What to Look For in a Home Improvement Contractor


Home improvement work can be very simple or quite involved. Either way, work is being done on one of your most expensive assets; mistakes can be costly and cause stress. But consumers can prevent a large amount of trouble by doing their "homework" before the work starts.

  • Decide on exactly what you need or want to have done. Be able to communicate it clearly. If you have photos of similar work, use them.  You will have a much better chance of getting what you want.
  • If the size of the project is large, you may need to speak with an architect. But don't wait until the last minute to bring in your home improvement contractor as well. Having the contractor and architect working together from the beginning will alleviate many potential problems.
  • Choose contractors to interview. Select your contractor carefully. Most dependable, good contractors get plenty of work through referrals from satisfied customers, so speaking to other homeowners is the most important first step. Flashy advertising doesn't guarantee quality work. Talk to friends, neighbors and relatives who recently had remodeling work done and ask about the price, quality and dependability of the work. Online referral services can help at the start, but you must still carefully interview each candidate and check their references. Town building officials may be able to steer you away from problem contractors.
  • Do an initial quality check on the names you now have. Getting this information may help you to narrow your list, before you even interview them.
    • Verify that each contractor is actively registered as a home improvement contractor with the Department of Consumer Protection. Why is this important?You may verify online, or call 860-713-6110 or toll-free at 1-800-842-2649. When reaching us by phone, you can also inquire whether a contractor has a complaint history with the Department.
    • Check litigation history online by visiting the CT Judicial website and doing case look-ups under Civil, Criminal and Small Claims court records. Select “party name search” from the left menu and type in the contractor’s last and first name in the boxes provided.
  • After narrowing your list, meet with at least three contractors who might be appropriate.
    • Ask to drive by some of their current and recently finished jobs.
    • Ask for phone numbers of recent clients.
    • Each registered Home Improvement Contractor is given a wallet card, good for one year. Ask to see the registration card and check the valid dates.
    • Ask about their current workloads.Can this contractor really start and finish when they say they can?
    • Show them the area where work is needed, describe the job.
    • Ask them to give you a written estimate or bid within a few days.
  • Once you have interviewed several candidates and reviewed their bids, narrow your selection to two or three final possible choices. 
    • Don't choose a contractor based only on the lowest estimate. References and recommendations from others will tell you about dependability and integrity, which are as important as price. 
    • Ask yourself: Which of them took the time to really listen? Which took notes and seemed interested in the work?  Did anyone seem overly confident or abrupt?Which of the candidates do you feel most comfortable speaking with?
    • Ask for a current copy of the contractor's worker’s compensation and liability insurance policies and verify that they are active.  Home improvement contractors must obtain general liability insurance of no less than $20,000.
    • Discuss a payment schedule and be sure you are both in agreement, as you will be including it in your contract. We strongly suggest a 3- or 4-part payment schedule that corresponds to the progress of the work. If a contractor wants all or most of the money as a down payment, it may signal financial trouble. This may be a deal-breaker and you should consider another contractor.
Now, you are well-prepared to choose your contractor and set a date to execute a contract.