, and make sure there are no complaints against the contractor filed with the local consumer affairs office, builders’ association, or Better Business Bureau.
Most contractors have a standard boiler plate contracts. However, you may make changes amenable to both of you. Prior to signing the contract read it over carefully and ask questions about anything you don’t understand or don’t agree with. Some elements you should insist are part of the contract are start and finish dates, a procedure for handling changes, and a statement that the contractor will provide lien waivers for him or herself and all subs and suppliers. Homeowners may insist on a penalty for not finishing on time. Contractors may resist because homeowners do their fair share to make a job drag past the completion date. If you insist on a penalty, you may also provide a bonus for early completion. A good contract will also include a payment schedule. Typically this specifies three 30-percent lump payments at specified milestones with the final 10 percent held back until punch list items are completed. Do not pay anything more than token earnest money up front, if that. A successful contractor has adequate credit and cash flow to cover initial labor and materials.
A note about sub-contractors: A sub-contractor performs work in a particular area, such as plumbing, electrical, tiling, or painting. While the contractor hires the subs on large jobs, you may occasionally hire a sub yourself for a smaller project or one that you are managing yourself. The process for selecting subs and obtaining bids is similar to a contractor: get referrals, collect bids, narrow the field, and make your decision. Since the scope of the job is usually narrower, you generally just sign the itemized bid to seal the deal. As with a contractor, be wary of paying any money up front. Payment is usually in full upon completion of the job, and be sure to have the sub sign a lien waiver when you make payment.
Be Cautious or Concerned when Hiring Contractors if Contractors:
• Provide credentials or references that can’t be verified, such as not listing a business number on the website, business card or other directories.
• Solicit their services door-to-door.
• Offer a special price only if you sign today or use other high-pressure sales tactics.
• Only accept cash, require large deposits or the entire costs up front, or ask you to make the payment in their name.
• Do not provide a written contract or complete bid.
• Ask you to pick up the building permit. In most instances, the contractor is required to take out the permits. Permits are your protection and help ensure that work will meet local building codes.
• Offer exceptionally long warranties.
• Want to do most or all of the work on weekends and after-hours.
• Provides you with an offer that sounds too good to be true.
Other Tips to Consider Hiring Contractors:
• If you get a loan for your home improvement project, have the lender make the check payable to you rather than the contractor. Otherwise, you will lose control of the funds.
• According to the Federal Trade Commission’s Cooling-Off rule, if you sign the contract in your home or at a location that is not the contractor’s permanent place of business, you have three business days to cancel the deal. During the sales transaction, the contractor must give you two copies of a cancellation form and a copy of your contract or receipt. The contract or receipt must be dated, show the name and address of the seller and explain your right to cancel.
• Avoid making the final payment or signing an affidavit of final release until you are satisfied with the work and have proof that subcontractors and suppliers have been paid.
• If you have a problem with your project, first try to resolve it with the contractor. Otherwise, consider contacting your state or local consumer protection offices, Builders Association Council or local Better Business Bureau.
Should you suffer any damage to your home, contact D’Orsa and Associates, LLC Public Adjusters to handle your insurance claim. Public Adjusters are licensed and required to be knowledgeable in insurance law and coverage. Be wary of contractors attempting to handle or adjust your insurance claim unless they are also licensed public adjusters. Contact our public adjusters at (877) 742-3587 to handle all aspects of your insurance claim to help you fully recover from your loss. D’Orsa and Associates, LLC public adjusters recommend that you do not begin hiring contractors or get contractor estimates until we have finished handling your insurance claim and have been paid to fully recover from your loss.
Contact D’Orsa and Associates, LLC public adjusters to help you through the insurance claims process:
(877) 742-3587 – (877) P I ADJUSTER