Serving Metrowest and Central Massachusetts

Homeowner Tips
This page is for the homeowner, to give you the information you need to make the right choice on hiring a contractor and getting your project to run smoother. If you think that after checking this list that I am missing something or you have a question, please send me an e-mail and I'll help you however I can.

1. Get 3 bids from different contractors that you contact, this will give you a good feel for what your project will cost. Compare all 3 bids together to ensure that they are estimating your project completely. A lower price is not always the way to go, they may have underestimated your project (sometimes intentionally), not listed some of the items and will charge you later on for them, or may be using inferior products, check every item listed, a very brief estimate leaves room for errors. The old saying of "you get what you pay for" couldn't be anymore true than it is in the construction trade, a low price is no guarantee of the quality of the work. Don't kick yourself after your project is done due to how bad it came out, do your homework before hiring your contractor.

2. Check the references of the contractors and see if you can visit his past projects to see the work in person. I don't provide references directly for my customers as I invite them to look at the photo pages and ask for the references that correspond with the photos they are looking at. This allows my customers to choose who they want to talk to versus my providing them with preset references. Some contractors can do some really incredible work that can best be appreciated in person versus a photo, but the same can be said of some really bad work, it looks nice in a photo but up close you see the lack of quality in the work. Having a project that gets inspected is not a guarantee of quality work either, the inspector is just there to confirm that it has been built to code, but he is not there to confirm quality.

3. Check the licensing of the contractors, a Construction Supervisors License (CSL), aka a Builders License allows that person to supervise a crew and to build. A Home Improvement Contractors License(HIC) allows that person to only do remodels that do not have any structural changes occurring, exterior doors that are not changing their sizes, flooring, trim work, and painting. A contractor has to hold a valid Massachusetts license to pull permits in Mass., no out of state licenses are accepted in Mass. You can research a contractors registration with the state to make sure they hold a valid license, here is a link to the state website: http://db.state.ma.us/dps/licenseelist.asp . Starting in 2008, Massachusetts changed licensing of the Home Improvement Contractor's Licensing to now require a Construction Supervior's License for the following contractors:
  • Roofing
  • Exterior siding
  • Erection of rooftop solar collectors
  • Construction of swimming pools
  • Erection of signs
  • Erection of tents
  • Replacement windows not involving structural modifications

    This means that besides having a Home Improvement Contractor's License, the contractor must now also carry the CSL for these specific types of construction. If the contractor carries an unrestricted builders license or a 1&2 family builders license then they do not need to carry the sub-licenses to do the work.

    4. Insurance is important for the contractor to have for your protection. They should have Worker's Comp. if they have a crew of any size and also Liability Insurance. Sole Proprietors that do not have a crew just need Liability. A contractor should have no problem supplying you with "Certificates of Insurance" for both Worker's Comp. and Liability with your name listed on the certificate.

    5. If you are doing a deck or porch, changing your doors and/or windows sizes, doing an addition, remodeling your basement into separate rooms or anything that needs something built you need a Construction Supervisor's License (aka Builder's License) to do it, a Home Improvement Contractor's License is not enough. Many contractors state that they build decks and additions but do not have the proper licensing to do so.

    6. Building permits can be issued to either the contractor or the homeowner, but it is advisable to have the contractor pull the permit. By pulling the permit, that person assumes all responsibility for the project. There is what is called the Guarantee Fund here in Mass. as another form of protection for a homeowner from unscrupulous contractors, but you are only eligible for it if the contractor pulls the permit. The permit needs to be posted so it is visible from the street at all times, if you don't see a permit for your project ask your contractor for it. Your local inspector has the right to order a "Stop Work Order" if he finds work being done without a permit which will cause your project to grind to a dead stop, as you will then have to apply for a permit. Projects done without permits can cause a lot of headaches down the road, from your town/city officials, trying to sell your home, and with your insurance company. Insurance companies look for any reason to not accept a claim and once they find out that work was done without a permit then they are more than happy to deny your claim. It's not worth the risk to do the work without the permit.

    7. Any project valued at $1,000 or more needs to have a contract written up for it, both to protect the homeowner and the contractor. Make sure all items are listed and that you fully understand everything on it before signing it. If there are blank spaces or you do not understand it then DO NOT sign it, talk with your contractor and get your questions answered. Even after signing the contract you have three days to withdraw your approval and at no financial penalty to you under Massachusetts state law.

    8. Surprises are inevitable on most any project, some can be foreseen and accounted for by your contractor, but not all. No one can see inside a wall that has carpenter ant damage that has weakened the framing or a slow water leak that has rotted the frame. You may also find as the project progresses that you want to change things, this is normal. Changes and surprises will typically incur more costs so that price for your project could be higher by the end of it. Have a budget that is ready for extras because you don't want your project to come to a standstill because the money ran out. If there are no surprises then great, maybe you can buy a new barbecue for the deck or a larger TV for that addition, or throw it back into savings.

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    9. Take the time to think your project through, consider all of your options so you can be prepared for when you meet your potential contractor. It will save loads of time if you know as much about your project ahead of time. If you are building a deck or porch get to know the different products that are out there and the possible costs associated with them. If you are getting ready to remodel, then consider your options for flooring, tiling, wall covers, cabinets, etc. so you'll have a better vision of what you want and the contractor can give you a more accurate estimate.
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