Before you hire someone to do construction, do the following:
Check Department of Consumer Affairs for complaints
Get a valid certificate of insurance (with you as named insured)
Get a signed letter that they will cover any fines or violations.
If you hire someone not covered you are responsible for building violations.
Advice from PSP Members about working with contractors:
"Before dealing with a contractor, you should always ask for multiple references, and then ask to see the completed work. You should visit recent jobs, as well as older jobs -- if the contractor does shoddy work, it is sometimes not evident until years later. But it is important that you actually look at the work and not rely on a phone interview. People that are happy with their contractor generally do not mind showing his work – After all, they probably had the same courtesy extended to them. For cabinets, a professional shop will also give you references that you should check out. Any professional shop will give references without hesitation. But key is having a good contractor. A good contractor has cultivated relationships with reputable professionals in all areas and should always be able to point you in the right direction. We have done 4 pretty substantial renovations to our home, and have never been burned. Not cause we are lucky, but simply because we have been careful who we select to work with. We also have a great contractor -- we have often argued with him because he is so expensive, but in the end, we always got what we paid for: a quality renovation and no heartaches."
"Ask contractors to put you in touch with their suppliers/distributors and/or their subcontractors in order to find out how they are handling that end of things. “We've found that sleazy people who lie to customers are often in hot water with their vendors too (late payment, badly treated, etc.)”
"Couple of tips for things that worked for me over the years (but itis not comprehensive, just my personal experience):
I DO NOT pay most of the money up front. All contractors ask for this. I simply won't do it. I either pay most on the back end or pay "as they work" meaning you complete 50% I pay 50%, etc. I have had very few turn down jobs because of this (it happens but not as frequently as you would think).
I make sure there are penalties associated with missing dates. For big projects dates for completion of different parts should be estimated and penalties associated with missed dates after a grace period. This won\'t work with small projects, however.
I ask for and demand a supervisor on site daily. It doesn\'t have to be all day but it does have to be the same person for consistency. I also make sure I get their cell phone # and stay in touch.
I have done both big and small projects with these required demands and it worked out well."
"I highly suggest you not pay the full amount before the work is finished. In fact, you should retain 10% minimum until after the work is confirmed to be finished and the contractor has come back through and completed touch-up kind of items from a punch list. I'm an architect and I've had to represent clients in a few situations like this before. I have had a situation where the client's contractor quit and another situation where the contractor and client called in their attorney's to settle a contract termination. The attorney route took about a year to resolve. No one was completely happy at the end of the day, but both got something close to what they were asking for, so it was generally a good resolution. With the contractor that just walked off the job, the client went out and found someone else to finish the job. The contractor quitting in that case was more about unpaid change orders than anything else, but sometimes contractors just quit. Sometimes contractors need money up front to order materials that have long lead times, but those kinds of large up front payments are usually at the beginning of the job, not at 80%. In both situations, the clients spent more than originally planned, but when you involve attorneys it generally takes a while and the work may need to be halted while the case is resolved. Ultimately up to you, but my original point stands, under no circumstances should you ever pay a contractor in full prior to the work being completed - and that means certified complete by you/your architect, not deemed complete by the contractor alone."