Hiring the Right Contractor
After a severe storm hits your area, it is always a good idea to get a full property damage inspection and at least three qualified estimates from reputable contractors. Some states do not have a state licensing requirement for contractors and storm damage brings potentially unreliable contractors in from other states. To protect yourself, make sure all contractors you talk to are reputable, established companies with references in your area. Make sure your contractor has completed numerous local jobs, is fully trained to install all of the materials required to restore your home and has a permanent office in your area. Remember your workmanship warranty is worthless if your contractor leaves the state and does not have a reciprocal relationship with a local contractor who will take care of you, should you need warranty service down the road.
Regardless of the contractor you choose to restore your home, protect yourself by making sure they meet the following criteria:
- Established company with a positive track record
- Fully insured; liability and workers comp
- Insurance claims experience
- Have passed a background check
- Can provide at least 3 local references
Questions to Ask Your Contractor:
How long has your company been in business?
Look for a company with an established business history. Most successful storm restoration contractors are proud of their history in business and hard-earned reputations.
Tell me about your experience working with insurance claims?
If you are filing an insurance claim, it is critical that you work with a contractor who has the experience to advocate for you and make sure your insurance claim is settled for a fair amount that will cover the cost of your repairs.
Do you have your own crews, or do you outsource your work?
While many good contractors outsource the actual restoration work to subcontractors, you’ll want to make sure your contractor can provide adequate supervision to ensure a high quality finished job.
Who will be assigned as my on-site project manager for the job?
Ask for the contact information for this person, and whom you can contact if the project manager is not available. Get the names and phone numbers for the people who will be overseeing your job.
What can I expect from you and your team?
This question will give you a sense of how the contractor works and what you can expect during your project. This is a big indicator of how the company does business.
Does your company specialize in storm repair?
If you have damage to your roof, siding, windows, or structural damage, you’ll want to make sure your contractor specializes in those repairs. Storm restoration can be a complicated process and you want to make sure you are working with an expert with the experience to ensure a good result for you.
Is your company fully insured? Do you carry liability and workers compensation?
It is always smart to ask any contractor you are considering hiring for copies of their insurance policies to verify coverage, then confirm that the policy is in force with your contractor’s insurance company. If a worker is injured on your property and your contractor does not have adequate coverage, you can be held responsible. So, protect yourself by making sure your contractor is fully insured.
Can you provide a list of references for local projects in the past 12 months?
The contractor should be able to supply you with a minimum of three references, including names, telephone numbers and addresses. See the checking a contractor’s references section for tips on questions to ask. To determine if your contractor is running a sound business, ask for supplier references and make sure they are in good standing with local materials suppliers.
What percentage of your business is by referral?
This will give you a good sense of the contractor’s customer satisfaction rate. In an area hit by a storm, referrals to a good contractor are very common so ask to see if your contractor has a high rate of referral businesses.
How many insurance claims have you handled in the past 12 months?
This will help you determine the contractor's familiarity with storm damage repair and working through the insurance claims process. An active storm restoration contractor will have handled at least 50 claims in the past 12 months.
What permits will be required for this project?
This will give you a good sense of what permits will be required for your project. Since it is critical to obtain permits for most serious storm restoration projects and your inspection can be denied without a permit, it is critical to understand what your contractor is legally required to do before the work can begin.
Do I feel comfortable hiring this person and do I trust this company to repair my property?
Your home, or property is an important financial asset, so it is critical to have a high level of confidence in the person you hire to repair your property. To ensure a positive outcome, make sure and do your homework.
Contractor Warning Signs
To protect yourself and your family from inexperienced, uninsured contractors, and out-of-state contractors who may not be experienced repairing storm damage, or have your best interests in mind, watch out for the following warning signs:
- Out of state license plates
- No local office
- No insurance or under-insured
- Won’t provide local references
- Demands upfront cash or deposit
- Convicted criminals and sex offenders
- Poor BBB ratings or no local ratings
When asking for references, it is a good idea to ask for the last three, local jobs the contractor performed. Do not hire a contractor who cannot provide local references or who is unwilling to let you drive by the site of a completed job in your area. Once you receive references, do your homework and give them a call. Explain that you are a homeowner in the area and are thinking of working with the contractor. The following questions will give you a good idea of how your contractor will treat your project and the level of professionalism you can expect.
- Did your contractor clearly explain what needed to be done in advance?
- How did your contractor handle your insurance claims process?
- Did your contractor and crew show up on time?
- Was there always someone there to answer your questions?
- Did the contractor obtain necessary permits?
- Was the crew pleasant and professional?
- Were change orders made in writing?
- Did any issues arise? How were they handled?
- How did the contractor leave your site at the end of the day?
- Did your job finish on schedule?
- Did the work pass inspection?
- Did the finished job meet your expectations?
- Was your contractor fair, ethical and honest?
- Would you work with this contractor again?
- Would you hesitate to recommend this contractor to a family member?